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 Myra Cunningham Born: 1929 Prestonpans

Story by Jean Burns, Myra’s best friend

Myra with the wind in her hairMyra and I went to Prestonpans Public school. The school opened in 1935 and we started at the end of that year. We lived in West Loan in Prestonpans. Myra lived in a one bedroomed house up until she was 5 years old. Then they built new houses in West Loan to accommodate the large families that were in these small houses. There were five children in Myra's family; George, John, Myra, Jeanette and Margaret. Mrs Cunningham had a late baby. Myra was sixteen at the time Freddie was born. The new house had two bedrooms a living room and a proper kitchenette.

Sitting out in the sun busy doing nothingMyra was very slim when she was small, but that didn't mean she was weeklynot strong. She was very active. She always used to say "but my shoulders are broader than yours”. Myra had a nice carriage and always carried herself very well. In these days you were always quite well behaved and you would never speak back to your elders. If you got told off at school your mother would say you deserved it. Myra and I were reasonably quiet. Our fathers were quite strict, most of them were I think. He was the head of the house and what he said went. The mums were both awful nice people.

When we were in the primary school, the head teacher, Miss Hoggan, wore her eye glasses on a chain. We were fascinated by this. Every year there was a music festival in George Street and it was our class’s turn to enter the music competition. We had to practice singing and skipping round in a circle at the same time. Myra had a lovely singing voice but timing was not one of Myra’s strong points. She was always out of step during the skipping. Miss Hoggan liked Myra and she tried and tried with her to get her timing right. She gave up in the end and Myra couldn't go to the competition. We won that year. The musical festival was in George Street was quite a thing in those days.

Myra living life to the fullIn the gym Myra nor I could climb the rope. We just did not have the strength. Our arms would not support us. We were both weesmall and skinny except for her broad shoulders. The gym teacher was Miss Burt. She very rarely smiled and had a tight bun to the back of her head. We thought she was really old but I found out recently that that was her first job. She would be lucky if she was 22 or 23.

Later on we were in the choir and I think we got a prize that year as well. The school was very keen on this singing business. As far as I know they still have music festivals in George St. We went to Preston Lodge school but we didn’t seem to have the same fun. We were not sporting people. Myra would be the one to stand idly with her hockey stick.

Myra learned a poem in French. She was word perfect until she was asked to stand up and recite it in front of the class. She could not recite the poem. Myra was never a pushy person. In later years though she could recite the poem in French with her kids no problem.

Myra and I went to Lowes Market Gardens next to the cemetery and we did some weeding. Myra was weeding the dreel then a voice shouts "see you with the green head square, if you hands could move as fast as your tongue you would have been up this dreel long ago". Myra looked around and didn't realise he was talking to her. We used to laugh about that in later years. We got paid for the weeding and spent the money on the Saturday, first at one picture house, then we went for chips and juice at the Mall Café (its now the Caprice), then we would go to the other picture house. You got two full pictures then.

Myra with the Scottish Power choirWe left school at about 14 or 15. Myra applied for a job in the oilskin factory in Prestonpans in the office but there were no vacancies so she was offered a job in the factory working the machines. A vacancy did come up in the office a few months later but she was having such a good time working with the other women she turned it down. She was the youngest and the other women took her under their wing.

Myra took ill with a kind of flu and she had what they described as a shadow on the lungs. They were frightened it was TBTuberculosis. She was put into Bangour hospital for six months. She was amazing really 'cause I think she enjoyed her time there. She was the youngest again and she made friends with the other patients and nurses. She kept up with a particular friend, a girl who came from Galashiels.

When she got out she went to work for Murphy's the local football pools people in the office. So she got her office job after all.

Musselburgh was our main town for the dancing. We danced in the Labour hall, the Catholic Hall, the Masonic, anywhere where there was dancing. We went to the pictures too. This was before we started going out with the boys.

Then we started going out with boys. That made a difference to us going out together. We both dated at different times so we could go to the dancing on a regular basis. Myra dated but not for any length of time. She never went steady with anybody. I was going steady so Myra started going out with Sarah. They went all over, Bonnyrigg and places. We always went to the Labour Hall regularly though and that was where she met Jimmy. Jim was 23 and Myra was 24. It was love at first sight, for Jim any way. Myra was a good looking woman. Jim was in the air force at the time but when he came out they started dating properly, although he still had a bit of chasing to do. Jim proposed after a night at the dancing in Musselburgh. Myra blushed but said yes. They were married in St. John's church in Dalkeith in March 1955. Gordon their son was born in May 1956 and Colin was born in 1958. He was premature. Myra's blood pressure went sky high and she was in the hospital quite a lot. She's had high blood pressure ever since. It never stopped her from doing anything.

All the girls togetherMyra always had a big smile on her face

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jim was very good with his hands and worked with wood. He is a craftsman. The only thing is he thinks nobody can do better than himself. Myra had a few jobs over the years. She did the twilight shift at Ferranti’s, dressmaking at Deroove (I think) and finally she was an assistant in Woodburn Nursery until she wasn’t so fit.

Myra enjoyed caravan holidays when the boys were small. Jim and the boys would fish and Myra would be happy to read her book. She was a contented person, very family oriented. It was rare to see her angry. In later years Jim and Myra went regularly to the Lake District. They did a lot of walking and always stayed in the same B & B.

Myra and me went on holiday together our two selves. Myra used to say "how did we ever get away from the men". We went on a Wallace Arnold tour to Europe. We visited Holland, Belgium, Austria, Germany and France. It was great. We had a lovely time.

Jim and Myra lost their eldest son Gordon a few years ago. Myra had memory problems then, so I felt she was cushioned, but it was still a terrible blow to her.

A special occasionJim and Myra together

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Myra was special and still is. Myra was Myra. Even when she didn't remember things it did not matter. We would laugh about it. She was never on time anyway. Every week we used to arrange to meet at Jenners and she was always late and that was after a number of phone calls arranging the time.

I never felt Myra was not well I just thought she was forgetful. I never lost patience with her. Why would I?

 

Jean

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Adapted by Iain Tait