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Tales from Arrochar Village

Any Gum Chum ?  by Tom Huxtable

`Sweeties`, being rationed during the War, we children would shout to visiting American soldiers “ any gum chum ? ”, and they in return would give us some American Chewing Gum, which if stored carefully behind the ear, when not being chewed, would last a very long time, unless discovered by our Mothers!

So it was that Tom Kelly, Jim Bishard, Jimmy Gillies, Calumn McLean, and myself, confronted an American Officer outside Wylie’s Store at Tighness. He kindly gave us some gum, and I, noticing he was smoking a cigar, had the bright idea that if we followed him, we could pick up the cigar butt when he threw it away, and we could try having a smoke!

`Our Gang` followed this man all the way up the shore- road, as he headed for Arrochar Hotel, where he was billeted (staying), all the time dreading that he would throw the cigar butt over the sea wall. All went well until he arrived at the Hotel, where he threw the butt over the fence into the Hotel garden. How to safely get it ? I, of the bright ideas, threw my handkerchief into the garden, and then went into the Hotel to ask if I could go into the garden to” get my `hankie”. Having received permission, I dived into the garden, scooped up the cigar butt in my hankie, and off we bolted to our` Den` in a large rhododendron bush in Arrochar House grounds, behind the football pitch.

There we all squatted down, and passed round the still lit cigar, which by this time had burned a few holes in my hankie! (More trouble for Tom when he arrived home). Not having tried to smoke before, but having watched both my Mum and Dad smoking, I didn’t know that cigar smoke should not be inhaled, so I was soon `feeling queer`. By the time I got home to an empty house, and lay down on the rug in front of the living room fire, I was convinced I was about to die!

When I was eventually found by my Mum and Dad, I was shivering, and my face, according to my Mum, was a mixture of green and yellow, appropriate colour for a future Celtic supporter! My Dad soon smelt the smoke from my breath, and` treated` me to a glass of water with plenty of salt in it! I was soon in the bathroom, on my knees, shouting for “hughie” down the toilet !!!

From that day onwards I have never smoked, in fact I feel quite ill as a write this, so there you have it, try inhaling cigar smoke if you want to stop smoking.

“Daddy, what does declared mean?”

It was Sunday the 3rd of September 1939, and I was attending Mass in Arrochar with my Father and Mother, Alex (Sandy) and Hannah Huxtable. There being no Catholic Church in Arrochar at that time, Sunday Mass was held in the home of my Godfather Mr Neil McKinnon, who lived in a house above the Village Store at Braeside, (up the village).

When Mr. and Mrs. McKinnon later on moved to Helensburgh, Mass was then held in my home at 11, Kirkfield Place, later moving to the `Wee School` at Tighness, and eventually to the present Catholic Church.

While Mass was taking place in Mr. and Mrs. McKinnon’s living room, the young children, including myself, were in the front room overlooking the road and Loch Long. I was sitting looking out of the open window, when a man passed by on the road below, and shouted up to me a message that he wanted passed on. So I went through to my Father and asked him, “what does declared mean Daddy?” “Why Tom?” Daddy asked. I replied,”a man has shouted up that I was to tell you, ”war has just been declared ”

To my surprise, my Mother and the other ladies started crying, and my Dad looked very worried. I did not understand that because my Father was in the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders Territorial Army, he expected to be among the first to be `called up` to go and fight in the war against Germany

Though I was not quite 9 years old at that time, today 68 years later, I can still picture this event in my mind.


Written by Tom Huxtable


If you know of any stories or tales then please email us! and we'll publish them here. Thanks.




Also please see the following pages: -

  Childhood Memories
Arrochar Parish Church History
The Parish Of Arrochar
Arrochar Parish Hall 1890-2006
Arrochar Mountains by Bob Smith MBE











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