Thursday, 30 March 2017

One hundred years of one house in Chorlton part 82 ......... Whispering Dave and the gas inspector

The continuing story of the house Joe and Mary Ann Scott lived in for over 50 years and the families that have lived here since.*

A boy, a horse and a delivery van, circa 1900
Now I have been thinking about just how many people might wander through a house in its life time.

It may seem a rather silly thing to spend time on but those visitors will all have stories to tell and many will tell us as much about our collective past as they do about the house.

So over the years in this house there will have been a whole host of causal callers from the milk man to the gas inspector along with the dustman and the errand boy.

"Deliveries daily," 1928
And each of those four reflects the wide changes that the country has gone through in a century.

Few people today still rely on a daily milk delivery and yet until a short time ago the familiar clink of bottles on the door step acted as a second alarm call of the morning.

In the same way the practice of putting all your rubbish into one metal dustbin which was then manually lifted into a dust cart is now as distant as the telegram.

But some of those old services have returned albeit in a slightly different guise.

The arrival of the errand boy on his bike with the groceries vanished in the 1960s but has returned with a man or woman in a van and now ordered up online rather than the old fashioned way of sending a hand written note to the shop keeper.

And only last week we were told to prepare for the installation of  “smart” gas and electricity meters which means I will no longer have to send the readings to our energy provider, who incidentally is no longer the Gas Board with office in the Town Hall but a huge multinational company with headquarters somewhere else in the world.

Salford women gas inspectors, 1917 
The quarterly knock on the door from the meter man highlights also that period during the Great War when many local authorities employed women to carry out the readings.

It was a short lived practice lasting only as long as the war persisted and was stopped pretty much as the guns fell silent.

Nor had the practice been universally accepted with women facing opposition from work colleagues and those in charge.

In 1918 Mr Frederick A Price the superintendant of the Manchester Gas Department reporting to the Gas Committee of Manchester Corporation on the work of the 31 women clerks and 85 women meter inspectors concluded that while they were “good and careful workers” and were “industrious and painstaking, they lacked initiative, were not capable of discharging the higher administrative duties [and lacked] the necessary imagination and concentration with the power of organisation” added to which they “liked to indulge in a little gossip.” **

I will never know just who and how many casual callers Joe and Mary Ann let across the door step or for that matter who their friends were.

French friends, 1975
I do now that occasionally they entertained the odd tenant who lived in one of their houses and called with a problem.

The Scott’s occupied the house for over fifty years but by 1976 we were here and something of the comings and goings I can recall.

We had family up as you would expect along with close friends and then for the short period that Mike John and Lois shared the house there were plenty of people dropping in.

These included the French friends who stayed for short periods, and work mates like Whispering Dave who worked at North Manchester High School.

Building the boat, 1975
I never quite knew why he acquired the nickname, possibly because he looked a little like a popular DJ or it might have been his low voice.

He seemed to arrive around tea time and stayed for a while after he had eaten helping John build the boat which grew in the back garden from a skeleton of wooden beams to a fully equipped ocean going sailing craft.

Less welcome on reflection were some who washed up on the door step, were taken in and later abused the hospitality but in the long forty-one years we have been here they were few.

And that seems a positive note to close on, adding only that like the Scott’s we gave shelter to a whole shed load of animals but unlike all the other families who lived here we were the only ones to have children in the house.

A first which was bettered by that simple fact that our Saul was born here in the house in the big bed in the big bedroom.

Location; Chorlton

Pictures;errand boy from the collection of Tony Walker, advert for T.C.Whitaker, 1928 St Clement's Bazaar Handbook,  Salford women gas inspectors, 1917, m08110,, courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council, and the reaming images from the collections of Lois Elsden and Andrew Simpson

*The story of house,

** Women at Mens’ Work, Manchester Guardian, January 5, 1918, quoted from Manchester Remembering 1914-18, Andrew Simpson, 2017

No comments:

Post a Comment