Big thank you from

Living a life of luxury in 1925 

by The Rambler 23/02/2001

SOME of my juvenile relatives have got quite excited by the vicissitudes of' the folk who have been featuring in the TV programme on life in a 1900 house.

One young lady has voiced wonder about the use of ' the big cup under the bed!' what some wags term 'the goes under.'!

A leading Omagh auctioneer, called Roy Holmes, held weekly auctions during the war
in his town-centre mart and his name for that essential 1900 item of bedroom furniture was ' the relieving officer'

There happened to be officials with that title responsible for doling out poor law relief before the national assistance scheme was launched half-a-century ago.

It has struck me that if I were to rehearse the activities of a small farmer of the 1925 era it might interest readers born post-war.

I may need a few weeks to paint the picture, but here goes.

We'll name him 'James Addis' and his wife Becky and give them three or four little ones. some boys and some girls

They have, say, 35 acres of arable land and carry on mixed farming in South Antrim, a mile from a village shop, and miles from the nearest town.

Neither James nor Becky. owned a bicycle, and had never learned to ride. A horse-drawn vehicle or 'shanks' pony was their mode of travel.

Many journeys were made across the fields, as it was too far around the road. hence they knew every stile, even gate, even every gap in the hedges.

Land owners gave free access to people on foot and, of course, gates were never left open or fences broken down.

Even at night, by moonlight, country people went across the fields to call on friends or neighbours.

Personally I did it regularly in my teenage days.

James grew oats, potatoes. rye grass, turnips and meadow hay, all harvested with horse drawn machines, or manually. Meadow hay and oat crops and 'white' hay were stacked around the farmyard, which was termed ' the haggard'.

Out offices comprised a stable, a byre, a potato house, a barn, some cattle sheds, a hen house and a duck house. He also kept up to four pigs in a sty.

This was a small low -roofed building with an unroofed card en suite.

A manure heap, or dung hill, was an integral feature of the haggard.

Fowl ran loose during the day, and even ventured into the kitchen-cum-living room of the dwelling house.

Old people termed the latter the 'mansion house' but i t was no mansion just a long low thatched dwelling, white-washed on the exterior, with a wash made up from powdered lime and water.

The kitchen floor was paved with quarry tiles, one foot square and uncovered.

A large open fire in a big iron grate was the sole source of heat. Fan bellows mounted on the hearth fanned the fire as needed.

Cooking pots and pans hung from hooks (crooks) supported by a beam (crane) over the fire and were linked up or down as necessary, i.e. when a pot boiled or a kettle, it was linked (hooked) up, if the contents were to be left in the vessel.

James and his wife had their main bedroom in the room behind the fire and the children slept in a loft above the kitchen, accessible by wooden stairs devoid of linoleum or car pet, just bare boards. 

Water for cooking and washing (including bathing) came from a pump in the yard, ie from a well or rain water stored in a bath.

If it was needed heated, it had to progress via pot or kettle hung over the kitchen fire which had of course to be kindled each morning

No fire lighters existed and sticks to light the fire mostly came in the shape of twigs gathered from the hedgerows or broken-up scrap timber.

Paraffin oil was used to light the fire if sticks were damp. Newspapers were little read and therefore scarce as fuel.

Animals had to be fed, breakfast cooked, children dressed and fed. cows milked and lots of other 'wee turns' done when James and Becky got up in the mornings

A dry lavatory outside, or ' the big cup under the bed' had to be utilised by all hands, and icy water from a barrel outside the back door was regularly tapped for face washing. If ice had to be broken-too bad.

That's the score. Come back next week when Becky has got an Ulster fry on the plates!

To be continued.

Ulster Star