Home Life in Willington Quay and East Howdon

A man would come with a big barrel full of vinegar and sell it by pouring you a pint.

Monday was always washing day for everyone and they always hung the washing on lines across the back lanes, with long props to keep the washing high. Washing was possed or done in a big barrel called the ‘Tub’. At the end of the possing my sisters would have a bath in it and I would be last. I think I would come out ‘hacky’!

I can remember most of the tenants’ names in the back lane and lots would be out during the herring season buying herring from the horse and carts in the early mornings. The Fish Men would be shouting “12 or 10 a penny calla hern”. That would be about 9.00am but at around 3 or 4 o clock, on their way back, they would be shouting “20 a penny calla hern”. Then a man would come with a big barrel full of vinegar and sell it by pouring you a pint. They did the same with milk from churns, then when the Coalman came he would shout “get your clothes up lasses and get the props in”. It was always good for a laugh. Also, along came the linoleum salesman with a roll of lino and a horse and cart. They got another laugh when he would shout in your doorway “would you like a yard and a half of this up your passage Mrs?”

The linoleum men were always Scottish and they were called ‘Chavas’, but the man driving the horse and cart told me he was above the Chavas and was called a ‘Mink’. After selling he used to sing while one of them played a mouth organ. He sang a song I heard dozens of times, that’s why I remember the words:

“Ah gan all ower the country and reet around the toons
to see the kiddies running wah ther mother’s raggy goons
but ah daresent tek them for fear that al get wrang
so Geordie blow your bugle loud and doon the street we gan
Singing hare skins, rabbit skins, anything for the travelling Candy man.

Also, on afternoons after the pubs had shut, we often got three men in ex-army overcoats, as though they were ex-soldiers. They were from Jarrow. Two of them would go up the back lane asking for people to put coins in their army caps, while the middle one would sing opera or popular ballads. He had a tremendous, loud and wonderful voice.

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