The Model

Stories memories and people

Moderators: Global Moderators, AnneM

Moonwatcher
Posts: 207
Joined: Mon Dec 13, 2004 8:38 am
Location: North West Highlands. Scotland

The Model

Post by Moonwatcher » Mon Dec 20, 2004 12:54 pm

The Model

First posted on SPDG 18 April 2004.

This wee essay eventually led to the Echo 6 series of tales describing life as an ambulanceman in 1970s Glasgow.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The Model

A couple of weeks ago, on Glesca Patter 15, I mentioned about Model Lodging Houses and said I might do a bit on them as a future topic. Well, this is it! Thinking on how to tackle this subject, and impressed by Dave Sloan’s ‘fly on the wall’ series on coal mines, I’ve taken a leaf out of his book and gone for the ‘virtual tour’ approach. I hope you don’t mind Dave.

Some of you, when researching your ancestors, will have come across the fact that they lived/died in a Poorhouse or Model Lodging House in Glasgow. I’m going to focus on one particular Model, Abercromby Street Model Lodging House, of which I have some personal experience. But first a quick word about Poorhouses.

Poorhouses, such as the infamous ‘Barnhill’, located not far from where I was born in Glasgow, were built to accommodate the poor and the destitute. Whole families were incarcerated within it’s grey, depressing, Victorian walls. Inmates were expected to work for their keep. Rules and enforcement were harsh. Like a number of Glasgow Poorhouses, Barnhill eventually became an NHS hospital in the 1950s (in Barnhill’s case a geriatric hospital) and it’s name changed to Forresthall. But it could never shake off it’s terrible image and reputation. I had the misfortune of transporting a considerable number of elderly people to Forresthall during the 1970s. Many were terrified. They called it by it’s original name of Barnhill and refused to call it anything else. My Gran (and other elderly relatives) lived in fear of ‘endin up in Barnhill’.

Barnhill (Foresthall) was demolished in the early 1980s – nobody mourned it’s passing.

But I want to focus on Model Lodging Houses, and one in particular at 234 Abercromby Street in the Bridgeton district of the city. It was a living time capsule. To enter it was to step back in time. Not just a few decades, but right back to the Victorian era. Originally called ‘Clyde Street Home’ it was built by the Glasgow Victorians in 1878 as a ‘Model’ of lodging accommodation. It was typical of these institutions at that time, and it survived virtually unchanged right up into the1980s. ‘Moadils’, as they were referred to, were different from Poorhouses. I think they were originally intended for travelling or homeless workers during the mass influx of labour into Glasgow in the late 19th Century. But as time went on they attracted the generally homeless, hopeless, alcoholic, and unemployed. Rejected by the Poorhouses, their occupants had only one other option – the street. The Model provided the last refuge for many. Poorhouses are long gone but ‘Moadils’, in some shape or form, remain to the present day.

The 1970s found me as a front line ambulanceman in Glasgow’s east end. That was my ‘patch’. As a result I got to know the Models very well. Glasgow people tend to joke about them, but only a very few have ever actually set foot in one. To appreciate what they were like and what any of your ancestors, who were unfortunate enough to have spent time in one, went through, I offer you a trip back in time. I caution you before we start, this is not a funny story. It’s grim and unpleasant. It’s how things were.

We start our trip on a cold, wet, dark, Glasgow night, sometime in the 1970s. Imagine you’re accompanying my driver and I, as ‘third man’ on a ‘back shift’ front line ambulance patrolling the east end of Glasgow. [Sometimes the third ‘man’ would be a nurse! Sometimes a new start under training. Sometimes just a visitor or reporter.] You join us on ‘standby’ at the Royal Infirmary in Castle Street. A radio call summons us to a ‘Male sudden illness at 234 Abercromby Street’ There are no other details but we recognise the address and have a fair expectation of what awaits us. We’re underway before the controller has finished relaying the message. A typical ambulance callout journey follows ie. flashing lights, noise, and all that The journey is short, and no more than five minutes later we’re slowing down outside the forboding structure of the four storey Victorian sandstone building. As we turn slowly off the street, negotiating the narrow arched entrance, it is tight. Built for horse and carts, with stone ‘buffers’ on either corner to deflect cart wheels. A rear tyre squeals as it rubs against one of these buffers. The blue flashing light reflects, strobe like, off the grim surrounding walls and, for a few moments, our world is enveloped in a pulsating, dazzling blue. Like in a sci- fi movie, it’s as though we’re leaving the present and entering a portal transporting us back in time. The vehicle acts as, our time machine, refuge, and lifeline during our visit. But it’s attracting the attention of residents and they start to gather in the narrow yard to witness our arrival. We switch off the beacon and immediately sense it’s loss. Our headlights pick up the small crowd of dishevelled men gathering ahead of us. We’re on a wet, glistening cobblestone surface, sitting on two flat stone‘tracks’ designed for cartwheels. Lights off, engine off. Now we need to get out. And you’re coming with us.

