Local legend reflects on a lifetime in Laurieston

Margaret McGregor
Margaret McGregor

A walk down memory lane is all the more enjoyable if it is done in the company of someone whose memory stretches back much further than your own.

A week or so ago I had the pleasure of chatting to Miss Margaret McGregor of Laurieston who celebrated her 98th birthday this week.

Laurieston Toll

Laurieston Toll

Margaret has lived all her life in the village and is well known as one of the Laurieston twins along with her sister, Ann, who sadly died just five years ago.

Throughout their long lives the two did everything together, dressed the same as children and adults, and lived for all but their first two years in the same house in Dundas Road where Margaret lives today.

Despite her years, Margaret’s memory is clear and it was fascinating to hear about the village of her childhood in the years after the first world war – attending Laurieston Primary School then Falkirk Technical (now Graeme High) School, Sunday School at the old West Free Church and watching the electric trams rattling under the Skew Brig and climbing up the Toll Brae to Mary Street.

After school she and Ann (the younger of the two by ten minutes) went to work in Dunn and Wilson’s famous book bindery in Kerse Lane which had opened its doors in 1909.

Here the sisters spent their whole working lives side by side.

Throughout the years they were intrepid European travellers including to the Soviet Union in the years before the fall of communism.

One of the reasons I went along to visit Margaret was to see a little silver trophy which was awarded to her father, Archibald McGregor, way back in 1915.

It is inscribed ‘‘Pigmy Pouter’’ which meant nothing to me until Margaret produced a painting of a pigeon with a hugely inflated chest which almost obscured its face.

Her dad had been a prizewinner for years in various parts of Scotland before the First World War and from Margaret I learned for the first time about the ‘‘sport’’ (if that is the right word) of pigeon pouting which was very popular back then and still attracts enthusiasts today.

If like me you are puzzled, then there are indeed a variety of pouting pigeons which have the ability to puff out their chests and they are ‘‘shown’’ alongside others in competitions just like Cruft’s dog show! Pigmy pouters are one variety and clearly the McGregor bird was one such, and a champion to boot. Amazing!

A more important picture in Margaret’s front room is of her beloved brother, Donald, who was a Flying Officer in the Second World War and died in an air accident at Lanark in February 1945.

It was clear from our conversation that even after more than 70 years that loss still weighed very heavily on Margaret and she remembers him as a carefree, daredevil of a young man who was afraid of nothing.

When the replica Spitfire was unveiled in Grangemouth in 2013 Provost Pat Reid arranged for her to attend as a tribute to her brother.

Margaret loves to recall her childhood and a few years ago she and Ann were part of a group in the village which gathered stories about the shops, houses and characters that they remembered. The little book they produced is a treasured record of times past.

Today Margaret is content in the house she has lived in for more than nine decades.

The loss of her beloved sister was obviously a huge blow but she is in good heart whether looking backwards or forwards.

A very happy birthday Margaret and many more of them.