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|Home||3 September 1939||The Kingcough Well||The Smiddy|
For those who do not know Comrie, it is a small village in Perthshire. It stands on the banks of the River Earn, where the farming land begins to give way to the foothills of the Grampian Mountains. When I lived there, Comrie was a farming community. Most of the people had lived there all their lives as had their families before them. The Crerar family was no exception.
My grandfather was James Crerar, the blacksmith in Comrie. Nell, my mother's unmarried sister, kept house for Grandpa after my grandmother died. We lived in the Smiddy House, a square, grey house facing north at the corner of Dundas Street and Drummond Street
The Smiddy House does not present a welcoming façade. In fact, it is almost forbidding. But when I lived there, I felt it was a refuge, a safe, warm place. It was a place where all were welcome. I often heard the front door being opened, and a voice calling, "Nell, are you home?" That brought an immediate response from Nell: "Oh, come on in and have a cup of tea."
The house is divided in the middle. The front door opens on to a narrow entry. It contained a hallstand loaded with raincoats, umbrellas, and grandpa's walking sticks. Facing the front door, a long passage leads to the stairs and the back door; the kitchen door is on the left, and the parlour door is on the right.
The parlour was always a cold room, possibly because it was unused except on very special occasions. It always seemed dark, partly because it faces north and does not get any sun, and partly because of the curtains; they were very heavy brocade in a dark, plum color. They hung on wooden rings on a wooden pole. The furniture was perfect Victorian: a couch and armchairs upholstered in avocado moquette. That was the itchiest stuff to sit on! I hated having to sit on that furniture. The material seemed to have pins that jabbed my bare legs and made me squirm.
A lovely sideboard stood against the back wall. A mirror was flanked by small shelves that held little china ornaments that family and friends had brought back from holiday trips. I often looked at a frame that should have held a photograph but instead held service medals for Willie Crerar, my mother's brother, who had been killed in France in May 1918. See a photograph of Willie Crerar in France.
Nell's piano was in the parlour and suffered from cold and damp. Some of its keys sounded reasonable, some definitely did not, and some required a good thump to make any sound at all, but that did not stop me from pretending to be a concert pianist. Nell never complained about the discordant sounds I created. I suspect she was glad to know where I was, since very often she did not!
Two china cockerels stood on the mantelpiece, one at each end facing each other. They were highly colored in red, gold and green each with a magnificent sweep of tail feathers and a somewhat vicious looking beak.On the wall beside the fireplace hung a large framed photograph of my great-grandmother, a woman of a formidable appearance who seemed to be giving everyone a stern look. Her hair was pulled back into a knot and she wore a dark, high-collared dress with a row of tiny buttons all the way up the front. My mother said she used to pass the time in the parlor by counting all the buttons, but she never did finish the task.
I very much preferred the kitchen.
The kitchen was the heart of the house. It is a square room with one window facing north. A Trixie coal-fired range faced the door from the hallway. This was where Nell did most of her cooking and baking. Its fire provided warmth in winter and was the only source of heat in the entire house. On the right wall, a door led to the scullery, where a gas ring gave Nell the quick heat required for frying and water heating. Facing the range, a dresser held a collection of willow-pattern plates, tureens, serving platters and gravy boats. A sturdy table and chairs, an armchair and a couch completed the furnishings of the kitchen.