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Born: Jessie Brown Whitelaw 1923 Simpson’s Maternity Hospital, Edinburgh

The girls and me in the parkI have always lived in Dalkeith. The first house was at Stewart's garage opposite the police station. It was just a one bedroom. My brother had to live with his granny in the High Street, cause there was naeno room. We moved fifrom there to the Wynd, an auld close. It was bigger but it didnae did not have mairmore rooms. They sent you to the Buggery to get delouseda council building to kill all the mites or lice by physical or chemical means (degradding) before you went to your new house. They came to your old house up the close to see if you had any bugs. We were very lucky though and didnae did not have any. They deloused your furniture as well before you could go. The neighbours were all friendly up the close. Nobody had any mairmore than you. In the Wynd we had two weeSmall shops and auld Mrs Lunch would give you tick. If you were hard up that week she would let you have it. The other shop, the Lintons, wouldnaewould not give you tick. We moved again to a new house with four bedrooms. MaMy mother had eight of a family, I was the third youngest. Five lassies.Girls female siblings and three boys. MaMy mum and dad slept in the living room. Ah mind a bairnYoung Child was born and it was put in a drawer. We didnae did not have cots. Boxes were used as well. The toilet was down stairs and there were only two toilets for the whole close. We had a couple who lived under the arch, and you were aye feartalways scared to go in at the back of them because it was smelly. That was called Gibralter Gardens, but it is called Allan Terrace now. We got electric light, a bath, hot water, and a coal fire. We all went daft. I was about 10 years old. MaMy mother only lived in that hoosehouse for four years. She died when she was 46. I saw mamy mother dying, it was heartbreaking. I had just turned 14 when it happened. My oldest sister, Doreen's mother, used to work in service so she came and looked after my dad's house. My dad worked in the Lady Vic. Ann didnae did not want to be a house wife. She didnae did not like the idea of looking after mamy brothers so she went to live in Bath Street in Portobello. She met a soldier and married him and they had two children.

Ma brothers were gidgood to me. I was a bit wild and I liked to do what they did. In that first house there was a big yard, and I climbed the wall and I ripped all my hand. MaMy mother had filled the tin bath for ma faithermy father to get washed but when I came in screamin mamy dad plunged mamy hands in the water. The water wizwas red hot and I screamed. The next day was the Gala day and I went wiwith my hands all bandaged. The King's Park was where they did the crowning, then you went doondown to the public park for yeryour bag of buns. Then you had the sports. I had ma tinneymy metal cup round mamy neck. The teachers came and kept us in line.

I went to King's Park school. There were naeno big schools when I was young. Across in the yard there was a big building, and you went there when you passed your exam at twelve. I mind one teacher who used to live at the foot of Dalkeith in one of the weeSmall cottages. She was a big tall teacher. She gave me the strap and belted me all over. I went to tell mamy mother and she took me to see the headieheadmaster Mr Welsh. She said I was not to go back to school if she got Miss Young again, so I got moved to a different class. Miss Potts was my new teacher and we were at the end hut. She was nice. Miss Young was still there when mamy oldest son went. She was his teacher so he told her “you will not do to me what you done to my mother”. She asked what my name was and she remembered. She never bothered him after that.

I liked the school till I went into the higher grade. I left just before I was fourteen. I worked up at Eskbank in the big houses. I didnae did not like them. They were toffs and greedy. They made me work for 5 shillings a week. I scrubbed floors and aweall the rest of it. They had plenty money but didnae did not like to part with it. My cousin was the housekeeper. I left and got a job in a big boarding house in Gorebridge called Harvest House. I started in the winter so there were no guests, just the housemaid, the master, mistress and a chauffeur. They had a baker’s shop in Dalkeith, MacKay’s, and they were the nicest people you could have worked for. Every Saturday the owner would come in with lots of fruit for us. I used to travel to Gorebridge by bus, but I had a long walk up the drive and I used to be scared. Me and the housemaid lived in one room and there were bars on the window. We got 22 shillings a month. They had a big collie dog that slept on the weeSmall carpet outside our room. We got fed lovely meals. The work wisnaewas not hard cause there was no guests. I had to leave mamy job though to become my dad's housekeeper in Gibralter Terrace.

