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Entertainment would, I suppose, appear primitive to a youngster of today. Radio was the main home entertainment source - with basically two programmes, Home Service and the Light Programme. Our set was large, crackly and temperamental. Above all, its use had to be rationed, not only because its valves glowed red hot, but because it was powered by a large, heavy, wet battery. This could only be charged at the garage at the bottom of the village, and it was a long haul on foot. With hindsight, I have no idea why we didn't acquire a cheap war-surplus mains transformer.

The only programmes which have stuck in my mind are "Music while You Work", "Children's Favourites" on Saturday, "Listen with Mother" (even when older, listened to when out of school for any reason), "Mrs Dale's Diary" (a radio soap opera light years distant from Eastenders), "The MacFlannels" on Saturday evening, and the scary (for a 9-year-old) "Return to the Red Planet".

Television was in its infancy, and beyond our family means. I believe the first transmission I saw was the Scottish Cup Final between Celtic and Clyde at Hampden Park in 1955. "Saw" is a relative term, since with a tiny screen in a large smoke filled room it was tricky to observe the finer points of Jock Stein's performance. It was an enterprising move by the management of the Vale Hotel to sell entry - I cannot now remember the charge, except that it seemed exorbitant in relation to a week's pocket money. They were no doubt trying to recoup their investment in a set bought for the Coronation. At this time a large cabinet set would have cost around £100 - in fact the adverts more usually spoke of 100 guineas! - at a time when £6 a week was not uncommon as a wage level.

Later in the 1950s, I was lucky to have two friends in the village whose families had televisions - with one I had a standing weekly invitation for "The Lone Ranger", and the other shared my delight in the "classic" serials such as "Kidnapped" and "Treasure Island".

The nearest cinema was Turriff (my first film, "The Ascent of Everest") and there were occasional rare treat visits to Aberdeen with its many cinemas. "Reach for the Sky" is an abiding memory, while the hilarity of Norman Wisdom, or of Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis, was hugely enjoyed but with the details long since forgotten. There were occasional showings of films in the school or church halls - "The Cruel Sea" comes to mind, but it was never a regular occurrence as in some parts of Scotland. I have recently received lots of information from ex-classmate Helen Taylor (née Philip), who tells me that there were regular film shows at Woodhead, and that Fyvie folk walked up the hill for this entertainment. From Helen "
There were long wooden benches with straight backs for seating. There was no electricity in the hall; it was lit by Tilley lamps. We knew the picture was about to start when the lamps were carried out."

Professional theatre also meant the long bus trip to Aberdeen, but worth it for the two unmissables - the Christmas Pantomime, and the touring productions of Peter Pan - I saw the Margaret Lockwood version in 1953. Student Show in some years was in the grownups' diary, but I did not see it till much later. There was a certain amount of Amateur Dramatics in the village, but I rather think it was an offshoot of the SWRI "the Rural" - or of the Women's Guild, rather than a separate club. There were also occasional variety shows, which assembled a variety of North-East acts - recitations of the poems of Charles Murray, bothy ballads, accordion and fiddle numbers, and the soprano solos of Grace Leslie, whose day job was the Primary 1 teacher at the local school.

The "Rural" was also the link to two of the big annual events - the Turriff Show and the Oldmeldrum Sports. Although we all enjoyed the animal judging, the sideshows and the demonstrations in the main ring, for the adults, and especially the ladies, the high spot was the judging of their best domestic efforts - floral displays, sewing and knitting, and above all baking. The rivalry between the local ladies was sufficiently intense in the monthly contests within the village - it moved to a new dimension on the broader stage of Turriff or Oldmeldrum. 

The youngsters were well aware of their mothers' competitive hopes -

Saturday afternoon, October 1956 - the son of a neighbour is with us at teatime. Taking a pancake, he breaks it carefully, inspects, inhales, tastes - and pronounces - "Nae bad, Mrs Groves …..but it's nae a prize!" The young expert was at the time …… 4 years old!

Another favourite memory on the entertainment front was the annual summer visit of "the shows" to the football field. Swingboats, roundabouts, and roll-a-penny - all lively until late into these long summer evenings, and the music could be heard all over the valley, long after we were supposed to be asleep. Many small goldfish were carried home in their plastic bags, but few seemed to survive the fact that nobody knew how to care for them.

Another entertainment that was audible over a fair area, but I think for a very limited period, was the Saturday night dance at the hall near the old doctor's house by the river. The building was small and bleak, with a spartan corrugated iron cladding. Helen remembers it as the "Gordon Highlanders’ Hall", so presumably it was formerly a drill hall for a Territorial Army unit. There were certainly dances around 1951, but long before the mid 50s it had been transformed into an egg grading station which provided employment for a few - stamping the little lion on the eggs, and then packing them.

Helen has contributed her sketch of the dances at Woodhead :
Dances were held in the hall and local lads played in the band. On stage were a pianist, two piano accordionists, fiddler and sometimes a drummer. The dance floor was showered with Slipperene powder, to help the dancers glide with ease over the floor. The MC or Master of Ceremonies would announce "Take your partners for the next dance" : the Gay Gordon's or whatever the band was about to play. Males on one side of the hall, females on the other. Men asked the ladies to dance and it was bad manners to refuse. At the end of the dance, partners thanked each other for the dance. Waltzes, quicksteps, foxtrots with a more energetic dance like an eigthsome reel or lancers in between. At the end of the evening the floor was sprinkled with tea leaves to keep down the dust and the floor was swept.

There was a ladies cloakroom upstairs with pegs for coats. The toilet was a bucket under a wooden seat in a small annex off the hall. Men had only the benefit of some corrugated iron sheets behind the hall, for screening. No flushing or hand washing facilities were considered necessary at that time. No alcohol was served in the hall but some of the men carried a gill or pint bottle of whisky in their pocket and would swig discreetly on it or pass it on. Bottled beer was drunk and the discarded bottles collected next day and returned to the shop for a refund of a penny on the bottle before the bottle was sent, whole, for washing and refilling. There would be the occasional scuffle or a fight outside the hall by one or two of the tougher lads but no police would be involved or any action taken to stop it.

So all this entertainment was primitive? Perhaps, but I do not remember boredom as a major ailment.