Harburn Village Hall - Family Page

ROBERT RENNIE (1933 - 2016)

Harburn lost one of its oldest residents and one of its most stalwart supporters with the passing earlier this month of Robert Rennie  at home surrounded by his family. A dedicated farmer all his life - initially with his parents and brothers at Mossend before moving with Anne and their young family to Muirhouse, where they raised quality livestock

In 2000 on retiral, they built Phantassie. 

Muirhouse was the venue for the first major fund-raising event for the Hall and Robert’s commitment to Harburn remained firm throughout the years.
Always willing to offer help and support, he was the very best of neighbours and generous friend and his presence will be sadly missed.


And a further thought.....

We were saddened to hear of the passing of Robert Rennie.
Anne and Robert have always been considered as part of the bedrock of the Harburn Community.

Although I was Village Hall Secretary it was Robert who would keep me informed of what was happening in and around the Hall as I often met him in his many chats with Robert Crawford.

He would sometimes mention parties that were too loud in the early hours...so, apologies were given and when those parties would call to rent the Hall again the Diary was always full.
With all the cable laying that has happened over the past few years, Robert was always on hand to converse with the teams of men making our travelling arrangements awkward and he made sure we were all treated with respect by those workers.
Just a couple of examples how Robert helped our environment.

There were also many laughs too. My favourite story that Robert enjoyed telling me...many of you will remember the lake that formed under the bridge at the Hall, it lasted for months. Anne and Robert and many others complained to the Council to do something. Although not funny to the poor worker concerned or the public purse...a Council van arrived to investigate the issue and for some reason drove into the lake...Fire and Rescue managed to get the worker ashore but the van was pronounced dead at the scene...at first I thought this was a Robert shaggy dog story but I believe there is photographic evidence.

At the funeral his son David gave a great insight into Roberts life, especially his love of football. Which reminded me of my son as he would ask why on someone passing, that some football games would have a minutes silence and some games a minutes applause.

Robert we applaud you.


