Mr David Brown talks about the telegraph

Mr David Brown

David Brown, 81 years of age, interviewed in Stranraer by his daughter Julia Macdonald. Mr Brown was Telegram Boy in and around Stranraer during WWII.

  •  Interviewed: July 2012.
  • Ref: DG7/1/1/2.
  • © Photo: Julia MacDonald.
  • © European Ethnological Research Centre, 2012.


DB: We didnae apply. It was the schools, the headmaster that got us the job. A Mr Douglas Rae, Doh Ray they called him and he got us the job. But it was only on a temporary basis and we didnae understand that at the time.  And it was push bikes, great big, big heavy push bikes, just one gear. And, we did tae start off, we did the town, just the town. And then they eventually, later on, ah think there’s six ay us a thegither. But you were treated, oh I mean, you think you were in the army the way they treated you. You know, you were just a kind a underling. However, but, I’ve been trying, what dae ye call it, the messenger room and the telegraph room and there’s the teleprinters through in the next department, maybe 4 or 5 lassies, Cathy Lamb was one of them. And at the hatch, and they’d throw the hatch up and say, ‘Boy! Messenger! Next’ because ye had to rush-up the windae tae get yir pouch away in the street. But you were restricted in the time that ye took. It wis just like a time trial on a bike.  You could, you just couldnae go out and the bike and walk round and round the whole toon. Ye had to wait, you had tae be there at a certain and come back irrespective o the weather. And then things get worse, it finished up, we did a, a broken shift. And that was only a wee chap called Jimmy Wilson, you probably won’t remember him. And Jimmy wisnae allowed out of the town because it was dangerous in them days. For a the facilities, the War [WWII] wis still goin on but it was getting easier, ye know it was ’44. Ye had to go round these army camps at night time and there’s some dicey characters about the army camp. The guys that werenae at the War had …

As a matter of fact – and  ye had tae have yer blackout lights on yer bike. (Oh did ye?) That means a wee scoop, like the skip o a bunnett. And that’s tae stop light shinin up in the air in case the Germans can spot this light down on the ground – a wee torch.  Jimmy’s petrified. He used tae stay in the town, he was a wee delicate wee crater anyway. And normally I wis on the back-shift wie him. Well ah had tae take all the country telegrams. And, well I can’t remember what it was like, I carried a batton, aboot that size [indicates size] a chair leg ah had the solid chair and a great big torch. And that was how ah got so good on the bike. Ah wouldnae get off. Ah went up side o wall so ah would rather get off the bike. Because you’d been away doon round the Estate wi trees and bushes and a the rest an the noise and then you never knew these guys what wis gonae happen. So ah never walked wi a bike and the bike wis horrendous, ah mean the weight o the bike itself.

And I remember the funniest thing ah ever had. Well ye just yin particular incident wis a chap called  Mr McIntosh. He stayed a Garthlearie. And this is maybe a job at half past seven but they says, ‘Have ye time tae go to Garthlearie?’. I don’t know how this man … but he must have won money on some kind of lottery of some kind, ah don’t know. Because there’s no football coupons or nothing during the War. And I can remember it’s a moon light night and I wis up this back road. Just, near Innermessan there you know, just up at the back. And there used tae be an old army hut there, and, an auld Irish tramp, but he wis harmless. So ah goes up this road and ah’s whistlin’ as loud as ah could (laughter). And there big, tall, high hedges an I’ve seen this figure standin at the side of the bushes, ah, oh paniced. So ah just battered doon the road like a madman. And when ah eventually got to Mr McI…, a nice wee man. He wis actually a kind o part-time gamekeeper. He says, ‘Whit’s wrang wi you boy? Ye’r awfrae kinda distressed lookin’. Ah says, ‘Nae wonder. Ah says ah’m no goin back doon that road there’s a figure’ (laughs) A lot o, I’ll no tell you what I shouted at this time (laughter).  But anyway, he’s ‘Ah’ll come wi ye’. So he comes. Eh he got the 2 spaniels in the kennels, there’s kennels there yet the present day. An he’s walkin doon and, eh, wi a 12 bore [shotgun] under his arm (laughter). And he’s walkin in front o us this figurer’s still standin. He said, ‘Hey! What’s goin on here? What are ye dain?’ An richt off it wis a scarecrow (laughter). Somebody had lifted it out the, the [unclear] and it’s like the thing. He had a hat on and the big trench coat (laughter). He wis full to the rafter. Oh ah got a lot o, a lot o different incidents, silly wee things.