WHM: A Look Into the Life of One of Auchidrain's Last Residents

To continue Women’s History Month, this week we’re discussing Peggy MacCallum, the wife of our last tenant Eddie MacCallum, and some of the work she would have undertaken during her daily life living in ‘Eddie’s House’ up until the 1950s.


Peggy, born Margaret Cuthbertson, was originally from Fort William, but had a friend who worked as a shepherd at Killean, near Auchindrain.  We believe it was here that she met Eddie, becoming his housekeeper, undertaking the daily domestic chores whilst Eddie was out doing farm work. Within the small houses at Auchindrain a housekeeper would have occupied the Closet, the small room in the middle of the house between the ‘Room’ and the ‘Kitchen’. Eddie and Peggy must have got along, as they married in 1944 at Kilmallie, Fort William: their son ‘Young’ Eddie was born in 1946.


Peggy MacCallum holding ‘Young’ Eddie, taken around 1947


Within the MacCallum family the household work was undertaken by Peggy and the farming by Eddie, later with help from Willie Weir. For the family there wasn’t much difference between weekdays and weekends, as farming tasks such as milking the cows need to be undertaken every day.


The daily routine would involve Peggy getting up early to set the fire and get a morning meal of tea and toast ready for her husband and son before they headed to the byre to milk the cows. After that, they would return to the kitchen for a breakfast of porridge. Within the MacCallum’s house it was common for the postman to stop by and get his breakfast from Peggy too, and in return he was given a list of messages (shopping) that she required. The postman would go away to Inveraray and return, later on, with both the post and anything he’d collected for the family.


When Peggy wasn’t getting her messages through the postman, there were 4 delivery vans a week passing Auchindrain, including Campbells the grocers from Inveraray, and Donald Munro from Furnace. Although much of the family’s meat and bread would come from the shops, rhubarb and potatoes were gown on site, and eggs and milk came from the family’s animals. There was a small lean-to attached to the family’s barn, the “Milk House”, where Peggy would process fresh milk into butter or cream.


With Young Eddie away to school, or helping his Dad around the farm, Peggy would set about household work such as baking, cleaning and washing clothes. Washing was a hard task, as even after 1940 when an indoor sink was fitted, the only way to heat enough water to do a washing was to the use the outside boiler on the edge of the kailyard. To dry things, they would be carried around 100 metres to the raised kailyard, where a washing line was set up.


The water boiler, used for heating water to wash clothes



Although the children would be supplied with food at school, it was common for farm workers to have a large meal during the day, which at Auchindrain would be prepared by Peggy. It was also very common to have friends over from nearby farms such as Brenchoillie and Killean, and Peggy would make tea and bake sponge-cakes. If the family were expecting visitors Eddie might kill a sheep, which was used to make mutton soup with excess meat being salted down in a barrel to make it last longer. Young Eddie admits that the family would also sometimes kill a deer, using a hook and tackle in a tree by the burn to hang and butcher it. But these deer were only ever killed by an ‘accidental shot’, because the deer belonged to the Argyll Estate and although gunshots could be used to scare them away, killing them for food was forbidden.