Robert Walker Rennie 

Robert Walker Rennie was called many things in life – Robert, Robert Walker, Rob, Rab, Boab, Bob, Uncle Bob, Grandpa, Granddad, and some that I couldn’t possibly repeat here, but to me, Douglas and Marion he was simply dad, or occasionally faither.
Dad was born on 8 July 1933 at Mossend Farm, West Calder, the second of 5 brothers – John, Davie, Jimmy and Andrew, to Pop and Granny Rennie. Life was hard in those days and all the boys had jobs to do before going to school. Pop had a milk round and dad and Davie had their milk boy duties before school. The story goes that they could leave the van only when they heard the school bell ringing. Usually this happened when they were still at Burngrange, but Davie being a good runner managed to get to the school before the bell stopped – dad didn’t and entered the school prepared for punishment. Although in the top class dad was more interested in the sporting side of school. He joined the school football team as a hard tackling, no nonsense half back (not fullback). His motto was thou shall not pass by fair means of foul! This team was widely successful, the more times I heard the stories the more successful it became and if the Champions League had been around in these days, then I am sure they would have been favourites.
Dad left school at 14 to work on the farm and he worked away happily until he was called up for National Service aged 18 in 1952, the year the King died. In those days the Rennie’s didn’t do holidays……………summer holidays was a morning at the zoo and the afternoon at Portobello beach. Dad had to go the Aldershot, somewhere in the south of England which involved the train, which would have been a first for a country boy from West Calder. His only other trips out of West Lothian were regular visits to Ibrox .When he got to Aldershot the squaddies were given their first meal which was Cornish Pastie, something dad hated. Afterwards they had to change into their new uniforms and their civies were posted home. When Granny Rennie opened the package she was hit by the smell of onion and found bits of pastie in every pocket of dad’s suit. Dad used to get weekend leave and he would come home for at least a few hours. I remember him telling the story of his first weekend leave. A pal and him joined the train at Kings Cross but had to stand all the way to Newcastle. They then got stretched out on a seat, falling asleep on the train and not wakening until he was crossing the Forth Rail Bridge. He had to go to Dundee and then return. Pop had come into Waverley to pick him up but had to go home empty handed. He then went back in to meet the next train but by that time dad was getting off the train at Harburn Station and had to walk home to Mossend. Needless to say that was the last time Pop met him off the train. Dad made his mark during National Service as key member of the Catering Corps.
After National Service, although there were a few options for dad it was back to the farm, David Rennie & Sons, working hard and playing hard with the Young Farmers being central for social occasions including many dances. As with all Young Farmers there were many escapades, not all suitable for repeating here…………2 stories though………
Mossend became a key meeting place for the Young Farmers with regular practising for sporting competitions. Uncle Davie and Finlay Russell took the practising seriously, dad and Tom Scott less so. On this particular occasion Davie and Finlay set off at their usual speed followed by dad and Scottie who decided to cheat…………….they cut across a field and hid behind the hedge until Davie and Finlay came past, jumped out behind them and ran past them in the finishing straight. This of course led to a steward’s enquiry and a serious argument broke out.
Another story involved dad and Ian Crombie returning from a dance and hitting a very thick fog near Forth. They wondered how on earth they would find their way home but peering through the fog saw a red light ahead which they decided to follow, even when the light turned sharp right although the road got decidedly rough at this point. The fog eventually cleared a little and they found they were following a cyclist who was riding alongside the railway. The car however was on the railway bumping across the railway sleepers. They couldn’t move for laughing.
All good times come to an end however and dad married mum on 9 April 1960 and a whole new chapter begun which lasted through thick and thin until now. Their happiness was complete with my arrival in 1961, followed by Douglas in 1964 and Marion in 1968. Married life started in the Kirkgate (sadly no longer in West Calder) followed by 2 years at Mossend then we moved to Muirhouse starting our long association with Harburn. During early married life mum was making a roast dinner but didn’t know how to make Yorkshire pudding. Dad told her not to worry as he was an expert based on his time with the Catering Corps, however he got his measurements wrong (he would have been catering for 600) and the Yorkshire pudding filled the oven and spilled out onto the kitchen floor. Not sure if he made much more contribution to home cooking! Life was great at Muirhouse with many good times and we got to know many neighbours, both farming and non-farming. During this time a number of Rennie rituals began including Saturday night. This consisted of collecting the pink Evening News fish and chips all round in front of the telly. If we were really lucky we also got Gillespies ice cream. Dad was a huge fan of ice cream and it is only now looking back that a surprising number of our Sunday afternoon visits to friends and relations meant travelling through Biggar (Browns of Biggar) or Musselburgh (Lucas) despite dad detesting driving through Edinburgh. Latterly another favourite became Cream O Galloway down besides us at Gatehouse. Another regular visit was to Uncle Gardiner and Aunty Eleanor at Bughtknowes, Bathgate, where one of football’s oldest derby was held, the Rennies versus the Hills. Occasionally fathers joined to add experience and on field advice. One particular game was extremely close until the Hills made an inspired substitution and Adrienne joined the game and made such an impact that the Hills ran out easy winners. These games could last hours sometimes only ending when it got too dark to see anything! We did of course have the great fire of Muirhouse in 1981 which made the front page of the West Lothian Courier. Fortunately no-one was injured but we lost 100 tons of fertilizer which was man handled into the shed in small bags and some 1000 small bales of straw and various tractors and implements.
Douglas and I worked on the farm during our childhood and were driving tractors and cars long before we were legally allowed. A few stories come to mind of this time……
Silage time was always a busy time, dad drove the forage harvester and my job was hauling the grass into the silo. As farmers will know breakdowns tend to occur at the most awkward times and something happened to the forager, dad was keen to get it sorted asap and opened it up before the blades had stopped turning – you will be ahead of me already here and dad sliced most of the top of his thumb off. Despite only being 14 I was dispatched to take him down to the surgery by car for Dr McCrae to mend, however, I am blaming the heat, hunger and possible exhaustion - I fainted in the Doctor’s room -and he had to spend more time with me than dad.
As Harburn folk will know the field opposite Phantassie has a small group of trees with a couple of individual ones. Dad was spreading fertilizer in there one day and obviously had a momentary loss of concentration. Before he knew it he had hit a tree square on and in no time the tractor was climbing the tree before he managed to get it stopped. Apparently bark was stripped to a height of 6 feet and the grass nearby grew really well that year due to all the spilt fertilizer.
Although times were busy dad always had time to spend speaking to anyone including our non-farming neighbours who offer to help often without fully understanding what they would be doing…………………kepping cattle was one job as was howking tatties.
After school Douglas was working on the farm full time. Partners having different plans for the future took the decision to split up David Rennie and Sons with Davie and Jimmy taking on Mossend, Andrew Torphin and dad and Douglas taking on Muirhouse and Southhill. Douglas and dad were keen on showing beef cattle, mainly at Christmas Shows, and were proud to win the fatstock champion at Edinburgh in 1980s. This wasn’t dad’s first exposure to champion cattle with the 3 amigos (dad, Tom Scott and Willie Kirkwood) making their annual trip to Smithfield. Of course you will be familiar with the phrase what happens at Smithfield stays at Smithfield so we think they had a good time! A few years later dad had to retire due to declining health, Muirhouse and Southhill were sold and Douglas, Margaret and the boys moved to Clatto in Fife. Mum and dad eventually got permission to build their retirement house naming it Phantassie after the farm at East Linton where the Rennies farmed before moving to West Calder. Mum and dad enjoyed their time at Phantassie and now had the time for a few holidays including a couple of cruises; dad borrowed a white tuxedo for one of them. Mum didn’t know it but this got to the ears of Cubby Broccoli (producer of James Bond) and dad was a serious contender for James Bond based on his ability to wear a white Tux. During this time grandchildren began to appear on the scene, Alison was first followed by Martin, Katherine, Andrew, Emily and Libby. They were a source of great pride and enjoyment to both mum and dad who were always keen to hear what they were up to during the Sunday night calls. A new ritual began at Phantassie called the crossroad chats. This included dad, Robert Crawford and Jimmy Macdonald. The main purpose was to collect the newspapers which were delivered by Alan Douglas, but I am sure that many of the world’s troubles were put to right during these chats. Jimmy Macdonald insisted they were chats as only women blethered.
It was really only during these last few weeks that living got harder for dad and less enjoyable. During his retirement he kept a watching brief on developments in the farming world and was always willing to offer advice and comment. We had a run round the farms on route here earlier. I had some connection to SRDP through my work and dad was fascinated in some of our deliberations. He was highly critical of the increasing red tape surrounding farming particularly the current fiasco over farm payments.

