What do Beetle drives, Badminton and Bowling have in common? Well they all took place in the Kinnoir Hall along with many other activities and adventures!!!!
The post war community of Kinnoir in the 1950s 60s and 70s was a vibrant growing community and there was lots of energy and enthusiasm for all sorts of activities both indoor and outdoor but one thing they all had in common was that they started, finished or happened at the Kinnoir Hall.
Situated as it was right next to the school, it was a central location and an ideal meeting place for the community and an ideal size for school plays, functions and activities of all kinds.
The hall had originally been built as an annexe to the school to cater for an ever growing pupil role. The exact date of construction is not clear but it would probably have been constructed in the late 1920s or early 1930s. Certainly the construction materials are very typical of that period with pre-fabricated concrete slabs for the walls and corrugated asbestos sheets for the roof. However, in case that gives the impression that it was poorly built, that is very far from the truth. The hall had a very well sprung wooden floor and the structure stood the test of time and was still in use long after its projected life at the time of construction.
When school dinners (lunches) were introduced by the Education Act 1944 the hall was the obvious place for those to be served and an extension kitchen was built on to provide facilities for washing up the dishes after the bairns had been fed. The extension also stored the "emergency rations" for those days when the weather was so bad the school dinners could not make it through the snow. (The school dinners were cooked at Ruthven School which cooked for themselves and Shenwell School as well.)
Emergency rations were tinned tomato soup with Ryvita followed by cornflakes, canned peaches and tinned milk......... Delicious!!!!!
But the hall was versatile and boasted a small stage at one end. The stage featured the ubiquitous piano and all sorts of concerts, recitals, plays, songs and poetry readings were projected from the stage with the school children performing with great enthusiasm.
There was a very dark and scary storage area under the stage where all sorts of props were stored and this was a great place to play or hide if the teacher did not find out!
For the children of Kinnoir the best fun of all was when there was a school function at the hall!!!
There was always a Christmas party, of course, with the much awaited arrival of Santa Claus to hand out the presents.
Gordon Thompson fulfilled this role for many years, slipping out of the hall at some point in the afternoon before changing into his Santa suit in the school and re-appearing complete with full crimson dress, false beard, ringing the school bell and banging on the hall door with his staff to announce his arrival!!!
There was also always a Halloween party with a prize for the best decorated "neepy lantern". Illumination in the lantern was only ever by candle and the smell of burning neep pervaded the hall. The adventurous kids had also decorated the outside of the lanterns with hair and beards. Nowadays this would be cotton wool but back then it was usually sheep’s wool that had been gathered from the fences. Unfortunately, this often went on fire as well and the smell of burning sheep’s wool soon overpowered the smell of burning neep!!!!!
Dress code at the parties was very casual but two items were mandatory "Soft shoes and a cup!!!" I used to think the soft shoes were to avoid damage to the wooden floor but I suspect they were mandated by the headmistress, Nora Baird, to keep the noise down and preserve her sanity. Everyone bringing their own cup, of course, saved on the washing up!!!!!
The poshest school function of course was the Prize Giving on the last day of term in June. All the children got a prize of some kind and trotted dutifully up onto the stage to receive their book or certificate. The stage was decorated with bunches of lupins from the schoolhouse garden. Lupins grew well in Kinnoir and were always ready at the right time for the prize giving and Nora Baird encouraged them in the garden for this reason.
After the prize giving the "dignitaries" (usually the minister and other guests from the education department) were invited back to the schoolhouse for tea. (More lupins - but china cups and fancy cakes as well!!!)
The hall also turned out to be the perfect size for a badminton court so a Kinnoir Badminton Club was duly formed and the hall floor painted with the lines to form the court. The roof and lights, were of course a bit low so local rules decreed that hitting the roof with the shuttle cock was a fault - but hitting the lights or other electrical wires resulted in the point being replayed!!! The club had many enjoyable evenings playing internal competitions between members but also played other clubs nearby and from as far away as the Glens of Foudland.
Not Kinnoir hall…. But similar!!!!
Every now and again an adult dance was announced. These were much anticipated affairs and were well attended by the folks of Kinnoir. Alcohol was not allowed in the hall but the sight of the men disappearing frequently out to the car park suggested that maybe there was a dram available somewhere close by! Occasionally there were “visitors” from Huntly who only came to cause disruption, so fights were not unheard of at these functions. The Kinnoir lads were physically strong from their daily labours, though, so always gave as good as they got!
That the hall was versatile was not in doubt but….. the badminton club needed a floor that provided good grip while the dancers need a slippery floor to allow them to “do the palais glide”…….
The answer was provided by two wonderful products….. Slipperene and Dusmo!!!!
Slipperene’s full name was Slipperene Ballroom Powder and sprinkling it liberally on the floor of the Kinnoir Hall soon made it ready for the dance.
Sometime before the next badminton night the slippy dance floor had to be treated with Dusmo to remove the slipperene and return the wonderfully sprung wooden floor to “sports condition”
Both products are still available but don’t expect to find them on the shelves at Tescos!
But more sedentary pastimes were catered for as well. Whist drives, Beetle Drives and various other meetings took place in the hall but all served to provide for a social get together where the chat and interaction was as important as the game. Treasure hunts were also popular in the summer months and started and finished at the hall where the scores were totted up and the winners announced!
The closure of the school in 1982 signalled the beginning of the end for the venerable hall that had served the community so well. The Education department saw no need to fund the upkeep of two buildings so the school, built as it was with solid granite from Avochie Quarry, became the main community hall and the hall was allowed to fall quietly into disrepair. Many activities carried on in the school building so the social life did not disappear but nothing could match the magic of the Kinnoir Hall!
Today the Hall is a sad sight and will no doubt be demolished soon but the memories of fun, laughter, good times and genuine community spirit at the Kinnoir Hall will linger long after it has gone.
At the outbreak of the Second World War many children were evacuated from Scottish cities (mainly Glasgow) to safer areas in the country.
The safe area of Kinnoir was ideal and the capacity provided by the hall allowed for the children’s education to be continued as well. That the evacuation was for their own good was often lost on the city kids who had been torn from their families and sent off to an alien environment where the people and accents were very different from their peers.
A neepy lantern
Evacuees in 1939
(But not in Huntly)
From left to right: Hamish McPherson, ? , Sandy Baird, ? , Irvine Bruce
Photo: Jim Morrison
The late Charlie McConnachie who worked at Huntly Station at that time remembers lots of children crying when they came off the train from Glasgow and recalled "It was a gey job to get them calmed doon and sorted oot .... but eence we got them packed aff tae their new hames they seen made new pals and settled doon".
But it was not only the school children who enjoyed the hall. The hall was (presumably) owned by the Education Department but it was very much part of the community and all sorts of community activities took place there.
The WRI ,who had been meeting in the School building since its inception in 1926, moved over to the new hall. The hall was also perfect for the Drama Club with is stage and storage area for the props.
A Cub Scouts troup also met in the hall in the 1970s. The group was run by Mrs Margaret Scott and Mrs Christine Shand and Cubs used to come from near and far to attend. (Two car loads came over from Rothiemay, for example)
So not only was the Hall a force in keeping the community of Kinnoir together but also helped in forging links and friendships with nearby districts as well.