A Scottish Teen Wants Out of Fife
Jackie Meikle grew up on a farm, but aims to leave rural town after graduation
ANSTRUTHER AND CRAIL, SCOTLAND
MOST of the farms round here are getting up for sale," says Jackie Meikle somewhat pessimistically, "and even the ones still around are just declining." Up until about a year ago, Jackie lived on a farm. Now she and her surprisingly young-looking Mum and Dad, together with Robert, her younger brother (he's 15), live in a brand new suburban housing estate on the edge of the small coastal town of Crail.Skip to next paragraph
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The Meikles' 73-acre farm, which her Dad took over from his mother after his father died, had become no longer viable. The time had come to enlarge or sell. For Jackie's Dad there was only one option.
Today it belongs to a wealthy English couple who keep horses and have another home in Edinburgh. So Jackie can't understand why her brother is still keen to be a farmer. "In 10 years' time," she says, "farming might be nonexistent!"
The 505 square miles of Fife, just northeast of Edinburgh on the Firth of Forth, with its population of 344,000, has already seen the decline of other industries - mining, fishing. Although small-scale agriculture here grows increasingly hard financially, the visible evidence on every side - fields finely plowed, or green with new crops, or dazzling yellow with oil-seed rape in full flower - do not give the impression that this rural industry is on the rocks yet.
Nevertheless there is something characteristically Scottish about the Meikle family's abandonment of its farm. The history of Scotland has often been marked by the hardships of those trying to live off the land, and the rest of the world is, of course, full of Scots who have escaped from here to find better conditions.
The young, lively Jackie Meikle may soon be one more to go.
Strongly encouraged by her parents, she wants out - of Fife, at least. Her good marks at school mean she can go to college. She wavers between becoming a nursery nurse (child-care professional), a teacher of disabled children, or she's not sure what. It's choices that make it tricky being her age, she says. She is studying secretarial skills and taking a short course in computers at Waid Academy in nearby Anstruther. Here she enjoys working alongside a "mature student," farmer's wife Barbara Fleming. Ba r
bara appreciates Jackie - her humor, her openness.
And Jackie appreciates Barbara: "I can't believe her," Jackie exclaims. "She's a complete nutter! a high compliment. Barbara, while old enough to be Jackie's mother, is as much of a child when faced with a computer as Jackie is - though Jackie likes to try cutting corners on the computers. Her computer teacher, Sandy Webber, says Jackie's a good, quiet student, though "a little lacking in self-confidence."
Barbara and Jackie get on famously. "Quite a relief from other classes," says Jackie. m in stitches half the time with her. I'm amazed we get any work done! She's an adult! She's meant to be showing us an example!" She adds that she has just met Barbara's two kids Aren't they gorgeous!?" That's a favorite word. It is also liberally applied to the newest addition to the Meikle home - a three-week-old retriever pup.
Jackie is obviously fond of home, and of the new friends her own age she's gotten to know living in Crail. At the farm there were "no kids our age - just old people," she remarks. She is determined not to become reliant on these ties, however.
"I want to move out of this entire area when I leave school," she announces with determination. "Most people that have stayed here are stuck in the same job. They've grown old with their families around them. They've never got out. I want to get out and see everything. I don't want to go through life saying 'I should have done that, but I didn't.' Then," she adds, "if I decide to come back and settle, I'll be ready."
Though the Meikles' old home is only three miles from their new one - and also three miles from Anstruther, the larger town down the coastline - it is psychologically a thousand miles away. When they left it, Jackie says she felt "that's half of my life going away there." But this independent-minded teenager is philosophical; she laughs at the plaintive note in her voice as she says "I didn't want to go!" But the experience of this move may give her confidence for the larger moves she plans in her life.