James 'Jim' MacDonald
jim macd
We are sad to have to report that Jim MacDonald, very much a Community Senior Citizen,  died on December 20th in St John’s at the age of 86. Much as Jim would have scorned us, we dared to gather first of all at the Crematorium and then at the Hall, to remember a Harburn character to whom such events were anathema. A number of tales were told that day, many  of them true. We heard how Jim was present on the fringes of a spat between Jennie and Alan Tuffs, who was accused (probably justifiably) of some domestic misdemeanour. After Jennie had swept regally from the room there was silence. The quiet was punctuated at last by a thoughtful subdued comment: ‘Well, if that’s a wife, I’m glad I don’t have one’! And that remained the case, even though Broadshaw rumour-mongers delight in telling of one or two near romances said to have taken place in Jim’s younger days. I am asked to point out that Jennie was forgiven and she and Jim remained close friends to the end.

Jim was born in 1927 in Carnwath, and, though his mother lived into her nineties, his dad Jimmy died young, due to injuries incurred in the First World War. The family moved to Harburn and Whistle Lodge when Jim was a baby, and then to East Broomhill where they lived for many years. Finally they moved to Broadshaw Cottage from where Jim controlled our comings and goings with the aid of his inventively named dogs: Floss, Moss, Glen and, latterly, er, Zorro. This latest companion was a rescue animal and, as such, had received a name which Jim accepted with a certain amount of reluctance. He remained as devoted to his animals as they were to him.

Having arrived at Broadshaw as a very junior 14-year-old, Jim quickly established himself as a jack of all trades, but also a master of not a few. There are pictures of the walled garden in Jim’s regime. And a wonderful sight it is: immaculately hoed vegetables in regimentally straight rows; beautifully staked beans;  potato trenches that would please even the most fastidious of Percy Thrower’s followers; paths on which not a weed would dare show its face.  The area was a delight.  

