Pictures from The People’s Journal 20 April 1963 and 25 February 1967
Ayub was born in Kashmir on 1 January 1930 and left his wife behind to come to Britain in search of a job to support his family. His father was working in a linoleum factory in Kirkcaldy and Ayub got jobs as a porter and then head shunter at Thornton Junction, rapidly improving his English and learning from several different jobs how the railways worked. He was appointed Station Master at Kinbrace on 1 April 1963, just five days after Dr Beeching’s report was published which inter alia recommended the closure of the entire Far North Line! He stayed for four years until the reorganisation which brought the demise of station masters and the rise of area managers. Ayub has recorded his reminiscences from all over Scotland for the National Railway Museum’s National Archive of Railway Oral History (NAROH) and I am indebted to them for access to his file at York under reference number NAROH 2003-07. Pages 12 to 14 of the transcript relate to his time at Kinbrace. The station house had three bedrooms, a sitting room and a kitchen. He reports that in those days Kinbrace had only six houses beside the station with a grocery shop, post office, and petrol station. He doesn’t mention the school up on the main road. Ayub had colleagues to work with, such as the signalman, Mr Mackenzie, and the permanent-way inspector, but admitted it was lonely at times and more so for his wife, son and daughter. The van roundsman was another Mackenzie, being cousin of the signalman, and Jim Mackenzie the signalman’s uncle was another good neighbour. The estate owners, Lord Leverhulme at Badenloch and Sir Harold Anthony Nutting at Achentoul both gave him local produce or permitted him to go fishing or hunting with the keeper. He mentions the sum of £500 per day being the going rate for fishing – presumably for a party rather than for an individual at that price in those days? The stationmaster was seen as a person of standing and, along with the doctor and the police sergeant (who were both based in Helmsdale), was an accepted signatory in the community for official documents. Ayub seems to have enjoyed this life, but his time there was limited by a reorganisation. The station master at Forsinard died and Ayub was put in charge there too. The station master at Helmsdale was given Kildonan to look after “because there is no need for a stationmaster at every station”. Before too long, this consolidation went further and groups of stations were put under the charge of a Helmsdale to Thurso Area Manager. Mr Ayub was asked whether he wanted to go to this Area Manager’s office or move somewhere else and he decided to move back to the lowlands “because going further north would not serve him any purpose”.Mr Ayub secured a job in Glasgow as a parcels clerk and moved on to work as a platform inspector at Glasgow Central welcoming the Queen Mother on one occasion. His career then took him to the London area working on Southern lines and then on to Liverpool Street in more senior posts. He recorded his reminiscences for NAROH in January 2003.
This article first appeared in Far North Express, the magazine of the Friends of the Far North Line. Read more about the Far North Line on www.fofnl.org.uk
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By Richard Ardern