Evacuee returns to Stow with fascinating tale to tell

Alistair Moore returned to Stow to launch his book, and present the prizes at the flower show
Alistair Moore returned to Stow to launch his book, and present the prizes at the flower show
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Almost 75 years to the day since he arrived in Stow as an evacuee, Alistair Moore returned with the book he has written on the experience.

Mr Moore, now 83, arrived in Stow in September 1939 with his brother and two sisters, and remained there for three-and-a-half years.

At the Gala Water Horticultural Society show Mr Moore was selling his book, and also presenting the trophies to the prizewinners.

Mr Moore’s book, ‘A Stow Story – the Comings and Goings of an Edinburgh Evacuee 1939-1945 and Beyond’, first came about in incredible circumstances.

He explained: “My late wife and I were passing through Stow one day and there was a bit of a commotion, so we stopped the car and joined the crowd at the town hall.

“I asked the woman next to me what was going on and she said it was the 150th anniversary of the opening of the town hall, and then she said ‘You’re Alistair Moore aren’t you’.

“She was Betty Watson, and had been a couple of years above me at primary school in Stow. I hadn’t seen her for almost 70 years.”

Mrs Watson introduced Mr Moore to Wendy Ball, who has been working on the archives of Stow for many years, and it was she who encouraged Mr Moore to write about his time in the village school as an evacuee.

He said: “I did that and sent it to Wendy and thought that was it, but she came back to me and asked about what we did outside of school, so that set a whole new ball rolling.

“I ended up with 80 A4 printed sheets and have now had 100 books printed, and more than 50 have gone so far, so I’m quite happy.”

Mr Moore was evacuated from Gilmerton, near Edinburgh, and was billeted with Mr and Mrs Harwood, who also took in his three siblings initially until accommodation could be found for them. “They treated me more like a son than an evacuee,” Mr Moore said.

During his time in Stow, Mr Moore was able to learn lots of things he would never have had the opportunity to otherwise.

He revealed: “I used to go guddling for fish and the rabbit trapper showed me lots of tricks of the trade to catch things like partridges, pheasants and hares.

“If I had stayed in Gilmerton it would have been a case of ‘what’s a partridge!’. It was a window on life for me which other youngsters didn’t get the chance to have.

“Within a month of us evacuees arriving in Stow, half were away back home, and within three months, I was about the only one left.

“A lot couldn’t adjust to country life – there wasn’t a bus every 20 minutes, there was no picture house or chip shop – they couldn’t handle it, because it was foreign to them. But I lapped it up, because of the couple who looked after me. They encouraged me to go out and do things.”

It was only once Mr Moore left the village primary school and started to attend Galashiels Academy that things started to go wrong for him.

“The first bus was not until 9.30am, so it was 10am or so by the time I got to school, so I missed the first one-and-a-half lessons every morning.

“It was when my mother saw my first year report card she dragged me back home!”

Mr Moore has been assisted in putting together the book, and filling in extra details by local people and some contemporaries who moved away, many of whom he met during regular visits to Stow, and others he tracked down himself.

But it has all come about in just recently, as after returning to his Gilmerton home it was many, many years before he visited the village again.

“I lost touch with people in Stow when I went back to Edinburgh and so it was many years after, once I had settled down with my wife and was able to buy a car, that I returned.

“One of the first things I did after buying the car was to drive to Stow to show my wife where I had been as an evacuee.”

Mr Moore is hoping for a ‘golden ticket’ for the first train to run on the Borders Railway from Edinburgh, to recreate that journey he took 75 years ago this month.

It was a journey that brought him so much, and one that he has turned into a lasting piece of history for the village’s archives.