Memories of Arran childhood holidays

Mum and dad outside beach hut No 15 on Brodick beach.

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Colin Bowes has fond memories of his childhood holidays on Arran. Although he now lives in Lytham in Lancashire has now compiled them into an essay which over the next three weeks will be serialised in the Banner. We hope our readers enjoy this trip down memory lane in these dark times.

Part one

Twas on the December 16, 1945 that I Colin James Dow Bowes first breathed air. Born of Scottish parents (Perth and Paisley respectively) in Marple, Cheshire, the family living in the area because of my fathers work in accountancy.

The love affair with the Isle of Arran goes back a long way and rumour has it that I may have been on Arran before I was born in mum’s tummy.

Dad and mum George and Elsie (nee Dow) were regular visitors to Arran and spent their honeymoon in a farmhouse where accommodation was available near to the golf course in Lamlash. This followed their wedding at Denniston Parish Church in Glasgow on the August 25, 1939. I am the third of four children the others being Alice, John and Helen and we all love Arran.

The first evidence of little me on Arran is in August 1947 in the form of photographs. The family, three children at that stage, Helen being born in 1953, were holidaying in Lamlash at the time and there I am on the beach clutching my bucket and spade! We would have been renting a house on Hamilton Terrace which we did for some years before we started holidaying in Brodick whose information guide book declared ‘The holiday guest who is out for the best is assured of a welcome at – Brodick.’

My main Arran holiday childhood memories are of the ‘Brodick Days’ where for several years from 1957 to 1963 we rented Mr and Mrs Todd’s house, Hillcrest on Springbank Terrace for the month of August. The Todds owned a ‘back house’ in their garden where they lived whilst the main house was occupied by self catering guests.

Mum would pack a large hamper containing our holiday clothing and other bits and bobs and send it ahead of us via British Railways PLA (Passenger Luggage Advance) service. The bits and bobs included the John Waddington Limited board games Monopoly (be a property tycoon), Cluedo (be a super sleuth), Scoop! (be a Fleet Street newspaper magnate) for those ‘occasional’ rainy August days. The remainder of our holiday goods and chattels were packed into the boot of mum’s black Ford Anglia 100E registration number HRJ 186.

The splendid car ferry MV Glen Sannox which could carry 1100 passengers and 55 motor cars came into service on July 5, 1957. She was thus brand new and exciting when we travelled over in the August of that year following our car journey from Rochdale in Lancashire where dad now had his work as company secretary to John Bright and Brothers Limited, cotton spinners. Dad only stayed for two weeks being his work holiday entitlement but the rest of us were lucky enough to enjoy the whole month.

The ferry incorporated hydraulic vehicle side loading ramps toward the stern. One vehicle at a time would be driven across the ramp onto a turntable which was then lowered by way of a lift mechanism down to the car deck. Deck hands would then spin the vehicle 90 degrees so that it could then enter the car deck. The lift would then be sent up for the next vehicle. Looking back it was a laborious process but at the time it was bang up to date and there was no risk of seawater entering the vessel as might be the case with the roll on roll off system.

Confession time. On one ferry crossing I found that one of the bolts to a blue deck window frame was ‘loose’ so I took it as a souvenir and still have it as a prized possession. I hope that this act of vandalism/piracy didn’t contribute to her eventual demise in the warm waters of The Red Sea where I understand she lies at rest.

Bikes were hired for my brother John and I from Mr Milroy Anderson and beach hut number ‘15 Brown’ secured each August for several seasons by payment to Mr John ‘Johnny’ Henderson. The beach huts, I suppose there would be about 50 in all, were in colour coded blocks ours, as you will gather, being in the brown painted section.

The beach hut was great and was the centre point of the holiday. It housed all our beachy stuff, deck chairs, buckets and spades, a Lilo inflatable mattress, swimming gear, towels and a canvas wind break supported by wooden poles. We often spent the day on the beach and at lunchtime dad would light his Primus stove, the paraffin for which he would have bought locally. This was later to be upgraded to a much cleaner and less smelly blue coloured Campingaz stove. He or mum would warm through Baxters Royal Game or Oxtail Soup to accompany Wooley’s buttered breakfast rolls filled with sliced ham with a wee bit of Branston pickle. We were each given a packet of Smiths crisps, the pack containing its own blue paper salt sachet. Drinks would be cups of tea for the adults and squash or lemonade for the children, all purchased from Coopers or Curries shops.

‘Elsie! Can you round up the children. The soup’s ready.’

Coopers ‘For good things to eat!’ (now occupied by Arran Inspirations) also had branches in Corrie and Whiting Bay and were general and licensed grocers.

M and J Currie Ltd or Curries as the shop was known (now the smaller of the two Co-ops) described themselves as ‘high class grocers’ and general merchants plying this aspect of the business on the ground floor with a splendid luncheon and tearooms at first floor level. The latter was frequented by the parents, the men in jacket and tie and the ladies in smart clothes no matter what the temperature. The air would be filled with cigarette, cigar and pipe smoke! How things have changed. It was Arran’s answer to Nardinis and The Moorings across the water in Largs.

The beach was great in those days and nothing like it is now. Many families spent all day there. Each year on a low tide the dads would either roll up their trousers or don shorts and form a ‘gang’ to clear stones and rocks to leave a sandy path into the sea for the convenience of the paddlers and swimmers.

We hired rowing boats from the beach hut man, Mr Henderson, either during the day or in the evening for a bit of fishing/larking about. An example of the larking about would be in the evening when we tried to row up the Rosa burn as far as we possibly could to discover its source. Most boys have the urge to become explorers. Perhaps we watched too many films the like of King Solomon’s Mines. This activity inevitably ended with us running aground in the shallows and having to take off our shoes and socks in order for us to push the boat into deeper water.

Another beachy pastime at low tide involved the building of large circular sand defences against the incoming tide. The idea was to stay within the structure until it was overwhelmed by the tide with frantic running repairs being carried out as the water got deeper and deeper. Eventually the sandy structure would start to yield to the pressure of the seawater and any further running repairs became futile. No one drowned but we did get very sandy and wet. The parable of the foolish man who built his house on sand springs to mind …

See next week for part two.