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Born: Jeannie Mackay Scott Smillie 1919 Paisley

Whit a stunner eh?Twelve Castle Street Paisley was where I was actually born. There was always an argument about who held me first. Either my Uncle Alec or Uncle Archie. I am the eldest of six. Five girls and one boy. I think my mum kept trying till she got a laddie.boy man. Andrew was only ten when we lost our mother. Every time there was a girl born it went unnoticed but when Andrew was born my granddad said to my granny ‘where's mamy shoes and my jacket, I’m away to see this baby’. Andrew was named after my granddad.

My dad belonged to Newmains in Wishaw, but he worked in Craigend colliery. I was only months old when we moved to Madison near Polmont. It was just a room and kitchen with two set-in beds. I would say it was a happy childhood. We never had much money but everybody was in the same boat. Mum and dad were all for their family. Make do and mend. We had relations all around us. We had a milner and a dressmaker. They were on my granny’s side, so I think they were better off than some. My dad was pretty handy at cutting the clothes to fit and my mother would sew them on the sewing machine. My dad could put his hand to anything. When it came to the school leaving time I was huffed because I wanted a new dress but they made one up for me. They would never put themselves into debt just to get me a new dress. I just put a face on.

I had too many sisters to have a lot of pals. As my mother said, she had three before she knew what she was doing wrong. More or less three children in three years. Then there was a gap of about three or four years before the next three. There was one girl I was friendly with who lived down the stair from me. We all played together. Sometimes for hours at a time outside. It was a safer world for children. Your parents didn’t worry about you being away.

When my young sister was born I was kept off school to look after my mother. I was ten. Same when my brother was born. The lady doondown the stair could not believe it was me that put the washing ootout. But who else was going to do it?
I was very bonnie as a girlI wore a gym dress and a blouse, black stockings and black shoes at secondary. Soon as I got home though I had to change out of them. I got a bus to the High School ‘cause it was near Falkirk. My mother liked Falkirk.

During WW1 my mother worked at the munitions factory in Paisley and my dad was fighting in France. He was there for 4 years. Every box of shells that went out to France the forewoman would put one of the girls’ name and address in it and that’s how my dad met my mum. He got her box. He started writing to her and my mother would send weeSmall parcels to him with sweeties or cigarettes. Amazing eh! My dad was a puga small steam train used in coalmines driver at the pit after the war. If he was lying on at the pit my mum would send us over with an extra piece and he would let us on the footplate of the pug and gi' us a hurla small steam train that he gave his children a ride away up the colliery.

When we came oot fi'out from school, sometimes we would walk the canal along to Grangemouth, to the open-air swimming pool. We would pass the prison there and the prisoners would wave to us from their cells. We never thought anything abootabout it. You could stay in the pool for as long as you liked.

At fourteen I left school and I went into domestic service. That was the end of any pals I did have. You only got half a day home, maybe once a week. You lived in you see. It was hard work. When you think back noonow, you just had to accept it. I would have liked to have been a nurse but you had to buy your own uniform and my mother couldnae could not afford it.

There were six in that family who I worked for. You were up at yon time in the morning to get the fires going, and then help with the washing and ironing. It was pretty hectic in the morning. My bedroom was just a box room. The window widnaewould not open and there was just a bed, chest of drawers and a candle. When you think back I think to maselmyself', why did I stick that? The children had lots of big thick storybooks for girls. I had never seen books like that. They used to let me read them sometimes. I took a book to bed one night and I was lying reading it by the candlelight. The mistress's bedroom looked down on my box room window. She saw the candle burning and she came down and barged right into my room and took the book and the candle away. She said that I would never get up in the morning if I’m lying there reading. That was all she was bothered about, me getting up in time to get these bloomin’ fires on. My box room was between the kitchen and the scullery and the toilet was in the scullery. The scullery had two sinks, one deeper than the other and I was expected to bathe in the deep one. I was not allowed to use their bathroom. This was my first experience in employment. One day, they were all ootout, so I thought tae hang, I'm just gonna have a bath in their bathroom. I didn't shut the door so I could keep watch. Then the phone rang. So I got out, put a towel round me and answered it. It was the master of the house wanting me to pick up prescriptions from their shop. I had to quickly dry maselmyself', get dressed and run ootout. I was running up the high street when I looked down and saw that I had two odd shoes on. A black one and a brown one. Twenty five shillings a month was all I got and I stuck that job for 10 months. In these days they had a registry office where you could apply for another job. I got a job with Templeton’s, the carpet people, in their big house. It was better in a way. There was a cook, housemaid, table maid and me and we all knew our routines. They were a funny family to work with though. They were all old maids. Their sweethearts had been killed in WW1 and they never took up with anybody else. What a thrifty lot they were. They kept a note of what they spent for the whole week. We used to pick the note out of their waste paper basket to see what they spent. Talk about nosey servants.

