Dick was an absolute delight and thrilled us with stories of his time at Hartree as a young boy, evacuated from the Edinburgh Academy during the war years. From his recollections, Dick told us that the resident boys were 10 to 14 years of age and that the headmaster, all teachers and the school nurse, lived in at the house, although support staff were presumably from Biggar and surrounding areas.
We were told of the school challenge – climbing to the very top of the tallest pine in the woods opposite the front door, returning with a snippet from the very top to prove that you had ‘made the grade’! Another tale was of the boys and the masters skating on the pond each winter and, of course, the joyous memories of the outdoor swimming pool. He remembered digging the snow from the road into Biggar and, in the summer, the boys being requisitioned to some estates elsewhere to bring in the harvests.
Another recollection was of bringing wood from the nearby mill to fuel the school boilers. Apparently, there was loan of a scout truck, usually pulled by horses but in their absence (presumably for the war effort), the boys themselves would first load and then harness up and pull the truck back to Hartree. There was no electricity other than that from a huge old generator which was fuelled up each night and made a devil of a noise.
Essentially, Dick’s memories were of a hard but happy and fulfilled time and he was thrilled to be able to return to the house again. He had tried to visit previously, in August 2014. His visit at that time was to commemorate his own wife’s death and, amazingly, he and his daughter achieved the top of Tinto where he laid her ashes. What a lovely gesture and testament of his love for the area.
We will treasure Dick’s memories of Hartree, and if there is anyone else out there who boarded here, or perhaps whose parents or relatives passed down memories of working here when it was a school, please get in touch as we would love to hear your story.