Happy Nights under the Gas Lamps
But it was with my cousin Pinder and his Wauchope Ra Gang that I spent my happy formative years.
In winter we would gather under the gas lamps and make our own fun. Langholm at that time had its own gas works opposite the railway station for easy access for coal to make the gas and when the workers drew the hot ashes out of the furnaces – winter time tramps, covered in snow, would be waiting to throw themselves down on them and they would lie there steaming all night. Each gas lamp in the town had to be individually ignited by a naked flame on the end of a pole which was protected by a metal cap and holes in it. This was pushed up through a trap door in the bottom of the lamp. Each morning the light was extinguished by pushing a pole with a hook on the end up through the trap door and turning off the gas.
Jim Beverley better known as “Bev” and father of the now Rev. Jimmy Beverley in America (The Rev Bev?) and the job of lamp lighter whereas the lamps were extinguished by “Plushie” Warwick – “Plushie” because he wore shiny corduroy trousers.
There was another fellow called “The Velvet Monkey”, because he wore velvet trousers he had found in an ash bucket. At that time, we boys had a joke which was – “if Bev gets £1.10/- a week for lighting lamps what does “Plushie” get for putting them out? And the answer was “a long pole with a hook on the end”.
These were happy nights under the gas lamps. Boys and girls all played together. We all wore clogs, girls with clasping fasteners and boys with leather laces. I can see them now. Mary and Alex Corrie, John Hudson, Rita Douglas, Tony Blackstock, John Main, Bessie Warwick, The Bells – Pinder and Peggy, Jimmy and Jenny and Nellie, me and my kid brother George, Jock and Bobby Barnfather, the Davidson girls, Willie Johnstone, John and Gordon Graham. The Borthwick boys, Beryl, Rovrie and Lesley Smith, Billy Bell and others slip my memory. Tom Irving, Willie and Mary McMillan, George Irving, The Beattie girls and Tommy of course, Adam Waldie, their names come rushing back.
“Sparkie” was a favourite practice. This was to kick the sandstone pavements and see how far one could shoot the sparks. Our mothers didn’t like us playing “Sparkie” as it wore out the meral “cackers” nailed to the soles of our clogs.