The last service job I was in, I was about 19 years old. It was just a bungalow with the big bay windows on each side, and while I was there my granddad died. This was just at the start of the war. My parents had moved to Blairhall near Dunfermline but I had never been there, 'cause I didn’t get any extra time off for travelling. I only got half a day a week, or sometimes it was only once a month. I was travelling on the Sunday and I eventually found the house. I got back to work on the Thursday. The mistress was really angry, but I told her my dad would not let me travel during the blackout. She had me in tears, so I wrote a letter to my parents telling them about the mistress and they sent back a letter saying take her notice. That was the end of the service.

I went into a woollen factory after that, where two of my sisters already worked. I loved that job. Getting into a factory where there were all these other girls. Great. I was put on the over-locking machines, stitching the garment together after the pieces were made. The wool got so scarce because of the war and an awful lot of us were paid off, including me. I was in tears that day. Everything was scarce during the war. I then went on to become a bus conductress.

Me in my uniformWhen I was working for the Templetons at 15 years old we went sledging one day and that is where I met my husband George. He was just a laddie.boy man. We were just pals at first. One Sunday I went up to his mother's with my knitting and she said ‘what are you going to do with that’. I just said I was going to do some knitting but she widnaewould not let me 'cause it was a Sunday. Changed days.

George and I got married in October 1941. He was in the army by that time. We lived for a weelittle while in Inverurie just outside Aberdeen. We got rooms off this lady. He had a pal who was in the same regiment up there as well. We were only three weeks married when I was lifted with appendicitis. A surgeon had to be brought out of retirement to operate. I was left with no a nice scar. You widnaewould not get it like that these days. I was not allowed to lie doondown. You had to sleep sitting up. I never got any food for about a week. I remember the matron coming up and saying to me “I just refuse to call you missus 'cause you are just like a weeSmall girl sitting up in that bed”. Everything had to be in its place and spic and span, not like nowadays. Jean my daughter was born in 1943 and George was posted abroad after that. When he came back things were not the same. It didnae did not work ootout so we separated. I think the war changed people. I had all these sisters wi' their bairnswith their children so I didnae did not miss him when he left. Whether it was a case of growing up I don't know, but I just was not in love with marriage. My sisters and I just stuck together. Grace had a house ‘cause her man worked in the pit dishing out the lamps. He was a gem of a man. I got a room with them at first then I stayed with my other sister Janet who also had a pit house. My mother died when Jean was only three months old. She died of Leukaemia. My father re-married but we didnae did not like our stepmother. She had a boy of seven when my brother was only ten. There was a lot of animosity. My brother was blamed for things he did not do. He was learning the accordion before she came on the scene, but all that stopped. My dad was with her longer than he was with my mother though. When my brother was leaving school nothing was getting done about trying to help him get a job, so I spoke to the headmaster. He got him a job at the station as a porter. He then went into the air force and he was there for years.

Doing my bit for the uniformI brought Jean up and did what I had to do. Jean went into training college for nursing for three years, which is what I wanted to be. Each week she got home on a Friday and was back at college on the Sunday. When she was home she hardly went out the door. She is still not a gallivanterto go about in search of amusement or excitement. She just likes her own place. She doesn’t mind folk coming in to visit though. When her training was finished she got a job in Edinburgh and that was where she met Neil her husband. They married in 1966 and had two children Karen and Graham. Graham’s a quiet laddie.boy man. Neil worked abroad a lot, in places like Angola. He was an engineer. He always said that I was to look after Jean and the kids when he was away. I used to come out and visit every weekend. We would walk down to Dalkeith with the pram and watch the London buses come in.

I moved in with them in 1986. I worked till I was 68 years old in the post office, but when I came through here I really missed my work. I was going to do some volunteer work but my granddaughter had her first baby at that time, so I got the job of babysitting. I used to take Sara Louise all over the place in her pram and one of the neighbour's, Mrs Wyse, said one day “that bairnYoung Child will soon know the whole of Woodburn”. I was learning abootabout the place taetoo. Karen had Peter two years later and I did the same with him. I enjoyed that time.

I am happy where I am. Jean and Neil are very good to me. Before they got this last car, Neil made Jean sit in the back seat of every car they were looking at, just to make sure I could get in and out without any trouble. They are thinking about changing it again. I think I will go with them the next time. I still don’t go out much but I do enjoy my weeSmall Thursday club.

 

Jeannie

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Adapted by Iain Tait