Monday, July 28, 2008

Tracing back my childhood, via Google Maps – Part 2: Ayr

When I was about six, my father began a course leading to an Ordinary National Diploma in Horticulture (ONDH) at the Scottish Agricultural College at Auchincruive Estate, near the town of Ayr, Scotland. To pay his way, he hired on as the Head Gardener at Doonholm Estate, a position coming with lodgings for a family. This proved to be a single-storey gatehouse on the A77 Ayr–Maybole–Stranraer road.

This was a bit of an accident black-spot, due to the fast and straight stretch of the A77 yielding suddenly to a dip and sharp blind turn. The dip flooded during bad weather, which in western Scotland is almost continous. There were at least three deaths there in the just over three years we lived there.

We attended Alloway Primary School in the nearby village of Alloway, nowadays pretty much a suburb of Ayr. Alloway's claim to fame is as Scottish poet Robert Burns' birthplace, and the Burns Cottage is close to the school. Being a good five miles from school or more, we were afforded free transportation. Normally that'd be a bus, but because of the tiny numbers of children coming from near us we were instead ferried to and from school by taxicab, the schools contracting with a local cab firm for the purpose. I have strong memories of the taxis, big Ford Granadas (always the most popular taxicabs in the UK, just like Ford Crown Victorias are ubiquitous in the USA). Big plush velour seats, brown upholstery, as I recall brown cars too, with vinyl roofs (this was the late 70s, after all!), the everpresent smell of cigarette smoke and Big Tree air fresheners.

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