Jim also became no mean carpenter, as much  of the  interior and, indeed, exterior of Broadshaw will bear witness. He even co-opted a gang to erect a greenhouse when well into his seventies. Tommy Thompson, Jimmy Rennie and Andy Cuthbertson were present, but I have few doubts as to who was the boss!

Further, he was  skilled in the use of many gardeners’ tools. He was an artistic and painstaking user of shears. Electric and petrol versions were tolerated but for shrubs, hedges and bushes which were ‘on display’ to visitors, Jim sharpened up the hand shears and went to work.  Not that he was a Luddite. Jim used machinery both in his professional and his private life and, in their excellent eulogy, his family mentioned Jim’s fascination with the latest gadget. We used to rib him with remarks such as, ‘Better change that telly/camera/cooking utensil/ computer, Jim, you’ve had it for a month!’

I remember we went away for a few days to visit family and noticed that Jim was a just a bit more uncommunicative than normal on our return. And believe me, Jim did uncommunicative pretty well when he chose to. Eventually he blurted out that we had better know now, since we’d find out from the Steeles or the Tuffs family. He had, indeed, succumbed.............................. to the temptations of a new golf buggy, This investment despite the fact that he was virtually retired from the sport, having given it up (and again I quote the family) when he could no longer ‘comfortably, comprehensively and consistently trounce his nephews!’  Even though some were30-40 years younger!

Mind you, the buggy might well have been an accordion (he was an enthusiastic and accomplished player of the instrument who had given us a concert only a couple of weeks before his death). Or some smart cords advertised in the Scotsman. It could also have been a work-top oven – oh yes, Jim was forever changing his loyalties in the matter of ovens. One minute George Foreman held sway but not for long, as he spied a halogen model in one of his many catalogues and this was now the favoured model. Mind you, his cookery repertoire was not known for its variety and featured many a meat pie and not a few oven chips.

Jim’s skills in subduing Broadshaw grass were legendary. When we first moved up Jim used to wrestle with a temperamental and cumbersome 1927 Atco mower which only Jim and his great friend Tommy Thompson understood. Others tried to struggle with the enormously heavy beast and much cursing ensued. Jim, even in his late 60s used to tuck the thing under his arm and mow some bush-surrounded and sharply-sloping Broadshaw verge. We invested in a much lighter and smaller machine, but I don’t think Jim ever considered it a proper mower!

And one could go on: Jim wielded a chain-saw with dexterity; cut back the verges with unerring accuracy; repaired sagging benches; painted a room and in short could turn his hand to virtually any horticultural or maintenance task you could name, and this with skill and what passed for enthusiasm with Jim.

One of my last conversations with Jim, in St John’s, was to receive instructions to get the ride-on mower repaired as the grand-sons would be coming up for Christmas.  This was typical Jim. OK, he may have been wired up to all sorts of pumping, whirring and bleeping machinery but he was looking after  our grandsons’ interests and giving me a well-meant gentle telling off!

This was in the last few days of his life. A short period in which I really feel he had many moments of enjoyment. The staff at St John’s were magnificent. They really cared for him: always cheerful, always attentive to his needs, always appearing with drinks and plates of macaroni cheese or other goodies, which he attacked with relish and complimentary comments.  Yes, Jim welcomed even the nurse who came round to urge him to give up smoking. True, she got short shrift when he pointed out that his ever-present pipe had accompanied him through 86 years, which wasn’t too bad. She left, pursued by a muttered t-damn or two.

That was Jim MacDonald for you.



Many have heard of the "Harburn Russian Wedding" of 2012, but this has been followed by the "Moscow Scottish Birth" of 2014.

Catriona (Katya) Robertovna McDonald was born on Tuesday 14 Jan 2014. She weighed in at 3.16 Kg and length of 50cms.

Mother and Baby doing well. Grandfather and Grandmother also are doing well...planning trip to Russia soon. Congratulations to the family from Harburn.

We couldn't resist this recent image received in the HVH website mail!
KATYA katya again
rosevale wedding
Gillian and Richard from Rosevale, kindly sent us this photo of the newly-weds in the Summer.

