Ian's childhood

The pension was 10/- a week for two people when wages were about £2. About 1935 the market went dead so Rob, aged 67 gave away the chickens and lived on the pension. By this time all the girls were away working. Robina (Bena) began work at 13. Belle knitted socks and jumpers and sometimes played the gramophone. Rob went to bed early as he got up at dawn, in summer at 4am. Sometimes he read in bed or listened to the wireless. He suffered from blood pressure.

Everything happened in the one room. In winter this was the warm room. They were sometimes visited by Rob's brother and sister Alex and Sally from the family farm nearby and no doubt other family members.

Ian BremnerIan aged 2

In 1932 Gordon, one of the older children, died of cancer at the Cnoc and was buried in the Tarland cemetery. He had served in the British army in India, and had been badly knocked in football, which he blamed for his cancer.

In the meantime Rob seems to have mellowed. His children and Ian called him "Da". To the other grandchildren he was Granda, Belle was Grannie. Ian was allowed a lot of freedom, roaming the hills, fishing in the burns, but once got into trouble (a belting) from Rob for wandering too far from home and going to the bog. His early years were very much in touch with nature. He knew where all the birds nested and it was not thought unreasonable to collect one egg from each nest. By now he slept in the attic. One of his jobs was to bring in the firewood.

The local ploughmen whistled in the fields. When Ian started school he was fascinated by a boy who could whistle and practised until he could too.

Low familyRob, Ian, Belle and Mary
Ian Bremner

Ian's nickname was Lowie. He had TB at about six years and missed one year at school. When he went back to school his name was called out as Ian Bremner which he didn't know was him, until someone said "That's you dummy". A note went home and the answer was that he was known as Ian Low. He was well up in his class but did not like being indoors. He would have liked to join the older children allowed to work in the garden to grow vegetables for school soup. He regularly got the cane for talking. When he was about eight he got whooping cough and was not unhappy to miss more school. Belle thought his asthma dated from that time.

Ian's pocket money was 2d a week for a Boys' Magazine. He earned up to about 6d a week doing messages. Of course he had to entertain himself most of the time. He became a great reader, often reading in bed at night by candlelight, not a great writer.

When the girls were away from home working, Rob and Belle took in paying guests for a week to earn additional income. This was mostly in July when Aberdeen people had their week's annual holiday. Among the regular guests was a couple with a son. When Ian went to Aberdeen to visit Lizzie (his aunt) for a holiday, he had company his own age. Lizzie took Ian around the town and tried to answer his questions. Ian regarded all the girls as his sisters.





Growing Up

About 1937 Rob pointed out to the Laird that the water they had to drink had a film of oil (from the few tradesmen's vans which used the road?) and he agreed to have piped water from his supply put on to the shed. Until then they washed themselves outdoors, summer and winter. Bath water had to be carried to the house and heated on the fire. During blizzards the snow had to be dug away before dipping the buckets.

There was paper nearly an inch thick on the stone walls of the house, much of it newspaper. It was coming off near the fireplace. so it was replaced with vertical tongue and grooved batten boards and pine. The porch was also changed.

Low familyIan in the garden about 1936

At 11 Ian got a part of the shed for hobbies. He could use Rob's tools. At 13 he learnt woodwork at school and became very interested, so he was given a bigger shed and acquired some tools, spending all his pocket money on them. He saved his money for a small plane and ordered it from the ironmonger's shop at Aberdeen.

Ian liked outdoor activities at school including the garden, which was the privilege of the senior students, supplying vegetables for the school soup.

Only two children from Tarland were able to continue their schooling. One was a girl who later went to University, the other was the headmaster's son and not particularly academic.

Low familyRob with his daughter-in-law Martha, daughter Mary, Belle, Ian, Desmond and Robert 1938

Like all the other pupils Ian left school at the age of 14, at the end of March 1941, which was the end of the school year. He tried to get apprenticed to the local joiner. The joiner's son had to go away from home to work because of a lack of timber during the war so he could not take Ian. Boys could not afford to leave home because of low wages unless their parents could support them so he worked as a message boy for the grocer and delivered telegrams on a bike which was provided, earning 10/- and up to 12/6 a week for four months. Ian has had many employers since but never one he liked less. In April there was still snow on the ground and he got bronchitis.

