Andrew Mackie 1885 – 1951
I wish that I had asked about his young life for he never talked to us about it.
As a young man he was interested in showing cattle and did so under his father’s name, Adam Mackie. He won many prizes for his Ayrshire cows and there were framed photographs of him and his prize cows hanging in our sitting room at Riggfoot Farm. Daddy Mackie was the second son and his older brother, Adam inherited the family farm Hall of Auchincross known as The Ha’. Adam had all the lovely trophies as they were in their father’s name and he inherited them with the farm. I do not remember Great Uncle Adam or his wife as they must have died quite young. I remember their son Adam, my mother’s cousin, who inherited the farm and his wife Mary. They had three children, two boys and a girl all with red hair. Uncle Adam was killed when still young. The milk lorry backed up to the byre and pinned him against a door.
When Granny and Daddy Mackie were first married they lived in the cottage at The Ha’. They later lived in Wellhill Farm in the same area and then rented Riggfoot Farm which was later purchased by Daddy Mackie and our mother jointly.
He was very much in love with his dear wife, Margaret Welsh, who he called, “Mother”. They had three daughters and granny went home to her own family for each one to be born. As far as I know the girls started school from The Ha’.
Daddy Mackie was a tall man, 6ft 2ins. in his stocking feet. He was too tall for Riggfoot doors and had to stoop his head to walk through. He had dark hair in the photographs I have of him. I only knew him with grey hair but his moustache had a reddish colour in it. There was red hair in the family but none of his girls or grandchildren inherited that. He wore a little moustache which he kept neatly trimmed. Compared to his height, he had quite a small head. He had a thin face and quite a pronounced nose. Because of wearing heavy farm boots he suffered from corns and callouses on his feet and Granny Mackie showed me how to pare them with a sharp new razor blade when she couldn’t see so well to do it herself. This became my job and the operation usually took place in their big upstairs bedroom in front of the fire. He would first soak his feet in a basin and I would sit in front of him on a chair with his long, thin foot on my lap on a towel. I was still a schoolgirl when I did this.
He was thin but as he grew older he thickened around his middle and granny had to let his pants out. I remember him going to a special Church service once and he had to wear his morning suit. Granny had to set a big piece into the back of his trousers to get them to fit him but this was hidden by the tailcoat. The outfit was finished off with a lum hat (top hat) and this made him look taller than ever.
He smoked a pipe and often he would put his pipe in his pocket while it was still alight and the pocket would catch fire. He would be sitting quietly in his chair and then would suddenly jump up flapping hard at his side and swearing like a trooper trying to put out the smouldering pocket. There was a wooden reclining armchair he liked to sit in by the big kitchen fire. Sometimes he and daddy would buy clay pipes to smoke. They were pure white when they bought them but quickly became black with use. We weans liked the new clay pipes to blow soap bubbles through. Periodically Daddy Mackie would decide to stop smoking and he would just stick his pipe into the nearest dry stane dyke. Then, when he was desperate for a smoke he would be searching up and down the dykes trying to remember where he had stuck it. These dykes were quite a feature of Ayrshire farms and were so well built with the stones fitting into each other without any cement being used. Wonderful craftsmanship.
He often used a scythe to open up a field of hay or corn or just to cut the long grass. he had a whetstone in his pocket and every now and then he would turn up the scythe, spit on the whetstone and sharpen the scythe. He wore mittens and in the cold weather he would stop when his fingers became too cold and flap his arms over his chest and out and back again to try and warm them up. I loved to watch him sewing the corn by hand. He wore this leather container belted to the front of his body with a harness over his shoulders. The seeds were in the big leather container and he would stride up and down the field spreading the seeds evenly. One hand filled with seeds and as it was thrown out to one side to spread the seeds the other hand was taking a handful of seeds ready to be thrown to the other side. There was a steady rhythm to it and he kept going until the whole field was sewn. When we weans were at home we had to take tea to the men in the field. The tea was carried in a miniature milk can and the piece was usually scones or bread and cheese. If you swung the can round in a circle fast enough then the tea did not pour out.
There was a special machine on the farm that cut up turnips for cattle feed. Once when Daddy Mackie was using it he pushed a piece of turnip in with his finger and the top of his finger was cut right off. Whenever he knocked anything over at the table he blamed it on his missing finger.
He loved his breakfast porridge which granny made from oatmeal. This was soaked overnight and then boiled in the morning. He did not pour his milk over the porridge but kept it in a cup and he would take a spoon of porridge and then some milk from the cup in the same spoon and eat it that way. He liked the milk to stay cool. If he poured it over the porridge it would get warm. He liked boiled eggs. If they were hard boiled then he had to put butter in the egg to soften it. If they were soft boiled then he said they needed butter to thicken them up. When granny made boiled eggs she always forgot to time them but if she lifted the egg from the pot in a spoon and the water dried off the egg instantly then she knew the egg was just right.
In winter he was bothered with a drip on the end of his nose and this had to be continually wiped away – sometimes with his sleeve. We had about three barometers hanging in different areas of the farmhouse and he often checked with them to find out what the weather would be like. They had to be knocked and then the needle would point to the forecast. The weather was for ever being discussed. Somebody would predict snow and Daddy Mackie would tell them it was too cold for snow.
He was a Justice of the Peace which is a lay magistrate whose function is to preserve the peace in his area and to try minor cases. I never remember him talking about this or if he had to do anything. One of Granny Mackie’s fears was that she would be called to sit on a jury. She never was called on to do this.
