Newmilns Regeneration Association

THE WEE SHOPS IN NEWMILNS BEFORE 1910

Written in 1980 by Jean Lawson, Brown Street, Newmilns.

O memory's dear

The following memories were transcribed from an old letter written by (the late) Jean Lawson in 1980. It begins with a quote from the book 'Lays o' th' Hameland'...

"Aft, aft, hae I pondered on scenes of my childhood,
The days ance sae happy, O come back again! 
When I pu'd the wild daisies that spangled the green-wood. 
And gie'd them awa' to my wee lovers then.
O memory's dear."

Sitting one night, I was harking back on the old days, over seventy years ago. Everything was so clear, just like looking through a mirror, and I thought, why not write it all down? You can remember, but some cannot, and yet, if they were reading about the old days, it would all come back.

So, here goes. I was born in 1898, and when I was four, the family moved to Brown Street. I went to Lady Flora’s school with my elder sister on washing days, but before long I went every day, everyone knew one another.

It was really there being so many wee shops in Brown Street, that started me thinking, so that is what your are going to hear about.

Starting at the top where the Post Office is now, was Granny McKelvie, she was famous for toffee. About three doors down was Jeanie Smith, a wee sort of drapers etc. you could get a nice wee doll four inches long with long blond hair for one penny, or if you were invited to a birthday party, you could buy a lovely string of pearls in a box for sixpence. She had a glass case on the counter under which rested elastic, baby ribbon, safety pins, false hair, pads and chocolate caramels. Across the street lived wee blind John Jamieson with his granny, he went up and down all day playing a mouth organ and suppose he was at the far end of the street, granny would come to the edge of the pavement and call Joooon, he turned and came back at once.

Further down on the same side, John Browning had a greenhouse, he sold tomatoes and sometimes when you went for 1/2lb, he would give you a golden one for yourself – they were very rare then. Brown cowfeeder came next, the kye being slapped through the entry before they made a mess, then Morton the Blacksmith, opposite was Wallace & Torrance Joiners. If there was a death on a Saturday, the hammering went on all day Sunday making the coffin, no ready made ones then. Granny Torrance’s wee shop next, where we went when we were going a picnic to Windy Hill burn, to buy a wee dumpy cola and 1d of paris biscuits - we got 14. Across the street again to Willie Mathie, a paper and sweet shop. Willie was a painter and gave us his old books of swatches to make fans or even parasols. If you fancied a new hat, you went to Yvonne Chambers, in these days we had both spring and summer hats.

I remember going to Todds’ for black lacquer, which my Aunt brushed over the hat to brighten it up. Then if the weather was not too good, you could go to Hamilton’s and buy an umbrella and through Hamilton’s entry I remember, in a small shed in the garden, my Grandfather and old Archie McMillan were working on a hand loom. I can remember going down with pirns which my Aunt Agnes had wound on the spinning wheel, twelve green and 12 yellow pirns in a wee wooden box, it must have been of the last hand looms in Newmilns, maybe they were just emptying the web, the pattern of the loom had a green background and big yellow scrolls. Across the road again to Hammy Jeans, where soup was made every day. I remember if mother was getting the kitchen whitened, we went down and got a dresser jug nearly full for 2d. Another Blacksmith at the end of the street, Muir’s. Then across to Pate’s Mill, down North Devon Place we come to Sarah Hyslop’s. She also made meals for the factory workers of which there were train-loads every day from Kilmarnock up. Right round the Water Wynd, only one shop Young the Bowlman at the corner, Cruden the Shoemakers, right back to Brown street with The Lamlash Hotel at the bridgend, a German family called Rhuparic, where the German band got their dinner when they played through the town.

Then past the Bowling Green and the Bandstand, over on the other side of the road was Bedlam Plaintan, where we spent a lot of our time. We will go right up Brown’s Road now, over the bridge a the Miller’s Dam, down the steps and right up the playground, in the middle of which was Maggie Mair’s wee shop and house, behind the shop was a small hall where the Old Newmilns Silver Burgh Band held their practice. Many a night have I sat on a low wooden form, listening right up past the arches and town’s green to Union Street. Now we are going back to the wee shops, right at the end of the Darvel Road was Mrs McAlister’s better known as Maggie Lawson. You could get anything you wanted there, for if Maggie had not it herself, she went down and got it at the Co-op. You paid Maggie when you had the money, but she got the tokens as then the dividend was sometimes up to 3/- in the £ - that was Maggie’s profit. It was a square deal, as she told us herself.

