Donald takes a family trip through time to 1930’s Banknock

Author Donald Yule.
Author Donald Yule.

Author Donald Yule’s memories of Banknock date to the remote days of his childhood, but he has just lifted the lid on a fascinating chapter in the area’s social history.

His newly-published book “Other Times, Other Places” is a labour-of-love project which details the adventures of “two unremarkable young Scots” and their adventures in the 1930s.

Happy days - young Donald enjoying the spectacular garden in Hollandbush during a summer holiday there.

Happy days - young Donald enjoying the spectacular garden in Hollandbush during a summer holiday there.

Donald, (80), is a retired accountant living in East Sussex, and has no recent close association with the Falkirk area - his own local memories are of summer holiday visits - but the family diaries are a window into Banknock’s lost world of yesteryear.

The allegedly unremarkable pair he is mainly concerned with are his own mum and dad, Ann and Bob.

More than just a reprise of family anecdotes the book is a mine (pun intended) of information about life and work in the towns and villages of industrial Stirlingshire and Lanarkshire in the hungry Thirties.

But it also offers a fascinating insight into the Scottish diaspora of the day - “a first hand picture of life in the West Australian bush and a West African mining camp which has not been marred by failing memory or nostalgia”.

Andrew Brown senior, who ran a licensed grocer's business in Banknock.

Andrew Brown senior, who ran a licensed grocer's business in Banknock.

Donald was born in 1939 and is the grandson of Andrew Brown (1883 - 1947) who founded the firm of Andrew Brown and Son licensed grocers in Banknock’s Kilsyth Road.

He’s also the nephew of John and William Yule, poultry and pig farmers at Cloybank, Banknock (then No 2 Holding, Longcroft) - who (to his delight) owned a cabin cruiser at Rhu on the Gareloch.

Between them these two families’ histories amount to a potent slice of life at a time when many were struggling to survive, and when the world was sliding inexorably towards a second world war.

Despite the interval of time Donald hopes older people in Banknock today may remember members of either or both families, and that younger readers might be interested in the details of their often gruelling everyday lives.

Ann and Bob at the sundial in the garden in Hollandbush - pictured before leaving Scotland for West Africa.

Ann and Bob at the sundial in the garden in Hollandbush - pictured before leaving Scotland for West Africa.

Meanwhile he acknowledges help from Falkirk Archives in sourcing some of the detailed material he has included on the railways and mines of the time.

As a one-stop introduction to 1930’s Banknock (with diversions to the Australian bush and Africa) his detailed account of a community and the daunting challenges it must have faced is a carefully-wrought reconstruction of a vanished era.

Donald admits his accountancy career was a big help in bringing forensic insight to bear on a mass of complex detail, and he has marshalled facts in a which strives to shed light on a world very different from our own, while at the same time putting characters like his grandad front of stage.

A copy of the book has already been acquired by the library of Scotland’s National Mining Museum, and attached to the narrative are many notes and appendices which explain some of the technical detail in its proper context.

But why was Banknock once called Hollandbush (a name which however has never completely died out) - and why did Donald’s mum and dad decide to emigrate to West Africa in 1936?

What happened when they got there?

The faded but emotive black and white photographs from the family collection show people in the prime of life, full of optimism for the future - making plans to better their lot at home or abroad.

Were it not for Donald’s work their story, like countless others, would be lost to posterity - their one-time dreams and hopes forgotten.

Proceeds from the sales of the book are to be donated to registered charities, the first of which has been the RNLI Hastings Lifeboat (which gained £370 from sales at the launch event last month).

“Other Times, Other Places” is available from www.completelynovel.com/books/other-times-other-places