Besides his beloved Ayrshire cattle Daddy Mackie had two great loves, Churchill and bagpipes. He was a staunch Tory and had great admiration for Winston Churchill and especially how he had led the country to victory in the second world war. There was even a cat on the farm named Churchill. This animal had lived to quite a good age when it was run over and killed by an ambulance. Our mam was very upset at this and was crying when some visitor asked her what was wrong. She told them that old Churchill had been killed and the visitor was so shocked thinking that it was Winston and mam’s tears ended up in laughter when they got it all sorted out. Whenever there were pipes playing on the wireless Daddy Mackie would be there to listen. He just loved the skirl of the pipes.
He became quite deaf as he got older and got into the habit of saying, “Eh?” whether he heard you or not, so one always had to repeat things twice to him. He also had an irritating habit when you asked him, “Would you like tea or coffee?” he would just say, “Yes.”
He wore loose collars that fastened on to his shirts with studs and he invariably dropped his studs on the floor when he was trying to fasten them. We had to try and find them and they were such small things and rolled under the dresser. His working shirts were worn without the collar.
He worked all the time with the collie dogs and he would lose his temper with them if they did not obey him. I remember the dog hiding under the chair from him one day and he came raging into the kitchen and dragged this poor dog out by the tail.
His great friend was Andy Black who owned the neighbouring farm, Braehead. He was also a tall man like Daddy Mackie but had never married. His sister, Jean Black kept house for him. When Daddy Mackie visited him at night Andy would make them tea with hot water from the tap. Alka Seltzer had just come on the market and Andy Black said when he wasn’t feeling so good all he needed was a dose of Alka Seltzer and a good kick on the -rse and he was fine. He told Daddy Mackie that he would love a fat wife to keep him warm at night.
Daddy Mackie had an old soft hat that he wore around the farm. In summer he had an old straw hat and he also had a cloth bunnet. He used a walking stick and I remember him having one specially made with the handle carved from a sheep’s horn. His stick was always with him and he would hang it over his arm as he stopped to light his pipe. The stick was useful for all sorts of things, pointing, prodding, searching, brandishing at sheep and cattle and when he judged cattle in the ring the stick would point out special features of the cows. He was often called upon to judge at the various agricultural shows. I thought he looked very handsome when he dressed in his best clothes to go to market or to an agricultural show. But there was no mistaking that he was a farmer. Jean reminded me that It was from Daddy Mackie’s cow, Riggfoot Jenny that the famous bull, Riggfoot Paymaster came from. It was also from Jenny that the speckles in our cattle came from.
Riggfoot Paymaster was the start of the famous Bargower Bulls. They kept champion bulls and farmers could have their cows artificially inseminated from them. The man who did this was called “the bull in the bowler hat”.
I wanted to learn how to milk a cow when I was a young schoolgirl but mam refused to let me. She said she learned when she was young and had to milk cows early in the morning before going to school and her weans were not doing it. I asked Daddy Mackie and he took me in hand. He got a little three legged milking stool and a luggy and sat me down by old Spider who had lovely big teats and was a dear old cow. He showed me how to squeeze from the top of the teats and down and then left me to practice on my own. He said if I could milk enough milk to do my parritch then I would be a good milker. I squeezed out enough for two plates of porridge and I did become a good milker.
I loved to listen to him talking to visitors about cattle. He would describe a cow he liked as a “sweet wee coo” and they would talk about two year olds as “twerls”. You would have thought they were discussing a beauty pageant when they were discussing cows.
He worked with our lovely Clydesdale horses and they were well cared for as they were essential to the good working of the farm.
Daddy Mackie was very good at building corn stacks. The corn was carted in from the field and the sheaves were built into round stacks with the ears of the corn to the inside of the stack and the cut part on the outside. The top of the stack was shaped to a point and covered with thatch and the very top of the thatch shaped into a special design. This kept the corn safe and dry until it could be threshed.
Daddy Mackie was disapproving of our father and thought his daughter had married beneath her. Our father kept the farm books meticulously. Sometimes Aunt Bunt would ask Daddy Mackie for money and he would give her £100 cheque but only put £10 on the stub. Of course, the books didn’t balance and our father found out why when the cheques came back from the bank.
When Granny Mackie died in March 1951 he was heartbroken. He would just sit on his own and was not interested in anything. Each one of us tried to get him to do something but he was not interested in anything. Tam Mitchell, who worked for us did his best to get him to ready some beasts for showing in the ring. He did try but his heart was not in it. Without his wife he had no will to live.
He took to his bed and on the 15th May 1951 he called to Jean and when she went to him he said, “I’m going lass.” Poor Jean got such a fright and came running to me in the kitchen to get the doctor. I was cleaning pots and had to quickly run to the neighbouring farm about half a mile up the road to phone for the doctor. When the doctor came Daddy Mackie was dead. The doctor could find nothing to account for his death and said he died of a broken heart.
So, just two months after granny’s funeral we had another funeral. Daddy Mackie’s grave was dug out into the footpath at the cemetery as he was too long for the lair. He was buried in the same grave as his beloved wife and daughter, Nell. There were family and friends from far and near to bid farewell to him.
I like to think that, just as he used to go to meet Granny Mackie from the bus, that this time she came to meet him.
ODE TO MY GRANDFATHER
You were tall for a Scotsman – too tall for our door.
You loved Churchill and bagpipes and heather on the moor.
Your passion was Ayrshires, for milk and for show.
You judged them and bred them and knew every cow
In your pedigree herd with a champion bull.
You taught me to milk on a three-legged stool.
With your stick and your pipe and the dog by your side
You would check round the crops with your long easy stride.
We grew hay and then harvest and tatties and neeps
All stored in the barns and piled in their heaps.
These would see us through winter – no matter the storm
Be it snow, ice or floods we would eat and be warm.
With hard work and planning you kept us all fed,
For three generations shared the homestead.
We all had our chores and each played their part,
As Riggfoot was special and close to each heart.