During the war when none of us were married me and mamy pals Betty, Lizzie and Rose used to go drives to Callendar and different places. We were in a club and travelled by bus. One time me and Betty were up the street in Dalkeith and six soldiers came up and asked where we were goin. We said we had no money to go anywhere, so they took us to the pictures. Six soldiers and two lassies.Girls female siblings eh. Betty's dad was in the navy and he used to tell us all the tales. I wouldnaewould not get home till one in the morning. There is only me and Rose left now.

Years ago when you were on the brewunemployment you had to sign on every week. During the war when I went to sign on they said I could either go to the army or work in the munitions factory down in England, so I chose the army. I went home and my dad wouldnaewould not believe me cause he thought I had joined up voluntarily. I trained in the Abbey then I was moved to Shropshire.

I was winchenTo court, to keep company with one of the opposite sex. before I joined the army but he wanted me to get married so I didnae did not have to join the army, but I’d had enough of the housekeeping and I wanted my own life. We got married anyway at New Year. James Wright Whitelaw worked in the Lady Vic. I met him through his sister. I got friendly with her cause her husband was in the navy. We met in his mother's house. I did like him but he used to like a drink. I was naenot very happy at first. He was a typical miner. We got married in 1943 at the Dalkeith Register office by a lady registrar. We didnae did not have a honeymoon and I never got my photo taken for one reason, and that was ‘cause I got married in mamy uniform. Me and the best man were in uniform. I went back off mamy leave and in the window of the office was a lovely white wedding dress. I could have borrowed it to wear, but it was too late.

I enjoyed army life. There were ten of us who trained together and we all went to Shropshire and lived in a big house. We were split into shifts. Six till two and two till ten. We used to serve the soldiers their meals. Sometimes I wish I never got married. I worked in the Royal for a while when I first got married but I didnae did not like it. I got a job at St. David's school as a cleaner. I was there for 11 years. The classrooms were all tiled. It was a lovely school.

I waited four years for a house after we married. I lived with my mother-in-law. She was a lovely woman and we got on well together. We had the front room and her daughter and her husband had the back room. She had her bed in the living room. Our first house was at Shadepark across from my mother-in-law. In the mean time my dad was living with Mrs Munro as a boarder ‘cause he would not come and live with me. My dad came out the pit and worked finally at the weeSmall catholic school in the park as a jannieschool janitor. My dad died in my house. I brought him home when he was given months to live.

James my son was born when I lived with my mother-in-law. I never liked the doctor. He put me under when I was in the house and decided he could not save the baby, but Nurse Reid said we will not give up hope and took me to hospital and saved his life. Now he is 62 years old. When James was 11 I had Peter. I was hoping it was a lassieGirl. I lost twins in-between and they were lassies.Girls female siblings. I didn’t know I was having twins till I was 6 months pregnant. One was still born and the other went into the incubator. She died after three weeks. I named her Agnes. James worked in the LadyLady Victoria Mine till he was 60 the he worked on the top till he was 65. James got his right leg off cause he got gangrene in his foot. We moved here, 2 Gibralter Court, cause it was all flat for his wheelchair. He only lived here five months and we had stayed in our other house for 44 years. He took ill and went to Liberton hospital. I sat and held his hand till he died. They never even offered me a cup of tea.

Ma Pals and mePeter was always a laddie boy man that worked. He went to Pencaitland and got a job on a farm. He told the man he was older but he was still at school. When he left school though the farmer offered him a job. I got him into the college but he wanted to join the army. My man says what's the use and let him go. He saw a lot of life in different countries. James was an awfy laddieterrible man for the greyhounds. He used to drive the Lothian Region buses, then he worked in the garage for the buses. Now he drives the school buses. He was mad about cars.

I’ve had a strange life me. An a’veI've had a lot of sadness in it taetoo. I've got bad feet, bad circulation, a pace-maker and brittle bones. I’ve got bad balance and have broken every bone in mamy body except mamy hips. But still, I cannaecan not grumble. I have three grand-daughters, a grandson, and 3 great-grandchildren.

 

Jessie

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Adapted by Iain Tait