The following is a letter from Ken Wilkinson who has been visiting Borgue for more than 70 years.
Following our recent visit to Borgue and your interest in its history, I’ll try to set down some of my memories of holidays we spent there in the years shortly after the war.
From 1947 till 1952 I would travel each June, with my parents and another family and an assortment of bikes, from industrial Nelson in Lancashire, by train — changing at Skipton (and sometimes at Carlisle), Dumfries and Castle Douglas – to Kirkcudbright. A big adventure for a 9 year old after the wartime restrictions! Then we rode to Borgue where my dad had organised a week (or two) staying with the Misses Clarke (Annie & Esther) in their cottage — the first on the right. This he had discovered because they were ‘appointed’ by the CTC (Cyclists’ Touring Club); they had the round CTC plaque fixed above the cottage door — no traces of it left now.
In those days of serious post-war food rationing Borgue was a revelation. The hard- working sisters kept hens, they had a cow, they had bee hives and they grew food! A land of milk and honey! We would eat three good meals each day and all, as far as I can recollect, for three pound ten shillings a week per person. For me the new things at that time were the various types of scones (including treacle scones) and pancakes, the honey directly from the comb and the home-made junket.
There were downsides, which sometimes added to the adventure. No running water made life interesting. There was a big water pump in the yard (l remember having a rather public ‘shower’ under it one time, and only once). Each morning a jug of hot water was brought to the room for washing in a bowl. At the bottom of the garden was the toilet hut with a smelly cess-pit behind it.
The village is still very recognisable with the most obvious changes on the right up the hill. The garage has gone, of course, and the football ground higher up the hill (just a field, really, and not very flat). From the road Annie & Esther’s cottage looks much the same as it did then, but has probably grown at the back. The roads then were very quiet — only the occasional bus, a 26 seater Bedford, from Kirkcudbright (the stop was outside the cottage), and few cars. The open space at the road junction was great for us kids to practice our cycling skills.
Brighouse Bay was a major attraction and we always had it to ourselves, apart from a few Belties. It was so quiet that you had to be careful not to stand on the nests of Oystercatchers and Ringed Plovers perfectly camouflaged amongst the pebbles, though the adult birds tried to distract you if you were too near. As young lads we seemed to spend much of our holiday fruitlessly building dams of sand across the stream only to have them collapse when the pool became too big.
Then down to Carrick where we could also scramble up the rocks. One time my father organised running races on the beach there — he was winning until he pulled a leg muscle. When he explained to the doctor down in Kirkcudbright what had happened he was told, without much sympathy, ‘you should be your age!’ He would have been in his late forties then.
Often in the evenings we would walk from the village either up the hill or along the Gatehouse road. In those days there were lots of flowers in the grass verges which are probably absent now — I particularly remember lots of both Spotted and Butterfly Orchids as well as Viper’s Bugloss etc. It would good to come back in June, rather than September, sometime and make a better comparison.
As an aside to my reminiscences, during lockdown we have developed an interest in moths and brought a light trap with us to Borgue which was pretty effective and caught 27 one evening in the garden (or rather the car park by the front door) — a good haul for so late in the year — mostly Lunar Underwings’ which we’d not encountered before, and 10 other species. Catching them is relatively easy; identifying them later is another story! June would be even more fruitful…