Childhood Memories by Elizabeth Carson >
There is a depth in darkness. When the only lights are the pinpricks from the houses in the distance, we live on our wits. This was Arrochar at night before the street lighting. It was frightening and fascinating simultaneously and for me as a wee girl making my way home to Admiralty Cottages at Tighness there were mantras to be uttered to keep me safe. I would leave Wylie’s shop on a winters evening with a quarter stone of potatoes and a loaf of plain bread and think of all the dangers to be faced before the cottages and home. The Manse Burn gurgled under the road bridge and the beautiful copper beeches of the Manse itself loomed ahead. My chosen hymn was God is Always Near Me which I sang three times before the gates up to the glebe. Sometimes I had a torch but mainly I had only the sea wall to guide me. Across the loch the Cobbler watched me.
At the cottages, there were only paraffin lamps and small oil lamps to light us. The sight of my father or mother pumping up the Tilley lamp for the living room and making the darkness light entranced us. The shadows cast round the walls were eerie in the extreme but nothing compared with the journey to bed. I was very nervous of the dark and had a small paraffin lamp burning all night in the room I shared with my brother. The fire risk weighed against the nervous child?
But outside always called us and after dark in the winter evenings, we would go out to play at Kick the Can and Moonlight Starlight Bogie won’t Come Out Tonight chanted tunelessly to the annoyance of the neighbours. We played Knock Door and Run as they call it now and tied string to doors to rattle the knockers. And all around was darkness and the hill. Our windows gleamed only faintly with drawn blackout curtains.
Later on at Halloween we were allowed to go guising beyond the cottages, the walk up to Glenloin in the pitch darkness for the party of the year was an adventure in itself. We clutched the old handbags bulging with sweeties, apples and nuts and then we clutched one another as we made our way through the dark village. Torches wavered. Waves sounding like giant cats lapping at the sea walls. Poor wee soul that was last in our procession.
The Back Road remained in darkness after the first street lamps were put up in the village and the screams and laughter after the Highland and Islands films as we ran down the road and into the beech woods echo down the years.
The lights came on in Arrochar as throughout rural Scotland, but with coming of electricity the village lost a layer of mystery.
see also Memories Of Arrochar School, Tarbet 1946 - 1952 by the same author