Another bite sized chunk of Blantyre History
When talking about the Streets that run off the Main Street (Glasgow Road) of Blantyre one has to bear in mind that at the backside of these tenement type buildings, there was usually a row of bunkers where people kept their coal, wood kindling, and what ever was too large for them to be bring in to their homes. My Granny had such a place, and all us boys in the family when we reached the age of 10 on our way home from school had the job of stopping off and chopping the firewood and to bring upstairs enough coal to last for the next day, until we refilled.
There would be a common washhouse at the back of each tenement, big enough for two women at a time to do their families wash. There would be two boilers with fires underneath for a hot wash and an other for rinsing. Attached to a folding table was a extra large hand wringer. Times of washing was laid out on a schedule on the wall or pre-arranged somehow with the neighbours. If you missed your day forget it until the following week, or else do it at night time, which was not too good, for you could not hang the washing out on the lines to dry. Usually the drying area was very large and took up most of the area behind the Tenement buildings. So you can imagine with about 50 homes in a block there was a lot of poles with clothes lines attached in this area, and of course this was where most of the kids played, a lot of the time. The ground would be covered with small broken up shale from the coal mines, or just plain dirt. The words brilliant white were not used too often in Blantyre.
One of the smells that sticks in my mind of Blantyre is the smell of the wash being boiled, I do believe that this was the smell of a particular lye or carbolic soap, being the cheapest it was what everyone used for cloths washing and everyday use. When ever you passed by the washhouse even when no one was doing a wash as you passed the smell though not as strong was still lingering in the air.
Note from Bill: As a child in Baird’s Raws I remember the washhouse being used to make soup for a group of families. Each family would bring what they had in the form of vegetables and meat and the boiler would be filled to the brim. There was a always a bit of a party atmosphere as the soup was dished out. The washhouses were also a good place for winching couples, especially when it was raining.
Continuing the conversation between Thomas Dunsmuir Hartman in Chicago, formerly Logan Street, (known as TDH or Drapadew) and Margaret in Queensland Australia on TalkingScot.
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