Memories of Childhood by Marjory Dickson

My Father, Bill Dickson (known as Wullie) was born and brought up in St. Abbs at 14 Seaview Terrace}. He won a scholarship to Edinburgh University, and was a science teacher for most of his career at George Watsons College, Edinburgh. I was born and brought up in Juniper green, Edinburgh.

I emigrated to Australia in 1973 with my first husband, and two little girls, who are now 38 and 40 years old! I am nearly 65 yrs old, a retired teacher, and live on the Central Coast of New South wales, near Sydney, with my husband, David, who is from New Zealand. He is 71, and also retired.

I thought you might be interested in this lilttle piece I wrote some years ago, about our yearly holidays to St. Abbs.


Maia Russell (nee Marjory Dickson.)

The Under Row.

Looking along Seaview Terrace to "Granny and Pops tiny terrace house".

"Memories of Childhood".

"Why did I wake up, crying, tars running down my face, and running into my ears? What old childhood memories have surfaced?

I saw a cliff face, covered from end to end with yellow primroses, with soft russet and gold bracken at the top, the remains of the last, with curling fronds of new leaves, like fiddle heads, sticking through. A narrow path shoulders through cow-parsley, stink-weed and fox-glove, and winds down to a pebble beach, where the wavelets sough and suck and run backwards. They leave a trail of small white quartz pebbles, agate coloured stones, feathers, bladderwrack seaweed, dead crabs and shells.

Stink of rotting seaweed, bile green and slimy on the rocks, where we children, curving our bare toes like birds claws, scramble, and leap, looking for minnows and tiny live crabs. Lifting rocks and stones and watching the crabs scuttle out, sideways.

The wonder of tiny flounder, camouflaged as wet sand, still as still, in the small rock-pools.

Rust-red sea anemones, with their sucking mouths, which pull at our fingers, and retreat to blobs of red jelly, as we poke them cruelly.

Sand between the toes, in the groin, in the ears. Rough thrill of pebbles on our bare feet so used to city pavements. Cry of Guillemot and Herring-Gull, arrow thunderbolt of Gannet, as he spies a hapless fish, and spears it.

And afterwards, back we wind, through the feathery fronds of cow-parsley, whose creamy umbels tower over us like parasols.

We, the smallest, look for lady birds, for spiders, for forget-me-nots, for speedwell and shepherds purse, aconite and pimpernel, ragged robin and campion.

Home we trudge, our wilting posies clutched in our sandy hands, pockets full and weighed down with shells, dead crabs, twigs, pebbles, a birds feather, maybe or a beeles shiny carapace. Or maybe a sky-blue egg, filched from a nest.

Back along the cliff path, sheltered and hemmed in by bracken, and down to the old kissing -gate, which grates up and down the scale as we push it, -- "Eeeang, Eeeang" it goes.

Our bare feet on the smooth red stones of the path. How cool the y feel, and comforting to the feet!! Past the wall of the old Nunnery, now a farm house, with its Norman arch and wistful, sad, granite head of St. Ebba, for whom the village of St. Abbs is named.

Did the sculptor depict her, noseless, as she was, defaced by the Vikings, or did time, wind and rain wear her nose away? No one seems to know.

Down the street, between towering elms, clamourous with rooks, past the red sandstone church , and round the bend to to the curve of the sea-wall, where the old fishermen lean, pondering on the weather, their tar-stained fingers curling round the blackened stems of their clay pipes, their oil-stained caps pulled low over their eyes.

"Good morning to ye, Maiden! How are ye the day?"

Down the little terrace, past the small windows with their trim lace curtains, aspidistras and potted ferns, brasses and wally Dugs". The white, scoured front steps, so clean you could eat your dinner off them. The wash-houses opposite, redolent with smells of wash-day, - lye and carbolic soap. blue bag and steam.

And back, finally to Granny and Pops tiny terrace house, to a tea of drop scones, and bacon, fried on a trivet, over the open fire. Fresh butter, and thick honey. Did anything since taste so ambrosial?

The wag-at the Wa, " clock ticks on, steadily, as it has done for fifty years, and the burne Jones prints and faded pictures made with dried sea weed, brass fenders and fire tongs, home braided rugs, and rocking chairs, wrap around us lovingly, as we let Aunt peggy wash us in the tin bath in front of the fire.

The comfort of sleeping in a truckle bed, in the alcove of the tiny living room, and watching the fire flicker, and glow, and smoulder down to red and gray ash. Granpa knocks his pipe out on the fireplace and says, as he does every day,

"Aye weel, folks is weel aff!"

Another day by the sea has ended, as the herring gulls croon us to sleep on the chimney cowls, and the clock ticks on.

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