Sunday School Picnic

When I started Sunday school as a child I attended Portsoy East Church, the Church opposite the Station Hotel. The year before I was married, Portsoy East Church and the West Church Portsoy were linked and of course like many other churches in the same situation, Portsoy East Church then became the Parish Church Hall and has since been used on many occasions for Seaside Mission hosting Churches from the Central Belt, Glasgow definitely.

I have lovely memories of that Church and in the 23 years I worshiped there the Rev John M McLeod, from Stornoway was minister. He died 6 months after the linking of the churches, and also 6 months before I was married.

I remember very well our Sunday School picnics when all families attended. Of course as Portsoy was at the seaside our picnics were always held in the country. A train ride to Glenbarry or the Knock was an exhilarating experience which was talked about weeks before and for some time after.

The week before the picnic preparation had to be made, as we had no hall, ropes for races swings and boxes of enamel mugs were taken down from the belfry where they had been stored since the previous year by Elders and many willing helpers. Tickets were purchased on the day for the train just in case of rain, and most important food ordered from the local baker. After everything was organised we children along with our teachers met at the Church on a Saturday lunchtime and marched or walked in an orderly fashion to the station just in time for the train.

After we boarded the train the singing would start. Jesus wants me for a Sunbeam, Climb Climb up Sunshine Mountain and Away far beyond Jordan were the favourites and sung lustily until we reached our destination. We then marched to a field belonging to one of the Farmers who attended Church and there our afternoon’s fun began.

On arrival in the field we each got an enamel mug which was white with deep blue round the top and the handle also blue, filled with rich creamy milk straight from the cow not pasteurised and a cookie spread with jam. It was the best milk and cookie I have ever tasted. If I close my eyes I can still savour the taste. Then came the races; all the usual ones with 9d first prize, 6d second and 3d third, that of course being in old money and it was a fortune then. We play different games amongst the buttercups, daisies and of course cow pats until 4 o’clock when a car driven by the local Baker with a trailer hooked to the car which had baskets filled with white bags, tea trays and bridies and urns of tea. Once more the enamel mugs were hauled out but this time we were served with lots tea, and it was hot in that mugs.

We each got one bridie and a bag with 3 biscuits, a paris bun a date triangle and a cheesecake all bags containing the same amount of food, of course each child was curious to see what the other had, just in case anyone had more.

After tea all the field had to be cleared of litter everything being left as we found it; boys and girls were keen and willing workers. Then it was ice cream time and more sticky hands and faces. What a kaleidoscope of colour there was in the field that day with all the girls in their pretty colourful dresses and the boys in short trousers down to their knees and dazzling white shirts. Even the colours of the lemonade looked good. I remember wearing a hat made of either cotton or linen a thing that flopped round my face with an elastic band under the chin to keep it on, it not only kept it on, but almost choked me at the same time. I am sure I am not the only one who had a hat like that. We each got an ice cream cone.

Replete with the sun and all the goodies we once more made our way to the station and although very tired and dishevelled very happy. We got the 6 o’clock train home singing this time Show me the way we go home.

There were always a few cuts and bruises to prove we had had a nice time but apart from that nothing dire happened, but how we were never burned with that enamel mug of tea I will never know.

We had rainy days as well for picnics which had quite often on reflection to take place in a hall. On that days there was no train ride but we had the usual eats and pennies for games. We would have a Walt Disney film and action songs. I can still remember my introduction to one finger one thumb keep moving and a girl from Glasgow who used to perform Ikie Moses songs regularly.

I will finish with the story my Mother-in-law has told me often about the little girl who did not want to go to the Sunday School Picnic. Everybody was excited and getting dressed to go to the picnic but let’s call her Jean. Her mother scolded and said why are you not ready for the picnic. She replied well I was in Bowman and Watson that is the Baker in Whitehills when Henry came in to order the food for the picnic and he ordered something substantial but nae very dear. I dinna ken fit something substantial and nae very dear is but I am nae gaun because I dinna think I’ll like it. She went of course.