MARY BARBERS SHOP, COFFIN AND CANDLES
I used to go to the wee shop in Rutherglen Road called Mary Barber`s, later Jenny Reid`s.
This was a most interesting shop. You could buy peeries, clay pipes, tinnies, peevers, almost anything. There were boxes and boxes, just piled up and the lady could go directly to a box and produce whatever was asked for. I don`t know how she remembered. I bought my rubber balls from her and I was very particular about the sale as they cost a penny each and they had to be real good stoaters before I would part with a penny.
Children were introduced to death at an early age. If anyone died no one forbade a child looking at the corpse. In fact children were made welcome as people believed their prayers were special and the bereaved were pleased to see them. In the room where the coffin was, the mirrors were covered with white sheets and candles were kept lit. There were always small trays or saucers containing snuff in one and cigarettes in another. These were for the adults who were offered a whiskey or sherry. There were lots of deaths in those days as modern drugs like streptomycin and penicillin had yet to be discovered. Poverty and poor housing were one of the biggest factors causing poor health, and a lot of women died in childbirth, usually leaving a large family.
In those days there were`nt any cars on the roads but children were killed by being trampled on by horses. Another cause of death was children falling on spiked railings. I myself had a nasty accident caused by a spike and still have the scar to this day.
I used to get most upset whenever a horse fell. These were mostly large heavy Clydesdales. If their legs were broken they were shot.
When a horse fell the carter would get lots of men willing to help. They would put lots of sacking around the horse. I think this was to help it get a grip on the road and to keep it warm. Ropes were then put around the animal and men would pull on the ropes to help it to it`s feet, but sometimes it would slip and sparks would fly from the hooves as it tried to regain balance.
It was most exciting when the ragman appeared. He always blew a trumpet to let people know and all the children rushed to get rags. We girls were given parasols made of wallpaper with a stick in the middle to hold it together. The boys were given a three cornered hat also made of wallpaper. Boys were very guilty of doing a StripJack Naked, and many a poor mother had to chase after the ragman to get her son`s clothes back.