BEIN a man gey interestit in buikish lear ah wis pleased when ah wis raicently gien a copy o a new local history buik anent Stranraer. Nou, ah’d cam across buiks frae the samen series afore, relatin tae aspects o the Regional Flashback material that hus bin gaithert thegaither bi the European Ethnological Research Centre, based at Edinburgh University.

This material consists mainly o oral fieldwork recordins o ordinary fowk ower the past hauntle o decades collectit by a dedicatit team wha mak it their concern tae presairve the stories an history o ordinary local fowk an their lives. Fir masel, ah think evri life is an epic life, an the fowk o Stranraer fir certes hae a byordnar interestin tale tae tell!

Stranraer is a place ah ken weel. Juist raicently ah gien a readin there fir their annual Scots Week, an ower the years ah hae taen pairt in mony community arts ploys an projects there. When ah wis daein the Robert Burns Writer in Scots residency fir Dumfries and Galloway Arts Association, ane o the projects wis a dramatic performance o Itchy Coo Press’s Wee Fairy Tales in Scots, performed bi the weans o the Ryan Centre youth theatre group. Ah howp thair still sic ploys an projects fir their young fowk nooadays in these dowf times o austerity.

The people o Stranraer wir aye waarm, frienly, welcomin an ootgaun, but the toun hus suffert gey sairly o late wi economic deprivation and the financial blow o the P&O ferry terminal muivin tae Cairnryan, sae it’s a community that husnae hud its tribbles tae seek. Stranraer and District Lives, tho, celebrates an heizes the native fowk o Stranraer an lets thaim tell their history an story in their ain vyces. They bring vieve an gleg colour tae the toun’s raicent past, that is the feck o the 20th century.

Editor Caroline Milligan gie’s a “textbook” exaumpil as tae hou these types o buiks shuid be setten oot. It is erudite, eidently planned an presaintit, easy tae read, an captures the stories o the people richt brawly. In her introduction she explains in detail hou the buik wis pitten thegaither. It wid be braw gin evri seemilar toun in Scotland hud sic a buik made aboot thaim – whit a treasure trove o oor kintra an its people that wid be!

The tales the fowk in the buik tell are whit ye micht expeck o plain kintra fowk an their lives, raxin back aamaist tae the First Warld War, then evri decade up til relatively raicent times. Thair are wee stories an interviews, wi chaipters sic as Tattie Howkers an Tramps and Travellers, that presaint a warld that wis weel kent in leevin memory, but hus nou chainged ayont aa recogneetion.

A warld o Tilley lamps, haund milkin o coos, churnin butter an makkin cheese, o pleuchin fields wi horses an the arrival o the first tractors hanselin in the new mechanised wey o fairmin, an presaging the muckle tractors an machinery we see oan oor fairms the day. The migrant warkforces o Irish labourers wha made their wey roond Lallan Scotland liftin tatties fir the Glesga mercats, competin tae get the first crop o Ayrshires intil the ceetie.

Ye’d see aiblins mair as 50 fowk o aa ages, shapes an sizes, in a field aa pickin an liftin, fillin tatties intae the muckle wuiden barrels oan auld Austin or Albion lorries; back-brekkin wark that nou is duin bi a machine. Wark that taen twa/three days is duin in twa/three hours.

Stories o shoaps an businesses; the lassies wha warkt ahint the coonters o local faimily concerns sic as Latta’s, Coulston’s, McDowall’s, Lipton’s, Carruth and Burnett. Else, Airchie Bell’s or Andra Bell’s butcher shoaps, an mair as hauf a dizzen blacksmiths! A tred aa but gane aathegaither nou in oor throwawa society! Aye, in thae days Stranraer wis a bustlin, thrang an busy place wi wark fir aabody an few o the ills that beset oor wee communities nou – or mibbes the problems wir juist different? Poverty an puir housing arenae juist a modren malaise!

Thair a wheen o braw auld bleck an white photiegraphs in the buik that evoke bygone times an memories. A braw an uisefu glossary, wi extensive notes oan the transcriptions o interviews. A clear an concise appendix leet o aa thaim interviewed, an when they wir interviewed, plus endnotes an a verra detailed index at the hinnerend. Likesay, the hale buik is a testament tae Caroline Milligan’s professionalism.

The haurdy fowk o Stranraer, wi their rich an unique accent, lowp frae the pages wi their tales o itinerant Irish warkers, lasses gangin fir bags o sawdust fir the butcher shoap flair, maritime tragedies, poachin fir rabbits an salmon, airmy laund girls in WW2, an aa the occupations o Scottish rural life, brocht tae leevin, braithin life. Likesay, epic lives o ordinary fowk.

Rab Wilson is a Scots poet and a health campaigner