Tarland schoolTarland school

His next job was apprentice to the gardener at Melgum Lodge. Among other things he was involved in planting trees. Geordie Mellis, Rob's brother-in-law from the Drummie, gave Ian a violin and the gardener started to teach him to play. After a year they said they wanted someone able to do heavier work. Violin lessons also stopped. Then to the sawmill at Ballater where he learnt to sharpen saws and became a sawyer on a bonus system. He was there for three years until the sawmill closed at the end of the war. At the age of 17 he was supervising two or three workers including a girl and his nickname became "Knockie".

Ian BremnerIan and his cousin Leslie 1942
Low familyRob with his sons and grandsons

Travelling around

In the summer the young people would cycle to the pictures in Aboyne, or sometimes go in Norman Watts' car at 2/- each, when a man's wage was 1/8 per hour. Ian didn't often get that much, but made up on bonus. Sometimes Norman Watts ran his small bus as far as Ballater where there was a proper cinema. They usually cycled to dances, which were a venue where people could meet and chat.

Unfortunately during the war the girls were more interested in the soldiers, especially the Canadian Forestry Corps, who were older, more mature and could dance. It was hard for the younger ones to get a dance and so they did not learn as there were no dancing classes. They needed some Dutch courage!

He met his cousins Doug and Betty Bremner but did not know he was related to them. His grandparents were the only parents he knew, they had provided him with a carefree childhood and he would not upset them with probing questions.

He left home and went to Banchory to work for a builder for a year. In the winter he worked in the bush for a short time (1946-7) cutting birch firewood and shovelling snow from the roads when the snowplough got stuck after blizzards. He got a job at Dunkeld with a Banchory firm, navvying. This was slightly warmer, the ground was not frozen. For the next three years he travelled all over Shetland, Coventry and Liverpool (England). He saw more of the countryside than any of his acquaintances. He visited Charles and his wife Alice in England. Charles had once been a butler, was now a security officer for Shell. Ian sometimes suffered from asthma but was unable to fathom the trigger.

Rob's surviving children had all married. Most of the older ones stayed in the Glasgow area. Robert married Isabelle Skillen and had two children Robert and Matilda, Alex married Martha Milne and had a son Robert, Charles married Alice Grimes, Meg married Bob Paul (in Australia) and had two children Yunis and Ian, Fachie married Margaret Kyle and had five children Isobel, Margaret, Catherine, Mary and Gordon, Lizzie married Frank Deans and had a son Leslie, Isa married Alec Fyfe and had a son Desmond and daughter Heather, Cath married Ian Mitchell of Wester Coull and had a daughter, Cathie, Mary married Jim Mitchell (not related to Cath's husband), and had a daughter Rosemary, Bena married Bill McCombie and had three children, Phyllis, Marjory and Gordon.

Low familyRob and Belle
Low familyRob and Belle

Leaving the Cnoc

In 1946 Rob, who until then had maintained a large garden, fell ill towards the end of the week. The doctor came but failed to diagnose appendicitis and told the family not to call him again until after the weekend. By then, there was a panic and Rob, aged 76, was rushed to Aberdeen by car to Forresterhill Hospital, for an appendectomy. Peritonitis set in followed by pneumonia. Some members of his family lived much longer, four died in their eighties, Sally died at 99. There were ten living children and 19 grandchildren (including Ian).

Belle could not afford the rent and had to give up the Cnoc. She went to live in Tarland, then to Bena and Bill, at Wester Coull (on Ian Mitchell's farm). When she died in February 1950, Ian was away from home but went back to the funeral. He did not go through the house to see her body preferring to remember her as she was. He saw relatives he was not to see again (at least for a long time). Belle was buried in Tarland near her husband and stepson Gordon.


Some of Rob's siblings now lived around Tarland, which still did not have mains power.

Peter had gone to work as a navvy working on the small Glasgow Underground, and other jobs, but finally retired to Tarland. He had married twice and had two daughters.

The two youngest, Alex and Sally had not married but stayed on the family farm at Spawell.

Nelly and her husband Geordie Mellis stayed at Drumnie. She wrote a great deal of poetry in the Scots Leid. There was a well in their garden with a wee trout in it to keep it clean, and an enclosure with a roe deer in it.

Wully and his wife Aggie lived at Blairglass near Balmoral Castle and had sons Alex (killed in WW2 by a land mine) and Wullie and a daughter Jessie who had a son young Wullie. Old Wullie had been a gamekeeper and had lost an eye at grouse shooting. He met but did not respect King George VI who used bad language when having a bad day at the butts.

Their sister Jessie had been married to a farmer John Philip, now a widow went to live with her siblings Alex and Sally and stayed in one of the farm labourer's cottages when they retired from Spawell.

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