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Wilson the Bobby


Jimmy Wilson, or, as we called him, Wilson the Bobby, was the village's long arm of the law.  He was a tall man and with his bobby helmet on he stood close to seven feet tall.  The typical aloof Scottish bobby.  I don't know why Earlsferry and Elie  had a bobby as there never were any honest to goodness bad guys, far less anyone in the category of criminal. An occasional, somewhat inebriated, husband coming home in a drunken stupor to experience his wife's wrath was a big event. (One time I remember one of the habitually tipsy local husbands returning to his home in Earlsferry only to find that the front door was locked and his clothes were thrown out on to the sidewalk. Ha, ha.)  Wilson must have remembered that once upon a time he'd been a boy himself.  Like Frankie (Sinatra) he administered the law "my way."  His style of taking care of episodes and minor misdemeanors in the village was to give a stern but friendly rebuke.  He and the local youth played a game of one-upmanship.  One time, long after Wilson had retired, I made a return visit to Earlsferry.  I met him on the street.  As we spotted each other he came running across the roadway to greet me.  He had a great smile on his face. "What say you and I gan oot for a nicht on the toon.  Your escapedes helped to keep interest in my life.  What say we hae a few wee drams and a fine dinner and recall bygone days."  We decided to spend our evening at The Cellar in Cellardyke.  What a night that was.   After a fine meal we sat by the fireside and partook of the fermented barleycorn. Oh the remembrances and revelations we made that night.  We laughed till the tears flew. We were the last to leave as arm in arm we stumbled out of The Cellar.  That wis a nicht tae remember!

The Ring    


One day I was at the Elie end of the village.  We were playing the game of "Hunt the Duggie."  Wilson the Bobby appeared.  On seeing us he made his way into the group. What could he want?  Who was he after this time?  We all had good reason to quiver.  Wilson clapped his hand on my shoulder and in his loudest official voice for all to hear he called out "Reekie, got you this time.  You're going to jail. I'm putting you in the cell.  You're coming with me.  Better say goodbye to your friends."  My heart raced.  Which of my questionable escapades had he got wind of?  Now he had me by the back of the collar and proceeded to march me the mile to his jail at the Ferry.  I was blubbering and my legs were jelly.  My friends all followed.  Others we passed on the way joined the procession to witness the outcome.  It was a regular Pied Piper parade.  What had Reekie done?  This must be headline news.  The jail was an attachment to the house that Wilson lived in. Its door had a window with a heavy iron cross bar.  With a big flourish he produced a large iron key and turned it in the lock.  "Say one last goodbye to your friends." He opened the door and marched me in.  Then with a clang he slammed the door shut.  Inside the jail and off to one side was a small room with an iron barred door that was the lock-up detainment cell.  With another big iron key Wilson unlocked and opened the door of the cell.  By this time I was crying my eyes out.  His whole demeanour then changed.  With a big smile on his face, he released me.  "Since I never have cause to use the cell I use it to store the village's Lost and Found.  A year ago you handed in a diamond gold ring and nobody's claimed it.  It's yours."  He gave a great laugh as he opened the outside door. With ring in hand I fled.


Yes.  Wilson got a good one up on me that time.


But not for long!    I vowed to get even with him for that one.


I Even the Score


It took me a whole year to get even with Wilson.


One of the sad things of progress is that we tear down our old buildings and in the process throw away our heritage.  Once gone it can never be recovered.  In my boyhood days, Wilson, when he was the Bobby, lived in a wee house, an almost exact duplicate of the old house that I was born in.  Alas, in the name of progress Wilson's house was demolished,  A stone cottage with a doorway in the middle and a window on either side.  Fairly steep pitched red pan tile roof, crow step gables on either end and a chimney.  No doubt, when it became the venue of the local constabulary, the tiny jail with it's iron barred inner cell was attached and added on behind the house.  In all probability the house's origin was the home of a family who made their living by fishing then at a later date became home to a family of Ferry weavers.  It was very old, several hundreds of years old, but still in good condition.  It was in the bend of the half circular road called The Rotten Row. Behind the house was a large garden that extended all the way to Cavel Place on the golf course.  When not shepherding his flock Wilson had two passions.  One was fishing the lochs, the rivers and the burns and the other was gardening.  His large garden to the rear of his house was a botanic wonderment. Almost half of it was devoted to growing a great variety of vegetables and in the other half he created the most beautiful floral display of roses, dahlias, gaillardias, sweet peas and many other beautiful flowers.  When flower show competitions were held Wilson invariably got the award for the Best in Show exhibit. Apart from his height he was a veritable Mr. Ballard as in the movie Mrs. Miniver. (one of the greatest movies of all time)

Wilson's house faced south and abutted the roadway except for a two foot wide strip of garden ground in the front that ran the length of the house.  Here each year on each side of his front door he planted a great display of annuals.

The 56 degrees north latitude maritime climate of Earlsferry where it never gets hot in the Summertime is great for growing apples, pears, plums, plants and shrubs but not for growing tomatoes.  These could only be grown under glass.  But ah-ha.  Wilson had a relative who lived in Alaska who sent him a packet of tomato seeds that were guaranteed to grow in the far North. Wilson was going to do a first.  He bragged to all around that he was going to do the impossible. No annuals out in front this year.  Very early in the season he planted his Alaska tomato seeds all along the front of his house.  With an early start, the backdrop of the stone front of his house to collect  and reflect heat on to his plants and the direct sun he was going to do it.  In short order the plants broke through the ground.  All summer long Wilson could be seen watering, staking, fertilising and pampering the heck out of his tomato plants. As the days wore on tiny green marbles appeared that slowly got bigger and bigger.  As the days of Summer started to noticeably shorten his green tomatoes first turned pink then became  pale red.  Wilson's tomatoes were the talk and the wonderment of the village.  But would he make it?  Would his tomatoes fully ripen before the days started cooling off?  Now I saw my opportunity.  I kept a close eye on the reddest of his crop. Finally the day came that I thought he couldn't wait any longer to make a picking.  As it got dark that evening and the street gas lamps were lit, I saw Wilson at the far end of the village.  I dashed to his house, saw the coast was clear, pulled a bag out of my pocket and stripped the best of his crop.  For a week I laid low and never ventured out of the house.  I imagine when he surveyed his pride and joy and saw that the biggest and the reddest of his tomatoes had vanished that he must have almost burst the buttons off his tunic or had an apoplectic fit.  Any day I expected a loud knock on the door but it never happened.  Later at our famous get-together dinner, he laughed as he told me he knew I had to be the culprit.  Yet, when it happened, Wilson never said a word. Wilson knew that as he had his way, I also had my way. For a cop, Wilson was the greatest.

Wilson knew I had evened the score.