|Dec.2008, email Angus Muir.
This is a little story I wrote about my memories of Brigton during the second world war.
Kind regards from Angus Muir. and thanks for all your good work.
Selected Moments (The War Years ) by Angus Muir (1198 Words)
I don’t remember the
moment when I was born. Probably not many people do. My first real
memory was when I somehow managed to pull a pot of boiling potatoes
over myself from the cast iron range in our room and kitchen flat. Boy
it was painful; I can still feel the pain to this day. It was my own
fault of course, but at the tender age of about three or so, you are
not aware of the fact that a pot of boiling water can give you a very
At that time there were seven of us living in the
flat, my mother and father, and there were five brothers of whom I was
second youngest. My sister, was to make an appearance a year or so
after I had burnt my ankle.
I suppose the flat was a reasonably good type
of accommodation. On the top floor, of a four storey, red sandstone
tenement. It would have been quite suitable for two or three people at
most. In those days it was very difficult to get rented accommodation.
A person would have to be well thought of by the factor, and provide
references before even being considered.
As I remember the kitchen, on entering from the
hall, or what we called the “loaby”. On the left was a wooden bunker
painted green, I think. It had a drop down door, hinged about a third
of the way down to allow access. You could poke your “heid” in to see,
as you retrieved some coal for the open fire in the range.
Sometimes there was no coal to be got, due to
wartime shortages. If this was the case, my mother would send some of
us to the gas works, for some char or as we called it “chor”. Taking a
zinc coated metal bathtub, mounted on a bogie made from four planks of
wood, with two pram wheels back and front. The front wheels were
attached through the centre of the axle by a metal bolt, so allowing a
primitive steering mechanism as you pulled it along with the string or
rope; this was tied to the axle, close to each of the front wheels. It
seemed a long way to the gas works, but probably it was just about a
mile or so. Once the bathtub had been filled, and as much “chor” as
could be piled on top, making a nice little mound, any more being put
on would just roll off, then we knew that was enough. The eldest
brother would then pay the man for the tub full of “chor”. I’m not sure
how much it would cost, probably two or three shillings, but then that
was quite a lot of money in those days.
One shilling would have let the three of us go to
the Saturday matinee at the Strathclyde Cinema “the Strathies”, or, if
it was the Plaza, we would have had three pence left over, enough to
get two bars of MacGowan’s Highland Toffee. Two bars, eight squares in
each bar, wrapped in a sort of waxy paper, with a coloured picture of a
Highland bull on it. What a thought, it makes my mouth water just
thinking about it. Anyway we knew that come Saturday we would be going
to the pictures, as we did every week, unless there was an air raid.
The German bomber pilots didn’t seem to consider the fact that we might
be going to the pictures. I suppose they had other things on their minds
My mother and father always gave us the money to go
to the pictures on a Saturday, and also enough to buy “sweeties”. We
didn’t get any other pocket money, unless we were going to the
swimming. We could get money for that, as they thought it a good idea
that we should learn to swim, the benefits of swimming outweighed the
fact that there was a possible risk of catching Polio.
To give all of us the money to go to the pictures
every week must have been a real struggle. My father was a shoemaker to
trade and the “shoe trade” as he called it, paid notoriously low wages.
My mother never worked after the children were born, and I don’t think
she wanted to. She was more concerned with looking after her children.
we were quite poor, we always had enough to eat, despite the rationing.
Our clothing was anything but designer gear, and although it may not
have been fashionable, it kept us warm and dry.
One big advantage we did have, because my father was
a shoemaker, our boots or shoes were kept in good repair. When the
soles and heels were showing signs of wear, he would bring home some
sheets of leather and rubber heels. Setting to work, he would rip off
the old leather soles and heels, and soon have the leather cut to shape
and nailed. Then he would trim round the soles, cutting round the edge,
leaving a narrow ledge for stitching, the heels would be nailed and
trimmed. The next day he would take them into the factory to be
stitched and finished, when he gave them back to you, they were like a
new pair of boots or shoes.
The rest of the kitchen was quite bare, straight
facing the doorway was the sink, right under the sash and cord window.
The sink was made of heavy white porcelain, it had seen better days.
There was a scrubbed wooden surround and a brass tap. I don’t remember
any hot water tap, as far as I recall, the water had to be boiled on
the open range. The sink served many purposes, washing dishes, some
laundry, bathing the younger children, washing faces, and shaving for
The view from the window wasn’t very appealing; it
consisted of the rear view of another tenement block, about fifty yards
away. In between there was a stone dyke, in front of a brick built
washhouse with a concrete roof, and a “midden” of similar construction.
Only when the sun shone did the back court look anything decent.
The best thing about the back court was its
potential as an assault course for the older children; they would climb
the dyke and walk precariously along the sloping top, their rubber
soled “sannies” gripping both sides as they walked. Then to really put
fear into their mother’s hearts, leaping from the roof of the washhouse
to the roof of the midden with no thought about the possibility of
breaking their tiny little necks. Another important building round the
back was the air raid shelter. It was constructed in solid brick with a
reinforced concrete roof. I vaguely remember being taken down there in
the middle of the night as the sirens wailed, searchlights tracking
across the skies. Scared, I was too young to be scared, this was just
part of life to us. In later years, as I thought more about it, if the
shelter had been hit by a bomb, I doubt very much that we would have
survived the blast.