You could say Mrs Burns was a blessing in disguise
Mrs Burns was a canny old dear who used to live in Appleby Street. Her hubby was a pitman who had died in a pit accident.
Now once a month the National Coal Board as it was called in those days would send her a ton or two of coal free of charge. This was dumped in the back lane and had to be put into her coal shed shovel full by shovel full. Since money was a bit tight, Mrs Burns used to sell the neighbours a couple of buckets here and a couple of buckets there. It meant less to be put into the shed but also a few extra bob to help her get by.
The good thing was she would let you put it on the slate (pay at the weekend), not like the coalman whose motto was quite simply – “No money, no coal.” You could say Mrs Burns was a blessing in disguise, for she had a lot of regulars who turned up time and time again until one day she just vanished. Later we learned she had died, bless her.
Every house had a coal shed in the back yard which measured about 4-foot square by 8 foot high, with the back lane loading door measuring around 2-foot square. You could buy a paper bag full of coal (1 stone) from the shops but they cost 2 shillings and threepence (12 new pence today), which was a good bit of money in these times, so you had to be desperate for it.