Marjorie Webster, long-term resident of Broomhill chats with RIG Arts on 23 May 2016 at the Broomhill Arts Flat. We spoke about the different homes she’s had in the area, the regeneration that took place in the 1960’s and 1970’s, and the changing sense of community.
I married my husband in 1960 and we went to stay with his mother just round the corner there on Prospect hill, one of them properties that’s got the stairs right up it – no. 13. We lived there with her for a year and then we got what they call a single end which was an apartment. Now, it was actually a house that was split up; it was a room with a kitchen with a toilet, but it was split up into two houses, so one person had a house and I had a house and the toilet was shared with the two families. I went there in 1961 and then I had my son at the end of 1961 – that’s Stephen – so we lived there till 1963 when I had Eric. I never actually went back to the house ‘cos it wisnae big enough and I was offered another house which was a prefab. Well, I got a prefab which was away up the hill behind Bow Road. Well, my husband worked as a sugar boiler in the Walkers sugar refinery so for him to trail the way down – we didenae have cars in those days, culdenae afford a car – and we managed to get an exchange with someone else who wanted it, and I went to her house at the top of Lynedoch Street. They were tenements as well and we had a room and kitchen with an outside toilet, but that was between 3 families on the one floor, and the next floor had three families, you know, that’s the way it was.
I had one child in 1961, then Eric was born in 1963 and my daughter was born in 1966. So I had 3 children in 5 years in there, and we all ended up sleeping in the one room. They talk about nowadays, ‘I need a room for my child’ but there was 5 of us sleeping in that room! We had a double bed, the boys had a bunk bed and she’d a wee bed. And there was actually a fire place in that room, believe it or not. And as I said, it was an outside toilet, so anybody coming up the stairs, you’re sitting on that toilet, it’s rather embarrassing you know!
We moved into our apartment on Mill Street in 1970, so I’ve been in my house 46 years! The high flats were built first. There was this one, Broomhill Court built in 1968, and then Prospecthill Court. My friend Betty and I, we were left for 6 month in the property we were in while the rest of them were moved. There were three people in the tenement: me on the bottom, and the elderly lady who didn’t want to go the high flats, and my friend Betty Leith and her 3 children up on the second floor. We were left in the tenement property on our own and the mice were going mad. I was more frightened of mice than anything and we had to wait there for 6 month till these houses were finished. So, we used to come up and watch the workmen and there was this man who was a joiner, carpenter, and he measured the curtains for us so, before I moved in, I had my curtains, I had my carpet for the living room sorted. But the thing was about the curtains when we got it measured, we never got it measured from the wooden spar that the curtain rail was to be screwed onto which was about 4 inches above the main window frame, so my mother had to put a false hem on it, because we only get them to come the window sill!
Above: Document detailing the state of disrepair in many of the tenement properties in Broomhill.
Our building has now been re-clad much the same as the high flats. Only I bought my house. Well, I was in it 30 years before I bought it, because we always thought we’d maybe get a nice back and front door somewhere, but it never materialised, so we eventually bought it. My husband died – I’ve been a widow for 20 years – my husband was turned 59 when he died so he was quite young. We decided to buy it because if anything happened to me, and Eric was still there – he wudenae been allowed to get that house, the house we’re in. This was a law; my husband was the first tenant, and I became the second tenant but Eric wudenae have been allowed. But they’ve changed that law now.
I bought it for the simple reason – I didenae get any help with my rent because my husband worked for Tate & Lyle so I have a pension, but I never got any help with anything so I decided to buy and so if anything happened to me and I went into a home, well, between us it was Eric’s home as well. And it was worth it to me at the time because I paid quite a lot of money for that house as a rent. Do you know much I got that for? £9,500 – a 4-apartment house, so it was OK. As one of them insurance men said, ‘if you go out and leave that house now and close the door, you’re still quids in to what you would have paid in rent all these years.’
