December 5, 2021

Bob Teevan

Temperance

This is an early undivided back postcard with a theme of temperance and a reference in the message to Beecraigs.

The card is likely a local production and while it is printed on pink paper it was purchased together with two similar cards printed on green paper. The illustration is a simple ink drawing of a lady who is holding a piece of paper from which she is singing “The lips that touch liquor shall never touch mine” which was a Temperance Era song first penned in 1874 by George T. Evans and Sam Booth. The reference to 1874 is common on the internet although this may be the year the song, or a variation of the song, reached the USA as the Bradford Observer of January 16, 1868, is not alone in carrying reports such as:

On Tuesday evening the third entertainment in connection with the Mechanics’ Institute took place in the Mechanics’ Hall. The program included a selection of songs and pianoforte music, comprised several original recitations, which were effectively given by their respective authors, including The Otley Church Bells and The Quack Doctor’s Speech” by Mr. J. C. Wilkinson; also, The Lips that Touch Liquor Shall Never Touch Mine,” by Miss H. Glarebrook.  The audience was large.

The following year the articles used the word ‘song’ rather than ‘recital.’

The postcard was posted in Bathgate on December 30, 1902, and is addressed to Miss M. J. Dow, 189 Allison Street, Crosshill, Glasgow and reads as follows:

Dear Meg, Tommy and I arrived all alive and kicking last night and found Jim awaiting us at the station. There has been a great deal of snow here. The road up by Beecraigs was so deep we had to go round about by Longmuir, but we were driving so it was not so bad. Be sure and write soon. Best love to all from all.

I cannot identify any of the correspondents. I know from the other cards which accompanied this one that Meg Dow was related to someone named Tommy Dow and that he was in South Shield in England in 1904. I cannot find him there in the 1911 census and equally I cannot find either Tommy or Meg in Crosshill in 1901. The newspapers from 1895 to 1900 refer to several tenants at the Crosshill address and I suspect it was a property which had frequent changes of tenants.

Beecraigs is now an exciting and beautiful Country Park. You’ll find it nestled high in the Bathgate Hills near the historic town of Linlithgow, West Lothian. It is a 4-star visitor’s attraction.

Beecraigs is the largest of West Lothian’s three country parks and offers miles of woodland paths and trails to explore by foot, bike, or on horseback. There is also a wide range of leisure and recreational opportunities. The ranger service supplies advice and activities, you can visit the animal attraction and see the red deer, highland and belted Galloway cattle, and Hebridean/North Ronaldsay sheep or take a stroll around Beecraigs Loch.

There’s an adventure play area to enjoy, a skills area where you can master your mountain bike as well as MTB trails across the park, an orienteering course to navigate, a pioneering course and a target archery area are available to hire. Make a day of it and hire a BBQ pit or, if you’d like to stay longer, why not check into the caravan and camping site or hire one of Beecraigs’ glamping Little Lodges.

I have visited and walked in Beecraigs on many occasions and a walk around the small loch was one of my regular jaunts. I have lived in this area for over 25 years although even now I can still learn something new and on this occasion, it relates to Beecraigs Loch.

I knew that “High on the list of reasons why people come to Beecraigs is the fishery. On the east side of the park is a well-established 20-acre loch which is stocked daily with hand graded Rainbow Trout plus the occasional Brown Trout. Anglers fish from one of the eight boats accessed from the floating pier and maintained by the park. Other facilities include a fishing lodge and a tackle shop. The fishery is open all year, and advance booking is essential.”

What I didn’t know was that Beecraigs Loch isn’t a natural loch as “the construction of Beecraigs Loch, as a reservoir to supply water to Linlithgow, was undertaken by German prisoners of war in the First World War. German soldiers, other than officers and senior NCOs, could be put to work that did not directly further the prosecution of the war.”

This prisoner of war construction interested me, and particularly when I read

“Apparently the German work ethic was nothing like it is now. Work progressed at a snail’s pace until it had to be finished off in 1918.” I wondered how true this last comment was and I found the following in the Linlithgowshire Gazette of September 13, 1918.

“An effort is being made by the Linlithgow Central Water Committee to obtain the services of conscientious objectors to work at Beecraigs. The German prisoners who were engaged there a year ago proved of no use for the purpose. It will be a matter of experiment to discover whether the men who won’t fight are any good at working.” I find this last comment very bitter although we must remember the sentiments of the nation at the time.

I looked for further reports on this project and I sense that some of the reporting was not overly accurate and was perhaps penned with a bit of anti-German sentiment. This extract from the West Lothian Courier of February 14, 1919, appears a bit more balanced. “… the necessity for making this emergency arrangement, however, did not arise out of want of forethought in the past, because the County Council some time before the outbreak of war had commenced the construction of a large new reservoir at Beecraigs, a few miles from the county town of Linlithgow, but the withdrawal of labor caused by the war compelled the abandonment of the half-completed water works.

Pressure on the part of the Admiralty induced the County Council to make arrangements with the ‘War Office’ for providing them with a large number of German prisoners, and after some delay these men began work in the summer of 1917. Unfortunately, through various causes, the experiment was found to be far from successful, and the Germans were drafted away. Later, another experiment made was the employment of conscientious objectors at the making of the reservoir, and this was found much more profitable, a number of these men being still engaged at Beecraigs.”

At the time the postcard was mailed much of Beecraigs was farmland and it is mentioned in the Falkirk Herald of August 16, 1873.

“Special notice was taken of the presence of Mr. James Ruthven, Beecraigs, one of the oldest members of the congregation, who (as reported at the time in our column) was lately presented by his landlord – the Earl of Selkirk – with a handsome silver-mounted snuff mull on the occasion of his making payment of his hundredth half-year’s rent. The following verses composed by Mr. Ruthven after receiving his present were read aloud to the company, and deserve to be recorded:

I’m sittin’ in humble biggin’,
Some ten feet ‘tween the floor an’ riggin,
As prood’s the deil wi’ a present grand,
Got frae a noble earl’s hand.
For fifty years I’ve paid him rent –
Frae youth tae age my days are spent –
Tae cheer me up whan drear and dull,
He gifted me wi’ a snuff mull.
It’s beauties I will ne’er can tell –
It’s abler far tae dae’t itsel’;
Sae grand it looks in coat o’ mail,
Wi’ a gracefu’ swirl in its tail.
Lang may oor noble Earl live,
And still the inclination have,
Tae mak’ the careworn breest to swell,
O’ some auld worthy like mysel’.”

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I wonder how long it’s been since anyone received a snuff mull as a reward for faithfully making payments or performing a service …

What a lot of interesting info for 1 little card ! i give it a 5 since maybe I should be more interested inmy own Scottish heritage since that it where2 of maternal grandmas relatives came from. I think I found that they were 12 men who came to colonize Vermont/New Hampshire area.

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