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Memories of Nancy Brown

What a wonderful website, so full of memories; brought a tear to my mothers eye (now 77). by John Skinner

Although my family are now firmly based in Nairn, Highland; they originated in Airdrie and their ties to the town (physical and personal) still go on to this day. 
My mother (Nancy Brown) was actually born in the houses on the right of your picture of Commonhead; with John Orr (The Hatter from John Orr & Sons) living on the opposite side of the street. Strangely enough John Orr (Jnr) was born in the maternity hospital Airdrie House as shown in your picture. I say strangely enough as he spent many a year working on that very site (now the new Monklands), right to the end of his life, as possibly one of their best known porters. His wife and family all worked in the medical profession within Monklands. 

On my mothers side there was also a well known face around the town; in fact that was his nickname aroond-the-toon and that was Sandy Brown (Sanny) her father. Sanny Brown, a former front line communications officer within the Royal Engineer Signals WW1, was one of the few qualified plumbers in the Airdrie area, and as such was known to all; doing much of the internal and external pipework on both the private and council propertied (town hall, etc). In fact John Orrs Granddaughter (Leslie) recently (1990s) bought a house in Cairnhill and on inspection still had the original signature plumbing as installed by Sanny all those years ago. 
Sanny and his wife Agnes (Nancy) Brown had the grocers shop in Chapel street, just 2 doors from the Star Hotel and owned many (12+) of the cottages behind. This shop was the hub of the local community; a meeting place; a place of community and conversation; a place to get credit during the rationing of WW2 when all others were saying NO!  Moving in later years, after selling the shop, cottages and all the land, to the other side of Chapel street at the corner house belonging to the Muirs (as in Muirs grocer and newsagents).

While living at this house one of their frequent visitors was none other than the young David Stephen (Naturalist, Journalist, Conservationist), who is my great grans cousin (my mothers, mothers, mothers, sisters son I think thats right). In fact I still have two of the very first wildlife paintings ever done by David Stephen, done as a young lad and gifted to my grand parents in thanks for their kindness. Christies of London have expressed an interest in seeing these paintings, but as yet nothing has been done to take this further.

On my fathers side of the family (The Skinners) there would also be recognisable characters. Robert (Hunter) Skinner and Marion Horne Skinner (nee Carlisle) owned the coal mines in and around Plains; areas like Boghole Mine and of course Palacerigg; which again strangely enough is the site of the conservation park. How ironic that after so many years David Stephen did so much work above the ground, that all those years before was worked from the underside by what was to become relations. Marion Skinners father was the headmaster (Johnny Carlisle) of Albert Primary School in Airdrie and her mother (Mrs Taylor) was what was termed at that time as A Lady, what would now be called Off posh stock, being the daughter of and heiress to Taylors bakery of Rawyards; living in the 3.5 story mansion house (Then, Albert school house).

During the war (WW2) the Skinners lived in Bell-Isle House at Cumbernauld, later moving to Hillswick Albert Place, Airdrie. Peter Patterson Skinner (my fathers uncle) went on to become director of a little known company (lol) called NCR in Dundee; starting a long line of links between the Skinner family as a whole and cash registers. Resulting in my own father (John Taylor Skinner) and his brother in law (Jimmy Campbell, married to his sister Jean) entering into NCR and then going on to establish themselves as independent dealers (Caledonian Cash Registers, covering the entire north of Scotland from twin sites in Nairn [HQ] and Aberdeen) and what has now become ACR of Pollockshaws road, Glasgow. One of the other Skinners, Marion (my fathers sister) Married Jacky Bell (another well known name in and around Airdrie) a name possibly most commonly seen on the side of the HGV lorries Bells Haulage of Slamannan.

Some more of my mother's Memories

    Walking through the great winter storms (approx 1947) when the winter snow almost fully covering the telegraph poles along the Carlisle road.

   Nina Ourbaniovitch, allegedly the polish wife of an RAF officer, who became friendly with the Browns after holding a Polish day / street fair. Who towards the end of the war asked to leave a parcel with them for safe keeping, then dully disappeared never to be heard from again; leaving her house and belongings at Clarkston. After a while the parcel was opened and it was discovered to be an accurate account (complete with professional hand drawn pictures, times, dates and movements) of the war ships on the Clyde.
   Landmines and incendiary bombs falling around Airdrie during the war.

 Anyway, I think thats enough for now. Just a portion of the memories stirred-up as a result of my mother looking at your pictures.

John Skinner

David Stephen was born in Airdrie in 1911.  He was initial director of Palacerigg Country Park. He was also a world renowned naturalist/conservationist consulting on and becoming involved in literally thousands of animal and environmental projects around the globe. He bought over 40 hectares of what was once an upland farm and planted it with thousands of native trees and shrubs.  This environment provided a sanctuary for thriving populations of roe deer, badger, fox and hares as well as hawks and owls

In 1947 he became nature writer with the "Daily Record", then nine years later moved to "The Scotsman" where worked for a number of years. He published many books (paperback and hard back); wrote many official journal papers and pretty much had his finger in every aspect of global animal/environmental welfare. One of his first and best known books was called: How to watch wildlife, by David Stephen a title copied by Bill Oddie in his own book.




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