Across on Isle Street, Mrs Dunbar had a wee drapers shop and did a bit of sewing. She made our black overalls for the factory and if a lassie was filling her bottom drawer, she would give Mrs Dunbar an order for 6 chemise and 6 overhead slipbodys etc. Mrs Tippen had a wee shop about there and it also was the site of what we called the Beggaree, a lodging house where the bit outbreak of smallpox started, a wee man called Toby Wagstaff was the first victim, he came from Glasgow. When the smallpox hut was built up near the cemetery, it was named Toby’s Castle. At Grant Black Joiners at the corner, Mrs Hamilton had a wee shop in Rundalls building, also making meals for workers, she afterwards shifted down beside the big Kirk to a wee chip shop. Tam Auld’s Dairy was a well-known place, then the Crown Hotel. Across was the Angel Inn. Bob Archibald had his cobblers shop then Maggie Parker sold chips and toffee, next to her was a rather high class sweety shop run by a Miss Connell. Then Jenny Todds and Mrs Boyds chip shop. Cross again to the Crown and next to that was Matha Pollock Butcher, he always wore a long blue and white striped apron and had his sharpening steel dangling at his side like a sword. Then Mr Clark grocer, now down to Goldie’s, a drapers with the highest fashion, with big Merry Widow hats in the window. Walker’s printer next, then W Woodburn grocer, this brings us to Joe Hood’s mechanic shop. A great place as it had a right of way through the workshop into the lane that took you down to the Norrell burn, Lady Flora’s School was just opposite and at playtime we ran across and down the lane to play at jump the burn. Sometimes we forgot all about the school and were still jumping when the Mill hooter went at 12.30 so we just went home for dinner and of course got 2 or 3 liffes in the afternoon.

Allan the Butcher was on the East Side of the school and the Morton Hall on the West side. This was where we spent our Saturday night, at the Band of Hope, the hall was packed every seat had a monitor and we also had a choir, adults got into the balcony for 3d and at the end of the season we always had a cantata.  The Commercial Hotel was next to the Policeman’s Close. On the other side of the street was Bulger’s sweety shop, we remember best for puff candy. Next, Thompson’s fruit and sweet shop. That house was where I saw the first Christmas tree, in at a window complete with candles. Mrs Thompson was Swedish, one of her daughters was a great singer. Jessie Aird had a wee china shop next door, but she also sold white candy and hot toms. Maggie King next to that, sweets and ice cream, sold in wee thick glasses with false bottoms. David Livingston the Barber next, then one I mentioned before, Hamilton’s. The Kirk still stands, over the street was Simon Nichol the chemist, where you could buy hard ally creich to make a jummel, or cinnamon bark, or licquorice stick, that’s where we also got the Camphor Lockets to wear during the smallpox scare.

This takes us to Tam Loudoun baker- there were two Loudouns and two Wylies, so they were tap and bottom, Mitchell’s shoe shop then Pa Semple, fruit and sweets. He sold great Tiger nuts and pomegranates. Then tae Wylie’s grocer, across from that was Michael Lumsden’s house. Do not know if there really was anything special about it, but I remember Granny used to sing a song about Michael Lumsden’s white house, a Mrs Ramage had a sweety shop in between that house and Tom Loudoun’s where we went for pies on Saturday night, hot from the oven they were. John Findlay watchmaker was next, then Parker’s fish shop. Just at the corner was John Roxborough grocer, back on the road again and we are at Dr Aird’s surgery. Next, Young and McFarlane plumbers, the long entry, then Bella McPherson’s drapers shop. The Cross Keys Inn was next; I can picture the inn keeper and John Roxborough holding the crack at the door. Both had on long white aprons. Miss Whithead’s drapers, where we bought our crochet cotton and ribbons. Andrew Smith baker was next, famous for his bannocks and cuppy biscuits. The bank which is still there, brings us down to Castle Street.

