Them were the days

My grandson has just informed me that at 12noon he is going back to bed.  The reason, is of course that he stayed up until 4.30 last night listening to the election result.  And for the first time, I thought back to the days of yore, when I was his age, a staggering 60 years ago: my parents and their contemporaries would not have recognised almost any of the parties standing in the recent election, in that in common with most other rural dwellers, they would have voted Unionist which was the universal title given to the party who are now calling themselves almost exclusively Conservatives, or occasionally when they remember the Conservative and Unionist Party.  The election was without television and mobile phones mostly considered by going to local meetings, or by the candidate calling at your home or at least a representative of the candidate calling at your home.  Posters adorned local shops, farm gates and generally, at least in the countryside, were exclusively for the one party.   Meetings were civilised affairs, where the candidates were treated with civility and the questions often strayed away from things political into discussions of the price of cows and the success of some newly introduced fertiliser.  However come election day, people like my parents who ran the Mill and were fairly regular churchgoers waited with patience for their car to come.  When I say their car to come, they of course didn’t have one of their own, but the Mill was surrounded by three estates: to the south was Smithston which belonged to the Knox family, whose fortune had come from threadmaking in the little town of Kilbirnie some generations before; to the north was Monkcastle owned by the Grant family, whose fortune had come from the West Indies at some earlier time; and to the east was Blair House which the family had occupied since 1203 and they were what was known as ‘landed gentry’.  What was interesting about them was that they were all customers of the Mill as they all rode to the hunt and required food stuffs for the horses, and that, they got from the Mill.  So universally, they would call my father John and he knew that on election day anyone one of three chauffeured cars would turn up without fail to take him and Mrs Ferguson to the poll.  In these days, no-one found this strange or unexpected, it was simply the courtesy and hierarchy of the countryside.  Do I wish for a return to those days when everyone knew their place?  I think not, my children and grandchildren enjoy freedoms which were in those days unthinkable, and long may that continue!

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