Thursday, 1 August 2013

St Andrews in the 1920’s: The Horses Road by Museum Volunteer Betty Bushnell

Some months ago my niece asked me why I was talking about the 'horse-road'. We had been discussing the resurfacing of Market Street. She had often noticed that I used that expression. The question made me think: was that not the correct name? I had not realised that I was saying anything unusual! And then I asked myself when I had last seen a horse in Market Street: certainly not since the war - unless in some infrequent festivity.

 When I  first knew the town however, there were far more horses than cars - so older generations would have used that name and, no doubt, as a young child I must have been warned; 'don't go out onto the Horse Road, keep to the footpath' (footpath rather than 'pavement' whether it was tarmaced paved or just dirt). Thus the word had come naturally to me – and remained so over all these years!

We arrived in St Andrews in 1925 and were met at the station by one of the fleet of hansom cabs which always met the trains. A dozen years or so later, these had not long been replaced by motorised taxis then back again came the horse and carts in war-time! I have a feeling that they were then retained longer than necessary in the fifties as by then the tourist attraction had been realised.

 Generally speaking, shop-deliveries in the mid-twenties were made by either horse-drawn vehicles or boys on bicycles with very large baskets in front, and displaying the Shopkeeper's name and trade prominently on the bicycle. I think I'm right in saying that the various bakers made regular deliveries once or twice a week ……

Johnston's stables were situated where Johnston Court is now, with access from both North Street and Market Street, while towards the West end of South Street was Wilson's stables.  One individual memory that has remained vivid: I was walking in Market Street with my Grandmother when suddenly, a runaway horse burst out of Johnston's and galloped down the road, hotly pursued by a couple of men. Suddenly, at the junction with Bell Street it stumbled and crashed to the ground. In vain my Grandmother was trying to hussy me away – not far enough however, to avoid my hearing the shot ring out, telling us that the animal must have broken one or more legs and was being put down. I wonder if it was the cause of the cobbles being replaced by a smooth surface?
 A happier memory is of being pulled down to the sea in one of the horse-drawn bathing machines on the West Sands. It was quite difficult to undress and put one's bathing-suit on while in motion! Even more difficult to dry oneself and dress on the return journey!
 When the Lammas Fair arrived in August they were not allowed into the town until early on the Friday – or Monday for South Street – morning. Consequently, a long queue of horse-drawn and some mechanised wagons and other vehicles could be seen the previous evening on the coast road.  During the duration of the fair the horses were allowed to stay tethered on the grass verges beyond the town's boundary.
 I have often wondered why the streets did not quickly become smelly and dirty (remembering how we suffered in the past with dog mess). This must have been due to the efficiency of the unobtrusive refuse workers who, with their hand carts, brooms and shovels seemed to appear from nowhere. Whether they were employed officially or not, I do not know.
If I ever inadvertently refer to the road as the 'horse road' in future, perhaps you will now forgive me!
                                                                                 Johnston’s Livery Stables, 117—119 Market Street




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