The Brown’s Institute on the other side again, where we used to go to a meeting on Sunday called the P.S.A., Pleasant Sunday Afternoon, we had some grand soloists then. Then MrCulloch’s the tobacconist, where we sometimes wasted 1d on snuff, Mrs Anderson’s wee fruit and veg shop next, where you went for 2d mixed veg for broth. Tam Dykes the Tailor next, a great big man, his brother was head tailor in the Co-op. Then Auld Nell’s sweety shop, my favourite, because the window was so low you could see everything, even spend your 1d on four different things – a wee box of cali, a liquorice strap, nougat pie, a wee thin stalk of rock like glass. Todd’s shop next, then the council house that was and still is the cross. Over now to Loudoun Arms with the Old Keep at the rear, on the front of the house the Loudoun Coat of Arms ‘I bide my time”. Brierton’s public house next, then at that time, a photographer had a wee shop where you got your wee prints called stickybacks. Stephen Haddow, butcher next then the Co-op that takes us down to the store wynd, cross again at the council house, then Dr Burn’s surgery. Next the highlight of our young days, Tinny Wallace’s toy shop, where every Christmas a big doll appeared in the window dressed in red velvet - it nodded it’s head and moved it’s head up and down like a Queen, wonderful! The Buttercup next, then Greenlees boot shop where you got sandshoes for 1/11 ½, Green’s paper shop so to the Fountain. Across again the other side of the store wynd was Rogerson’s. I remember when we went for a tin of salmon, they opened it for you, very few had tin openers. Then Maggie Brown’s remnant shop, Kerr the Painter’s then bottom Wylie’s. In these days there was a right of way from Doitburn Street, came down and out between Kerr Wylie’s.

Robin Haddow had his butchers shop next, Robin always told the story about the auld wife who came in for liver, which at that time was 1d/lb. He cefs doon a 1d the day. Robin, she says, well that means the liver will be free.

The Co-op next, right to the end of the street over on the bridge end was Gregor baker’s where you got big rice biscuits with pink and white crystal sugar on top. Next a fruit shop, Pollock’s where we got 3 1/2lb of apples for 1d at Hallowe’en, then the Public House. We will come along the back street now, right past the Puddock Dub and the Police Station and Notman’s Dairy, further along we came to the long entry down which was the wee Salvation Army hall - I once was at a swell Silver Wedding there. Tammy Mitchell’s shop at the corner, then coming down High Street was Young the coofeeder. Then it was Muir’s wee shop, down past Hood’s school as we called it, you come to Bob Davidson, cobblers. A sweety shop next, run by Mrs Young, then another joiners called Davidson’s at the corner. Now we are at the Folly House or the Pawn Shop. Mitchell Joiner was on the other side of the street, the Co-op Hardware was at the corner of Doitburn Street, across was Ritchie’s, famous for toffee balls. There was another wee shop up Drygate Street, run by Auld Granny Hutchison, then the Salvation Army Hall, I don’t remember which one they had first, then the Bretheren Hall, back into Doitburn Street and we come to Sammy Cochrane’s for cups, chesy bowls etc. Archie Walker, the grocers next to the gas works and there used to be a piano shop in the house at the gas works gate. Muir, I think you called them. I remember when Archie Walker failed, we had a grand time, everything was sold as quick as possible and we got a big sugar bag of boiling for 2d. The Smiddy came next, then at the corner Mrs Donald papers and sweets.

I don’t remember any shops in the wilderness, so into Kilholm Street and we come to Granny Donald’s wee shop. Kerr the Draper was next and also in that building , two Miss Mitchells made potty hough and scones, down to John Mair’s garage – he was the carrier and always had his two St Bernard dogs with him. Past Jacob’s Ladder and Andrew Archibald’s Photo Saloon, his brother had a cobblers shop and his wife had a sweety shop next door. Then Bell Pollock’s fruit shop, what we always remember about it was, when Bell got in a box of dates during the first war, she sold so many then announced “no more dates today, the rest are for the Big Kirk Choir”. Gallagher kept kye too, at the end of the Iron bridge. The Co-op grocer at the road, then down to Wallace’s Dairy. Over on Shield’s Road was Willie Jackson’s who sold everything, and on Saturday went round the town selling pies. Mary Wallace had a shop at the corner of Riverbank Street, a draper’s, now we are past the shops and down among the Gentry. Muir Street comes last, then the Football Park and the Boggie Line, with the new Pit and the Auld Lime Road further down, we turn back up and go over the Jubilee Bridge, up the hill and down to the bleachfield, right on and before we come to the Strath, we go through the railway bridge and we come to Stoneygate, the home of Herrin Nancy and Charlie, they each came through the town with a barrow, a big box of herring on it an called Hern Hern Hern. But my best memory of Nancy’s was going for 1/2d of grossits we got a boy’s cap full, a school cap.

These are some of my memories. If I forget things now, I hope I can always read. But these were the days of the wee shops and high spots I remember when young.