Thursday, 24 December 2015

Mum's Lum

Santa getting stuck up the lum? Nae chance! Welcome back to Blogger Dan who recalls how important it was to keep yer Govan lum clean, especially at this time of year.

I would have thought that everyone knows that a ‘lum’ is the name used in the west of Scotland, or perhaps all of Scotland, for a chimney. 
Not all that common nowadays, with architects not having to include a chimney in their drawing of modern centrally-heated houses. Back in the 1800s, chimneys and chimney-sweeps featured in many stories. There were songs written and myths made up about the people who swept the chimneys and the small boys who were apparently sent ‘down the lum’ to do the cleaning; also some people felt that it was a sign of good luck to be passed by on the street by the chimney-sweep going about his work. 

I can remember, about seventy years ago, as a wee boy in Govan it was not uncommon to spot the chimney-sweep going along the street; not many cars around at that time, and the sweep would have a handcart (same type as the rag-and-bone man or other small traders had). On the barrow there would be a few different sized circular, spiky brush-heads (probably about eighteen inches across) and some canes which could be pieced together to stick down the lum, a couple of circular tin balls, probably about eight or ten inches in diameter would be used to drop down the chimney. Also on the barrow would be some covers -- for all the world they looked like ‘hairy-blankets’, usually they were grey or black and were used to drape across the front of the fireplace, while the sweep was on the roof with his brush pushing the soot down the lum.

Govan did not boast many bungalows in the olde days -- in which, chimney-sweeping would be considered ‘a breeze’. Tenement living was a different kettle of fish, three or four-storey in height with tall chimney-pots and, I suppose, each with an individual chimney-space leading down to the fireplace (and when you think that, as well as a fireplace in the kitchen there was one in the living room and many bedrooms had a wee fireplace which, obviously also had to have a chimney taking the smoke therefrom) -- well, there must have been a virtual ‘warren’ of chimney-spaces wending their way skywards throughout all of the tenement building? 

So, I seem to remember on, probably the one and only occasion we had a chimney-sweep in our first-storey, two-room and kitchen house at 571 Govan Road, there was a ‘trial-run’ with someone on the roof pushing the soot ‘doon-the-lum’ and the boss-man sweep standing in front of the fire, holding the hairy blanket, waiting for the evidence that would show whether the correct lum was being poked-at? 
I’m pretty sure that it wouldn’t have been the first time that absent householders would have come home to find that soot had been mistakenly shoved in on their fireplace. Right enough, I don’t think that there would have been much of a claim against the sweep had this happened -- I don’t remember seeing many (or any) carpeted homes in Govan, and there certainly was no white or cream carpet to worry about in those days. Lino was king and it was easy to sweep soot from linoleum. 

A friend of mine, Newton Mearns I’ll have you know, had their chimney swept last year and told me that the cost was £70.00 (digital-vacuuming?). I believe that the cost in my young days was around 3/6d to have the chimney swept -- this still proved too much to spend for most Govan families. So, getting hold of the poker you'd set alight and stick a load of crumpled-up newspapers as far as you could up the chimney. This would set fire to the soot and this was the ingenious way of stopping that smoke from coming back down the lum into the living-room. 
This was a dangerous thing to do and it was against the law.
From the street, it was easy to tell when the lum went on fire; a huge column of smoke adorned with sparkling particles of red soot was, of course a ‘dead give-away’ -- but not so easy to prove that it wasn’t an accident. I don’t ever remember hearing of anyone being convicted of the offence. 
The children loved it and when the Fire Brigade appeared on the scene it added to the excitement of the great event. 
My Father was a bit of ‘a scaredy’ -- not so my ‘wee Mammy’ -- thus, ‘Mum’s Lum’.

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