A photo of David and Sarah taken during their wedding. They were married on 24th August this year in Edinburgh at David’s old school - Merchiston Castle
Allan Douglas and Rachel Waterman were married at The Morritt, Greta Bridge near Barnard Castle on Saturday 14th September 2013.

A bus load of family and friends from Harburn and the surrounding area joined in the fun and celebrations in the North-East of England, where even the weather behaved properly. Allan and Rachel would like to thank everyone who attended and sent gifts and well wishes.
In a dramatic announcement issued by the Chair and his wife, sunning themselves in balmy Tenerife, the Harburn Village site has become the first (well, somewhere near the first, well, not the last) to bring you the news that, following the Mystery Man news below, Robbie and Nina announce a baby on the way, due January. Watch this space and, if you live in The Row, listen for the clicking of needles!


We're delighted to welcome Harburn's latest resident, Daniel Alexander Kerr, as the latest addition to the Haynes family at High Camilty.

After a slightly hasty arrival on January 8th 2013, he tipped the scales at 7lb 10lb: a rather good looking blond-haired young man with saphire blue eyes.
He is much doted on by sister Jasmine (age 3) and uitterly adored by parents Rick and Heather.

The family would like to thank neighbours and friends for all their support and offers of assistance over the past weeks and very much look forward to meeting other Harburnians when out and about with buggy and bikes!


Pictured below, left, is Alexander Sheppard who joined the Community on October 11th in St John's. He was seen in December escorting Jethro and Moira to the Children's Party which he thoroughtly enjoyed. On the right is Thomas, grandson of Allan Mclaughlan and Mary. Thomas is to be seen regularly in Cambridgeshire taking the air in a very up-market people carrier. Harburn hopes to welcome him in the near future. We also have news of the birth of Luke Bissett. More of this to follow we hope.


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Much news for the Family page from Rosevale. Gillian and Richard announced the birth of their first grandchild: Tristan Rhys Drysdale Lang who arrived on September 17th and tipped the scales at 6lb 8oz. Mum Louise is Richard and Gillian's youngest daughter and dad Malcolm is thoroughly enjoying the peaceful nights of fatherhood!

Further news from Rosevale is that Richard and Gillian's son David got engaged late Summer. He and Sarah are to be married in August next at Merchiston Castle School, at which David was a pupil. Here is a pic that was taked shortly after he proposed. By the way, it was taken in Antigua, just in case you were trying to equate the tropical gear with a Harburn winter.
drysdale engagement


Man of Mystery, Robbie McDonald or is it MacGregor...disappeared from Harburn around 3 years ago, he was well known for Pantorrobbie wedding
appearances and Bar work in the Golf Club. He was spotted a couple of years ago, turning up to do three Panto appearances...and then he was gone.It was reported he was in Moscow (Russia) teaching English...however it seems he was plotting an overthrow of Harburn by planning a Russian invasion!

Sure enough, on 17th June, while residents of Harburn were slowly recovering from the best Festival ever...they struck... An advance party took over Broadshaw and Sawmill...shouts of the "Russians are coming" were heard but not believed.

Then, on the afternoon of the 17th, Harburn Hall was taken over, very little english was heard and Vodka flowed freely, we fought back with John Morgan Music and Bobby Grindlay food...but they returned fire with a Samovar and Russian Chocolate. We tried to match them with speeches but they had interpreters with them...there was only one thing we could do...the dance off! It worked, several local residents known as the "Evening Guest Brigade" turned up, just in the nick of time, the Russians were on the ropes, Scottish Country dancing after Vodka washed down with Whisky and Wedding cake  forced them into Edinburgh around midnight.

robbie wedding 2The next day a Treaty was signed during a "brunch" at the Hall. Harburn is now twinned with Stavropol in Russia and Nina Vodolazskaya is now Nina McDonald.

A happy ending...more stories and pictures are available as the McDonalds invade Russia...stories include "visiting the areas the foreign office say not to", "Jelavic and the snake", "Gorbachevs Dacha" , "the night of the Jackal" , "train journey through the Russian Steppe" and "Putin's wedding address".
Yes, it was epic.
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