Story Of The Three Evacuees

The following story was written by my Gran about her time as an Evacuee along with her brother and sister:

The Three Evacuees by Kathleen Lochhead (now Dunsmore)

William (9), myself Kathleen (7) and Janet (6). 1941 – 1943.

We all thought it was great fun. Gas masks, siren suits and air raid shelters. Air raids were announced by loud wailing sirens where we were then rushed into the shelter. At night, when the warning sounded, we were hurried out of bed into the back garden where we were fortunate enough to have an Anderson shelter made of corrugated iron sheeting reinforced with sandbags, dug a few feet underground. It was surprisingly comfortable. My mum made flasks of tea and sandwiches since we would never know how long we’d be there.

Soon we would hear bangs and big thuds as bombs exploded, thankfully at a little distance. My dad used to entertain us with his banjo. He was also an air raid warden. When the all clear siren sounded, we crawled out of the shelter to see how much damage was done. First we inspected our house, often there were no windows left despite the brown sticky strips of tape which were designed to protect the glass. Then what became known as the Clydebank Blitz happened over a few nights. It was horrendous. It looked like the whole skyline was on fire.

It was shortly after that that the decision was taken all children must be evacuated from the area to locations in the country where there was no strategic targets and bombing was unlikely. It was too dangerous to remain where we were.

My brother, sister and I had to report to school with our suitcases, gas masks and our name tags. When we arrived there were lots of other children with their name labels attached to their belongings. Some were very upset, including me, because being so young we didn’t understand what was happening to us. When everything was organised, we were put on buses and taken to the railway station. As the train pulled away I saw my mum standing on the platform with tears streaming down her face. My brother William shouted through the window, “don’t worry mum if we don’t like it we’ll come back!”. My sister Janet and I started to wail.

The train took us to Palnackie, a small village in Dumfries and Galloway, and then by bus to Palnackie school. Lots of local villagers were there to pick up the children to go and live with them during the war years. Initially my brother, sister and I were going to be separated, but we clung together crying, so it was finally agreed we could stay together. We were taken in a little black box car to a large house and estate, owned by Lord and Lady Maxwell, called Kirkennan House. It had a great crunchy driveway and I loved the daffodils under the trees. Of course, we weren’t accommodated in the main house, we were installed downstairs in the servants’ basement with stone cold floors and dark rooms. But we were together and comfortable enough, looked after by an Indian nanny called Mita.

We soon settled into a routine. Walking two miles to Palnackie school in our wooden clog shoes, no matter the weather, carrying our packed lunches of lemon curd sandwiches – which we had to eat quickly because the bees loved the smell of lemon. The school was tiny and had only one classroom and one teacher, with about 45 children ranging in age from five to fifteen. We didn’t receive much individual tuition but it didn’t concern us at the time. There were no work books or jotters, we were given chalk and a slate to write on.

The main house was very grand. We were never allowed upstairs except at Christmas or if you fell ill, like the time Janet caught Scarlet fever. She was allowed to sleep in a nice fluffy bed! The only time I wasn’t happy was when I had to visit the dentist to get a tooth removed. I could hear the crunch as the dentist pulled it out – there was no pain relief in those days.

We stayed at Kilkennan House for a further two years or so, I only remember my mum being able to visit on two occasions as she was working all hours in a munitions factory in Bishopton near Glasgow. When we eventually returned home to Glasgow our bungalow seemed so small, but we were so happy to be back with mum and dad in our own house.

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