There was a lot of ‘who you knew’ going on in terms of getting a house. Say you were in a house, and your mother lived in that area, you would get the first chance of it because they knew you. There were a lot of private landlords who owned these old properties. You know how I got mine? My sister-in-law lived up the stairs, my husband’s sister, and she was coming down the stair, and she heard the lady that had my house saying that she was moving, so she came over to my Mother-in-Law’s where we were staying. The man that owned it worked in the Merino Mill, the cotton mill, and my Brother-in-Law worked there and so he spoke to the landlord and that’s how I got it. It was very difficult to get accommodation, but you’ve got to remember that it was the ’60’s. It was very very difficult – to get a flat as there was a massive shortage houses in those days. Although they were building more new housing, it was to replace lots of old properties that fell below housing standard. It would take several years, well into the ’70’s before the housing shortage would ease somewhat.
I’m 46 year in my house and I still like my house, if they would clean the place up and keep it nice, you know. We always liked in, in fact one of my neighbours who had to move out because of bad neighbours, she’s in the sheltered housing now but I met her the other day and she said ‘I still miss Mill Street’. It was a great community.
There was a lot of shops here – we could do our shopping in Ann Street and there were a lot of co-operative shops here. You had three grocer’s shops, baker’s, butchers, you name it, you had everything there, you never had to go into the town.
It was around 1968, about the time that the high flats were being built, that the shops at the top end of Ann Street started going and by 1972 all the shops on Ann Street down to Roxburgh Street had gone. See, when they started to build supermarkets it spoiled it for everybody. See the wee individual shops, they were great. We could get all our shopping in Ann Street. ‘Cos we didenae have fridges you’ve got to remember. Eric was a baby in 1963, when I lived at the top of Lynedoch Street across from the Westburn sugar house. This one morning, my husband was out and I thought ‘We could do with a fridge’ and I went away over to the co-operative down in Roxburgh Street and I got this fridge and it was delivered and in the house for him coming home at 2 o’clock! It was only a wee thing. And we he went ‘What do we need that thing for?’ But you did your shopping every day, you had to because it didinae keep.
Q. Did Broomhill feel like quite a different community then?
It was a very close community. People were very insular then. My next door neighbour for instance, when Eric was born – my husband worked shifts in the sugar refinery, he was working what you call a 2-10 shift (2 o’clock in the afternoon till 10 o’clock at night) – and I had gone overdue. Now it was my neighbour, Mrs Spence and her husband who took to me to hospital, when I was ready to go, because my husband was at work and my other neighbour Mrs Flora Aitken looked after our 2 year old Stephen. That’s how good the neighbours were, you know, really good neighbours. I mean, you got the odd person who wisnae good but mostly they were very good.
People always took their turn at cleaning the closes at that time, even in the high flats.
It was done on a rota, and a wee card went round. There was 6 flats on each floor and you all took your turn. Everybody had a weekly turn and you had the odd person who didn’t take their turn but were made to feel it. That’s how you get upset now, when I see the state of our place compared to what it was. I mean, I’m not fit to do it now, but Eric goes out and does the stairs for me.
Broomhill’s not the same place. You don’t have the same interaction with people as you did in those days. I mean, when I used to come in, say I was out at night and I would come in, there was always somebody standing out. There’s never anybody there, it’s very quiet.
We lived in bad conditions, but we didenae think it was poor, you just lived your life as best you could. By 1970 we were in a brand new 4 apartment flat in the rebuilt Broomhill Scheme so it worked out well after very humble beginnings. Most of the people who were brought up in the Broomhill scheme still have fond memories of their times spent living in the Broomhill area as we still bump into loads of them from time to time and have a wee blether of the past happy days.
This blog post was constructed from a transcribe from an audio interview recorded on 23 Mary 2016. If you would like to hear the audio in full, please contact email@example.com with’ ‘FAO Broomhill Heritage’ as the subject.