Kirkandrews in the early 1900s

On the left of the photo is the meal mill and behind it is Kirkandrews Kirk and John Palmer’s house. His Mother, Margaret Palmer (born in 1842) lived in the left upper part of the semi-detached house on the right of the photo; the Kirk family lived below and the Crossan family on the right of the building.
In 1911, John Palmer (Jnr) was the youngest of 6 children, so his grannie Margaret, who lived only 200 yards away, would look after him. He recalled drawing, reading by her fire in the winter and playing draughts.
Margaret Palmer kept swarms of bees for the sale of honey and beeswax. They were kept over winter in bee boxes or straw skeps and young John clearly remembered the occasion when he trapped a rat that had gnawed its way into one of her skeps and was devouring the honey left to nourish the bees.
From his grannie, he learned about the life in Kirkandrews in the 1860s. The native population just managed to exist, absorbing their nourishment from anything that ‘ran, grew, swam or flew’ – if they could catch it of course. The poor received the maximum sum of 2 shillings and 6 pence (12.5p), but they had to establish absolute proof of abject poverty before this parish relief was granted, and consequently they lived on their wits. They depended on the tide’s daily delivery of flotsam and jetsam for fuel and even collected and dried cow-pats as a substitute for coal. Two or three pence provided an ounce of thick black tobacco, with a clay pipe thrown in, and he recalled that it was very common to see an old dame puffing away and looked upon it as a way of life. Farm work provided some income; the going rate for an adult for a 10 hour day was 1 shilling and 3 pence (7p). Whelks were in abundance at low tides and could be gathered and sold. John recollected that women too made quite a good living in the summer months this way; they had a pony and cart, and together with the whelks they gathered themselves, they bought up those gathered by the locals and dispatched the consignments direct to Billingsgate market in London.

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