Artisans in Industrial Scotland

Jenny Blain.
Copyright © J. Blain 1988, 2005
I My mother's family
  1. Janet Lynch, her parents and siblings and their home life
  2. The Pendleburys and Fishers
  3. The Lynch family
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See also images of Parkhead.

I. My mother's family

Janet Lynch, her parents and siblings and their home life

([Ed note: this section is split in two parts for web presentation: Parents and siblings, and everyday life.]

Everyday life:

My mother has vivid memories of her parents' house on Great Eastern Road, Parkhead, now demolished, always mentioned as 'the house on the high dike'. The street itself was on two levels, with a sidewalk raised some feet from road level, bounded by a wall. Steps led down to road level at each end of the raised sidewalk, and in the centre, where my grandparents' house stood. Houses along this raised part were of two kinds, mainly two-room terraced cottages but with a larger two-storey house at each end of the terrace. My grandparents' house, in the centre of the high dyke, was on the larger variety. On its other side it adjoined a hall used by the Salvation Army, affter which there was another larger house and the end of the raised area.

Although all the houses, large and small, opened directly on to the raised sidewalk, each had a garden behind, so arranged that the gardens of the larger houses extended far beyond those of the smaller ones and had an 'L' shape, running half the length of the row of cottages. Many of my mother's stories concern their large garden, bounded by a stone wall and adjacent at the back to the Farmers' Fields. She has stories of climbing over the wall into the fields, when very young, and at another time of sitting in a tree in the garden, watching her family searching for something, only realising later that she must have been 'lost' and that they were searching for her. The stories reflect a childhood idyll in which it seems always to be summer: but she also heard an uncle, once, describing the house and its garden as 'a little bit of paradise'.

The house had four rooms downstairs, three upstairs. The downstairs rooms were a dining room, drawing-room, and two kitchens, one of which the children used as a playroom: a previous occupant had made part of the house into a flat for his daughter, hence the two kitchens. Upstairs were three large bedrooms: my mother remembers the girls occupying one, the boys another, and 'Uncle Eddie', her mother's brother, the centre one. The parents slept in a bed recess, in the kitchen. There was a lavatory upstairs. Outside were several outhouses, including a big washhouse, and she remembers the children being bathed in this washhouse. On Sundays, when her father was not at work, he lit fires to heat water, and bathed the children. In the summer he then washed out all the towels and hung them out to dry. This horrified the Salvation Army, who werer reputed to pray for 'the sinners next door' [Ed. in other versions of my mother's telling this was 'the poor Heathens next door'] who hung out washing on a Sunday.[2]

On the whole, however, relations with the Salvation Army were good: when they had a function requiring a 'top table' such as a dinner for an invited speaker, they would borrow plates and cutlery from my grandmother, returning the favour by lending her trestle tables for her summertime garden parties.

The work of the household was carried out mostly by my grandmother Margaret Lynch, with at times some help from the daughters Peggy and Marion. It involved rising early to light fires, setting a table for breakfast in the diningroom, or if it was very cold in the kitchen with the big range going, preparing a simple breakfast and other, more elaborate, meals, seeing children off to school and her husband, always smartly dressed, to work, organising clothes, doing laundry in the washhouse, cleaning house, which required a lot of washing of linoleum floors particularly the kitchen floor, beating rugs, making beds, shopping, maintaining household accounts, making jams and preserves, and knitting and sewing. Yet Margaret Lynch appeared to have time to sit down, to read, to make music. My mother remembers how people would come into the house and meals appear for them, as if by magic. Yet it is clear from her account that she and others in the household knew that it was not 'magic', and that my grandmother's domestic skills were much respected.

Later, in the Armadale St. flat, my grandmother sometimes paid a woman to perform chores such as washing the tenement stairs. This seems to have been as much to provide a small sum of money to someone in need, as to gain domestic help.

Thomas Lynch would be absent for most of the day: the hours as a cashier would be roughly 9.a.m. to 5.30 p.m. on weekdays, and on Saturdays he would go in at 5.30 a.m. to open the big safes and prepare pay packets, arriving home exhausted around 10 a.m. For the rest of the weekend he would be very much part of family life. He appears to have taken a considerable interest in the household, and his years in the cotton mill made him an expert on fine weaving so that when cloth was to be purchased Margaret Lynch would have him inspect bales to pronounce on the right one. In my mother's stories he appears as a kind man, always with time for his children, going off to work each morning smartly clad in suit, coat and Homburg hat, marching briskly down the road always accompanied by a walking stick. In the mill, hours would have been longer, probably 6.00 a.m. to 6.00 p.m. [Ed note, see 2a]

Margaret Lynch and her children took a yearly holiday to the resort of Rothsay during the six weeks of the school holidays, Thomas Lynch joining them there at weekends and Margaret's uncle, Edmund Fisher, visiting them there. My grandmother would rent a villa in Rothesay on the principle that a holiday should involve 'something better' than home circumstances.

Other childhood stories of my mother concern books and reading, which were important in that family: her adored elder brother Tommy used to take her to the library, a short walk down the street, when she was very young, and when he found she could read arranged for her to have her own library card. She would then walk down herself to the library (where she read, for instance, the L.M. Montgomery books) and once persuaded her school class to go with her. It was some time after this that the library card expired and, attempting to renew it at age eight, she discovered that eight was the minimum age for holding a card. [Ed note: According to the story told by my mother, the librarian, though taken aback, sympathetically said, 'well you must be a very clever little girl to have read all those books' and renewed the card!]

The Armadale Street flat was smaller, having only four rooms, a kitchen, two bedrooms, and a drawingroom, but with a proper bathroom. My mother now slept in a 'put-you-up' in the drawingroom. This was the time at which the house began to be full, especially on Friday and Satuday nights, of political people, and she would stay up, listening to the conversations. When she joined the staff of the Argus she found herself reporting on functions and events often organised by people she already know: sometimes they were Cooperative Society events, and her mother was involved. The Women's Guild ran lectures, concerts, discussions, dances, and the people who attended these were intensely interested in the cooperative movement as a way of life, not just in buying groceries. The Women's Guild was concerned in particular to better the lot of women by self-help and self-education schemes, and had some involvement in women's rights campaigns. [3]

My mother married in 1925, at 21 years of age, and moved to Dundee where my father had gained employment with D. C. Thomson and Co. as a sub-editor of children's papers. Her memories of her parents' houses, in Parkhead and Dennistoun, are essentially those of a small child, then a teenager. Central to all those memories is the figure of my grandmother, managing, coping, creating. As an elderly woman Margaret Lynch apparently carried herself like a grand old lady, and would hold up a hand to cross the street, expecting traffic to stop for her - which it did.


[2] Margaret Lynch is also said to have scandalised an aunt of my mother's by knitting in the garden on Sunday: according to the aunt it was all right to do this indoors, but not where you might be seen.

[2a] Ed. note: this phrasing does not do justice to my mother's concern for her father. He was at work during the day, but still seems to have been very central to the life and energy of the household. throughout her life she would refer to him, always with a smile, as 'my daddy' and articulate the utmost love and respect for her father and his place within his children's lives, as the supporter who could always be relied upon.

[3] For a discussion of the WCG's involvement in feminist issues and of the ways in which they different from more middle-class women's organisations, see Phillips, 1987. It tended to be women like my grandmother, with some resources, organisational skills and hence able to make time for the Guild, who were its most active members.

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