Saturday, 19 July 2008

Tillie Tells a Tale of Yesteryear

Introducing guest blogger, Tillie, who reminisces on times now past

The Corner Boys
When I was a wee girl and lived in a black tenement in Sunny Govaan, our kitchen window looked into Brighton St., although our close was actually in 161 Broomloan Rd.
I was born in 163 Broomloan Rd., up three storey in a one bedroom and kitchen flat with the luxury of an inside toilet. We moved to 161 Broomloan Rd. when I was seven. This new house had two bedrooms and again we were lucky enough to have an inside toilet.

We could make as much noise as we liked, as our house was exactly above a corner grocer and Jenny aw' things shop, which everyone nicknamed "Bella's".
The owners were two middle aged sisters called Kate Stirrat and Bella Low. Mrs. Stirrat, a widow, lived in Ayr while her sister, Bella, a spinster and a very matronly figure lived locally and served in the shop.
Bella was so kind, so fond of children and sweeties, always giving a sweetie free to the children who came in to do the shopping for their mothers.

When we looked out of our kitchen window onto Brighton St., we were looking at a Ginger Factory across the road from us (we referred to all fizzy drinks, no matter what the colour or flavour, as ginger). The name of the company was Cantrell and Cochrane and the building had a great wall for girls to play ball games against.

One of this building's corners was situated on Broomloan Rd. and Brighton St. and the other end was on the top corner of Neptune St. (nicknamed the Irish Channel) and Brighton St.
Every evening at these two corners there could be seen " the corner boys", boys ranging in age from early teens to very old men.
The teenagers and younger bachelors grouped together at the "Broomloan Rd. corner" while the married men and older bachelors hung about the "Neptune St. corner".
These two groups took up most of the pavement, leaving little room for pedestrians wishing to get past.

In those days folk ate their main meal at lunch time, 12 noon, and so the evening meal was what we called "our tea" at tea time, around 6 pm. This eating arrangement was suitable to the poorer working class families, in our area.
Most of the menfolk worked in the shipyards on the Clyde, and came home to relax at noon and eat a hearty meal. This, they hoped, would give them strength to go back to the hard work they still had to put in during the rest of the day.
After their tea, most men took themselves off to the pub for a wee drink, if they could afford it, and following that they would leave the Segton Bar on the opposite corner of Neptune St. and cross over to the "corner".

One must remember that there was no television in those days for entertainment and not many even owned a wireless "radio".
There were many homes in our building that had no electricity and had to rely on gas to light their homes and cook their food. The gas light was supplied through a pipe which was led up to the mantlepiece (the ornamental shelf above the fireplace) where a gas mantle was situated. Compared to an electric light it was very inferior, but was better than an oil lamp, used by many people who lived out of town in the countryside and who had no access to piped gas or electricity.

Although the old corner boys had very loud voices and were inclined to argue about everything and anything, they were never too rowdy and no fear was felt by anyone skirting past them.
In their midst there were two women who always wore their hair wrapped in turbans and clothed themselves in men's overalls, at the neck of which could be seen a collar and tie. I thought of them as mysterious beings, perhaps as disguised spies - during the war we were constantly on the outlook for spies.

The young corner boys were fewer in number and were certainly a lot calmer in their conversations. I think that they spent most of their time looking at the passing girls as we often heard wolf whistles coming from their corner. Do you remember that old song? "Standing on the corner watching all the girls go by,". . .
A few of the young corner boys fancied themselves as good singers, so now and again a crowd would gather round as the strains of a popular hit tune came from their midst. One of their number was a particularly good singer and could imitate Bing Crosby. When he sang one of Bing's big hits, a very large crowd would congregate around him, extending onto the road.
We didn't have to worry about getting knocked down by a car. You would have as much chance of seeing two blue moons in the sky as seeing a car on the road. The only person whom we ever saw in a car was the local doctor, who was a very careful driver. Only horses and carts came along and only during the day.


Anonymous said...

I thoroughly enjoyed reading your post, Tillie. Our tenement in Pearce Street also had a gas light above the bedroom mantlepiece (a reminder of days gone by) and I used to wonder how it would look lit up. I imagine it wouldn't give off much light. Hope you'll post some more memories soon!

Madeline said...

That was so great!

Anonymous said...

My great grandfather lived at 161 Broomloan road around 1903 - thanks for sharing

ann le messurier said...

Hi Tillie,
I enjoyed your story so much as I lived at 103 Brighton St. My grandparents lived at 183 Neptune St. above the Segton Bar. I could picture every step of your tale.I also went to Ibrox school. I was born in 1940 so I think I came along just after you. My uncle Jim
was a friend of George Stewart who also lived in your building