Housing: Oral Histories
“We moved from Barrhill Rows to McDonald Crescent, to the ‘lollipop’. Our house there was a four in a block and had loads of space. There was a coal fire in the living room and also in two of the bedrooms, and until I was 12 years old, we had a back to back in the kitchen. The heat from the living-room fire went through the wall to the kitchen and heated the back to back, which was a kind of Aga. On one side, it had a kind of boiler where, if you put cold water in it, it heated it to do the washing, etc. You could cook on top of it and it had an oven. My mammy had an electric cooker and a washing machine so she didn't use the back to back. My father used to take a shovel full of coal from the living room fire, (health & safety oot the windae!) and take it through the lobby to the bedroom and place the red-hot coals in the grate and you had an instant fire. I remember lying with the light out, just with the light of the fire. Our neighbours were the Llewellyns - they emigrated to Australia. Their daughter Irene and I are still friends. Other neighbours were the Dochertys and the Kidds. All the mothers called each other by their married name, e.g. Mrs Kidd, Mrs Docherty, Mrs Neill.”
“I was born at 10 Whitelaw Terrace, Twechar. I had three brothers and one sister; my father was Melvin Kelly from Kilsyth and my Mother was Jessie Wilson from Bridgeton, Glasgow. I grew up in a one-bedroom house, with a living-room and kitchen. The children slept in the room and my Mother and Father in the living-room. We moved to another house in Whitelaw Terrace and it had two bedrooms. The house had a big range, a back to back in the kitchen. The back to back was in the scullery and was back to back with the fire in the living-room. My Mother had two wee things on the fire that she kept the kettle on. On our back to back there was always stew on, soup on, there was always something cooking on the back to back. The most horrible job in that house was cleaning the back to back every week with black lead polish. I think there were two sinks for the washing and for the mangle; she had a washing board. When the houses in Gartshore Crescent were let, they had boilers. I used to come in and smell the whites boiling.”
- House at Windy Yetts
“Well, when it was first built, it was an upstairs downstairs house. Self-contained, toilet and one or two bedrooms; kitchen, that was up the stairs, and down the stairs would be a replica of that but obviously, you didn’t have the stairs tae go up. But, when they were first built, there was a coal cellar in the kitchen, as you know it, and that’s where you kept the coal, and each room was fired by coal but, the coal was at that time, you were getting the coal almost for nothing, so, they could afford tae have… Again, William Baird owned the coal; he sold you the coal. The money you earnt out the pits, William Baird took back off you for coal, so there wasnae much money crossed the bridge tae go any expeditions or anything like that.”
“My father was in ill health and couldn't work. The only thing that saved us was that I had a brother called Davy (the same name as my father), and the rent was put into Davy's name and took out of Davy's wages. That's how we were allowed to stay in our house. I remember the Lynch family got put out and nobody could help them. I was only a wee lassie. They had a son in the army, but that didn't matter - the father couldn't work. There was a few people put out of their houses because they didn't work for the Bairds. It was pouring of rain on the day the Lynch family was evicted. Everything was put in the street - nobody could take them in, they could give them a cup of tea but they couldn't help them in any other way. They were warned that if they took them in, they would get put out too. The family went to the Diamond Bridge to a tent, where the gypsies lived.”
Mary (Brown) Kennedy
“I was born in Barrhill Rows, in my grandparent's house. My dad was away in the army during the war and he and my mum shared the house with my grandparents. Mum and dad had the room, and they slept in the living room bed recess. I can remember the house being upstairs. Alice Colston, she was my granny's next-door neighbours. We had the black-leaded fire, that was my mother's job to polish that, it had the bit you pulled round to sit the kettle on. There was a sink at the window, the fireplace, the bedroom was to the back. There were two bed recesses there too. The toilet was downstairs and outside. Each house had its own wee key, my mother used to whitewash it and make wee patterns and keep it nice. My mother cooked on the range; my granny liked to do the cooking. At one point, she had three sons and two daughters in that house. It was in ‘the buildings’ - the first one next to the railway line.”
