A FASCINATING new book which views the years leading up to and during the Second World War through the eyes of 19 Scottish women has just been published.

And two of the women who share their stories in Voices of Scotswomen in Peace and War are from the Borders.

Isobel Cumming was born in West Linton in 1922.

The eldest of three children, Isobel describes her years leading up to war breaking out in 1939 as well as her service with the ATS as a driver.

Also painting a vivid picture of Borders life in the 1930s and 40s is Isa Allan.

Born in the same year as Isobel, Isa grew up in Lauder and Galashiels before enlisting with the WRVS in 1941.

Author Ian MacDougall has already played a pivotal role in recording working people’s lives and publishing their stories.

His back-catalogue includes several excellent studies of social history including Bondagers, All Men are Brethren, Voices of Scottish Journalists, Voices from War and Voices from the Hunger Marches.

But this purely female perspective of the years leading up to as well as during wartime gives a intriguing insight into community life.

Isobel Cumming was born at Spitalhaugh, West Linton, in 1922.

Her father was a forestry worker, who had served as a machine gunner with the Seaforth Highlanders during the First World War, and her mother had been in service.

The family moved to Kailzie in 1927 - a move that Isobel remembered well.

"Mrs Cree lived in the big house at Kailzie. She had lost her husband in 1926, the year before we came. She built a chapel – the William Cree Memorial – just opposite Kirkburn School nearby. Ma brother Ian wis the first child to be christened in the new chapel in 1928. So ma mother wis quite chuffed at that. The chapel’s still there, and there’s an old churchyard jist behind it where we used tae play from the school, and we werenae supposed tae. It wis the greatest place tae play hide and seek, behind the gravestones and behind the trees. Oh, we were aye gettin’ rows in the churchyard."

Although Isobel passed her Qualifying Exams at Kirkburn Primary School, the move to Peebles High wasn't the reward she'd hoped for.

"Ah didnae like the High School. Well, ach, ye didnae know anybody there, and it wis a big school compared wi’ what we were in at Kirkburn. That put me off. Ah felt ah wis a sort o’ country lassie. Ah never really fitted in. Ah did make friends wi’ another two lassies, much the same as masel’ – very quiet, ye know. One lived at Kings Meadows and one at Peebles. Then the subjects at the High School: the only one ah liked wis the French class. Ah got a prize for French. But ah never ever liked the High School."

Isobel left school and landed a job at Ballantyne's March Street Mill, aged just 14, in October, 1936.

"Ma wages when ah started as a girl o’ 14 were seven shillins [35p] a week, wi’ tuppence [1p] off for insurance. Ah gave ma wages tae ma mother. Ah didnae get any money back for pocket money. But she would give us money for the pictures. Ma mother bought ma claes for me. Mind you, ah didnae have many claes, no, never, ah didnae. Ma father didnae have a big wage. Ah ken what it was: 38 shillins [£1.90] a week. So the whole family income wis 45 shillins [£2.25] a week, that wis a’."

Voices of Scotswomen in Peace and War provides fascinating stories, told in their own words, conveying the important and varied roles that women played during the war. For Isobel there was disappointment as she failed her medical for joining the Women's Auxiliary Air Force (WAAFs), but her drive to volunteer for the war effort led to acceptance from the Auxilliary Territorial Service (ATS)

"So it wis November 1941 ah volunteered intae the ATS. Ah wis 19. Ah thought if ah volunteered ah would maybe get the job – drivin’ – ah wanted.14 So ah went up on the bus from Peebles tae Edinburgh then on tae Newbattle Abbey. We were a’ collected together wi’ oor cases and things, and a motley crew we were. Ah remember walkin’ down the drive at the Abbey. Ah can remember the hut where ah stayed in there – Hut 8, definitely Hut 8. There wis a stove in it in the middle o’ the floor, wi’ a chimney up."

Isobel's story is one of innocence, humour and determination. Isobel Cumming - who became Mrs Isobel Thomson - died on May 26, 2013.

Isa Allan's story is every bit as absorbing. Born in Westruther as the youngest of seven children, her father had served in the Scots Greys, including 11 years in India.

The family moved to Lauder, and then onto Galashiels. For Isa, her school years were happy ones.

"I have happy memories of the primary school, but I preferred Galashiels Academy. Oh, I don’t know why. It was just more relaxed somehow. It was maybe ma father having been in India made me interested in geography. And I’ve always fancied travelling, though I haven’t done a lot of it. At the Academy there was book-keeping but not shorthand and typing. So I learned shorthand and typing privately. Some of us went to night school for that – well, that’s not strictly true! We joined the night school, but we didnae go to it! We were out, though we were ‘back home at the right time’!"

Despite having a summer job at the Border Telegraph, Isa preferred life behind a grocery counter in Earlston after leaving the Academy.

"I could maybe have had a permanent job there once I left school. But, oh, it was a boring job, too. Oh, it was terrible. You checked everything, the dots and the commas and a’ this. You had to read it out. I was a sort o’ proof reader. But I wasn’t interested in that, and I didn’t really want to get a permanent job there. That was just for some pocket money! I suppose in a way it was quite good experience. And then I got the full-time permanent job in Rutherford’s grocery."

Work took Isa from the grocery store to a nearby garage in Earlston, before she got her position as a short-hand typist at Langlands Mill in Newtown St Boswells - working for her future father-in-law. As war broke out, she quickly volunteered for the Women's Royal Naval Service.

"I remember hearing Mr Chamberlain on the radio in September 1939 about the outbreak of the war. But, oh, we didn’t feel anything. Of course, you’re thinkin’, ‘It’ll have nothin’ to do wi’ me.’ So I remained

at work in the mill. But then, probably about 1941, maybe before that, I volunteered to go into the WRNS. I’d then be 18 or 19. I can remember fillin’ up these forms and that, but nothing ever came back, the papers never arrived from the WRNS. I suspect they went into our fire – put in by ma mother. Oh, ma father wouldnae do that. But they both said, ‘Oh, no, ye can’t go into the WRNS. It’s full o’ . . . ’ ‘Well,’ I said, ‘I’m no’ goin’ anywhere else.’ But it was a bit funny, because the next thing ah wis into the WRNS!"

After initially being stationed on HMS Cochrane in the Firth of Forth, Isa was posted to Buckie in Banffshire and then promoted to a post at Scapa Flow.

"Well, I was at Buckie for about 16 months, from December 1942 till April 1944. Commander Cadogan went and promoted iz. That’s how I had tae move. I didn’t want promotion. I think the Commander wanted iz to get on. He was sorry, but he felt I should go. I don’t really know why. I got on with him all right personally, though ee had tae humour him. He really thought it wis in my interests to go. But I would have preferred to stay. Oh, I wis quite sad tae leave Buckie. I went then to Scapa Flow in Orkney."

It was at Scapa Flow that Isa saw the realities of war first-hand.

"Us WRNS didn’t have to attend funerals o’ the men killed. Our job was tae deal wi’ a’ the work o’ notifying the next of kin and that kind of thing. And many were young fellows. Sometimes some of them

you would know. I remember there were some lads from the Borders killed on HMS Berwick. It’d been badly battered coming from the Azores. I jist knew somebody, a relative actually, on the Berwick, and ee felt, well, what next?"

Isa Allan settled in Melrose after the Second World War. Mrs Isa Hall died on August 1, 2002.

Voices of Scotswomen in Peace and War, priced at £25, was published last week and is now available in good bookshops and from online retailers.