Felicity Gelder recalls the sounds of Kirkcudbright

Felicity Gelder interviewed in October 2012 by Tania Gardner.

Felicity recalls the sounds which she heard around Krikcudbright as a child in the 1950s.

  • Interviewed: 12 October 2012.
  • Ref: DG13/4/1/2.
  • © Photo: Tania Gardner.
  • © European Ethnological Research Centre.


TG: Now, there were bells ringing in the High Street.

FG: There were bells ringing in the High Street, yes [laughter].

TG: What are your memories of the Tolbooth when a child?

FG: Huge [laughs]. As far as, well I never realised that the Tolbooth bells were ingrained in my head until they were actually stopped from ringing at 11 o’clock at night. I hadn’t realised that they rang all night – it was just there all my life. Plus the 6 o’clock curfew and the eight o’clock curfew. And 7 o’clock on the first Thursday of every month they rang the bells for the Council meeting. And we as children used to love to go and help ring these bells. They weren’t rung, as I understand it now, properly. But, they were, they’d huge ropes and the bells were up the top of the belfry and I was lucky or unlucky enough … I was really chuffed because I got left in charge of the bells for a week, with the key and had to go up there at six o’clock and ring the bells for 5 minutes solidly. And the great thing for us kids was all to go on at the end to stop the bell ringing. We just all clambered onto the rope – we hung on and it stopped by sheer weight of numbers.

We occasionally had visitors who loved to come and see things and we used to take them right up … there was a big, like a wooden, ladder stair-case up the tower which was completely worm-eaten and you could only go one person at a time very carefully! But it was, I always thought of them as ‘my bells’ [laughter].

TG: Of course. So the building itself, was it used for anything at all?

FG: The building itself was Ag. and Fish I think at that point. Although we knew, as kids, we knew that Paul Jones had been there as a prison. And we used to play with the jougs on the … well they’re now locked-up so you cannae play with them. And also play at jumping off the steps and see how high you can get and dare yourself to do things. But em, it was mostly a place to play and we knew of the bells and we knew what curfew was. And I’ve seen me explaining to tourists – whom I thought were wonderful people – what curfew meant then.

TG: So did tourists then?

FG: Oh tourists then, yes. I can’t think there were an awful lot but there used to be people who’d come up if they came at like 6 o’clock because the door would be open at the top of the steps for us to ring and they’d come to see what we were doing and be incredibly interested [laughter]..

TG: What other sounds do you remember in the street?

FG: What other sounds? Well the siren used to be – I understand it was the ‘all-clear’ siren for the War. It used to sit on top of the Court House which is next-door. They used that as a fire alarm which called the people in. The Fire Brigade used to go from the road just across Fisher Street [TG: Fisher Stret, uhm]. Just across from the Court House was where the fire engine was kept, so if the siren went off all the kids would rush of to see where it was going. It also went off at, um, I’m thinking lunch-time on a Saturday but that could be anything about 12 or whatever. Because we knew if we were playing away to come home on a Saturday . I don’t really know why – I think it was probably being tested because it was always the same time on a Saturday that they set the siren off.