I was born in Barrhill Rows and I have lived in Twechar all my life. I left the Rows when I was two years old and moved to Merryflats; I stayed there 'till I was 10 and then moved to 28 McDonald Crescent. I used to go and see my Gran and Granda in the Rows. They stayed in the wee buildings and had 10 of a family; they had just a wee kitchen and a room. They (the children) didn't all stay there. They were all born up in Turneyhill; my Granny and Grandfather had a place up Turneyhill, years ago. It's a way up by the farm, up by the Fort, at the Nazarene; it was a way up there at Turneyhill. There were two families up there. All their 10 of a family was born up there.
They had a smallholding. It was a thatched cottage and someone set the roof on fire. The Martins were all terrified of fire because of that. Then they went to that Auld Row at the canal; they went there, where the Masonic Hall is. My Mother was 18 when she got married and she stayed there and she had nine of a family. Then we went to Merryflats. We had two rooms there - the living-room, a kitchenette and a bathroom; it was a Baird's house. My Dad came from Ireland when he was 16. He came with other Irish men who came to Glasgow, then left to come to work at Twechar. My Dad cleaned the boilers that kept the machines going; he went inside the boilers and chipped the stuff off. He was a young man when he died, it was his chest - it would be that emphysema. The family was working and the fellas were working in the pits, so we got to keep the house. Our neighbours were Mrs Bell, Andy Bell's granny, and Nettie Truten's mother, and a Mrs McCabe and Mrs Park – they went to Dumgrew, and Mrs Kelly who stayed in McDonald Crescent, and Lizzie Weir, the Simmons and the Neills, the Burns.
Some of the houses in Merryflats only had one bedroom. We had a bathroom, with a WC and a bath. We had 2 coal fires; one in the living room and one in the bedroom. All your cooking was done in the living room, in the range. In the scullery, there were 3 brass pipes and the hot water ran through them, that was all the heating you had except when you put the fires on. There was no cooker in the kitchen. The washing was done in the scullery, in a wee boiler and 2 sinks, a wee sink and a big sink. There was a pantry in the kitchen and there was a wee window in the pantry to keep the food cold.”
Mary (Brown) Kennedy
“I was born in Lennoxcastle Hospital in 1962. I have lived in Twechar all my life. My mum was from Twechar and my dad was from Kirkintilloch. My mum's own name was ‘Timmins’, my grandpa’s name was Patrick Timmins, my gran's name was Louie Timmins and her own name was Conroy. I think her family had been in Twechar for God knows how long. My gran lived in the Rows in the ‘big buildings.’ My gran had two boys and three girls, who are now all dead except for one. He went to America 55 years ago. They moved from the Rows to Alexander Avenue, I think when they were built. My grandpa died when all the kids were quite young. He had pneumoconiosis, (I think) that was on his death certificate, and that was a common thing for miners in those days and my gran was left on her own with five kids. My gran got a very small pit pension for my grandpa but no compensation – they didn't get it then.”
“I born in 1928 at 2 Barrhill Terrace, in my granny's front room. We lived across the road in the ‘Store Row’. I lived there until I was 21 then we moved to Alexander Avenue… I was born in my granny's because we only had a wee room and kitchen and my gran wanted my mum over there to have me because they had a better house than us. They had an inside toilet and a wee scullery. We had nothing like that, you had to go outside and round the back to go to the toilet. My grandfather was an under manager at Twechar 3 pit and that's why they were in the terrace… Our house had a big black range, we cooked on top of it, with a wee oven at the side, with a coal fire. We did all our cooking on top of that. There were two 'set-in-beds' in the kitchen with curtains and a bed in the room… My dad worked in Twechar 1 pit. They didn't have baths at Twechar pit then. We had to boil kettles of water for him to get washed. Miners’ wives had it hard then, especially if they had a man and two or three sons (who were miners) in the house… There were washhouses down the middle of the rows but you could only us it once a week as it was shared with other families. Maybe when your mither was finished doing the washing and was emptying the tub, you would get your feet washed – we thought it was great! There was five of us in the room and kitchen: Wilma, John, Roberta, Margaret and me.”
Agnes Hendry – age 89