A group closes in around us. One shadowy figure pushes through towards us. He’s holding a large ring of keys. We take him to be the ‘caretaker’. Caretakers change frequently, I often wonder how these guys end up in such a job, maybe they’re long-term residents. I ask him what the problem is.

‘Auld guy oan eh tap flerr. Eez been wae iz furr a while noo. Nice auld guy. Keeps tae eezsell innat. Eez hivvin trouble breathin an disnae look sah good. This wae mate.’

He beckons us to follow through a door behind him.

We gather some equipment, including a torch, taking care to lock up the vehicle before we go. Eyes watch us intently, seeking any opportunity to grab any desirable items that we may inadvertently leave on offer. As we enter the building, the smell of harsh disinfectant, competing with pungent stale urine, catches our breath. More residents stand around gawping, the word is getting around. We can see them better now. Most are dressed in scruffy worn out clothing. One has no shirt beneath his soiled and torn jacket, just bare chest, his trousers are tied up with string, he is filthy. Most are late middle age but there are some young ones amongst them. Despite rules forbidding drinking, some are obviously the worse for wear, leaning against the dirty tiled walls of the corridor we are passing through. Flickering, buzzing, fluorescent tubes provide garish illumination on this ground level; a crude echo of modern times that we will lose as we climb up to the higher levels. Others are standing watching us intently, smoking, making thin roll ups. One approaches you, sensing your discomfort and recognising your lack of experience.

‘Any chance eh fag mate?’ he growls.

You ignore him. He mumbles a curse as you move on. Another spits on the stone floor ahead of us. As we approach a flight of well worn stone stairs, the caretaker shouts to those obstructing our way.

‘Right, cummoan get tae yer cubicles urr doon tae the kitchen thers nuthin tae see.’

Men shuffle to the side opening a path for us. You remember what we told you on the journey here, about lice and flea infestation being the norm in this place. You try your best to keep as much distance between residents and yourself as possible – it’s difficult, you feel your skin crawling, and you cant help succumbing to the urge to scratch as we climb the stairs. On the top landing, we’re presented with an entrance to a long narrow passageway. It’s very gloomy and runs the length of the building. Not so many people around now. To either side are rows of dirty green wooden doors, entrances to tiny cubicles, each with a number plate. The numbers are in the hundreds. The floor is wooden, creaking, filthy and strewn with cigarette ends. The smell is overpowering. Attempts at keeping down the filth are evident by the whiff of disinfectant but, like downstairs, it’s a losing battle. As we cautiously make our way down the dark corridor you catch a glimpse, through occasional open doors, inside some of the wooden cubicles we’re passing. Each one has exactly the same layout. Just enough room for a low, wooden or iron bed, a tiny cabinet, stool and a shelf. The dirt engrained wooden floors lack any form of covering. Windows, where there are any, are too grimy to be capable of letting in much daylight, but some are covered with threadbare material to act as a makeshift curtain. Ventilation is non existent. Dead flies clutter the sills. Old gaslight fittings still protrude from the wall but a bare light bulb serves the purpose nowadays although, going by the gloominess, you suspect many of these are not working. There is no ‘ceiling’ on the cubicles, instead, wire mesh, much of it rusted, is nailed over the top to prevent occupants from climbing over into adjoining cubicles. Theft is rife and assaults frequent. At least we’re not dealing with a violent incident on this occasion. In the past, when violence has been a factor, we’ve sometimes waited for a police escort before entering the building. Sometimes we find ourselves treating the injured while arrests are being made around us.

Residents are expected to pay something for their lodging – a token amount – but even a few pence can be a fortune when you’ve got nothing. Many spend the day begging on the streets, hoping to scrounge enough money for their bed, a meal, and some cheap booze. Others are working, but with no family or home, turn to the Model at night. Some have psychiatric problems; depression, schizophrenia, paranoia and above all...alcoholism. Suicides are not uncommon. Bedding generally consists of a thin, worn out mattress, a couple of old sheets and an army blanket or two. The general condition of these can, with few exceptions, only be described as ‘filthy’. Much of the bed linen is soiled and frequently infested with bed bugs, lice and fleas. The burning of old mattresses and bedding down in the back yard is a common occurrence when a resident leaves or dies. We hope that this doesn’t turn out to be one of those cases where we have to don protective coveralls and gloves before we can enter the cubicle.

Our patient’s cubicle lies at the end of the corridor. The door is open and a man is standing at it’s entrance. He backs off as we as we approach. There’s not a lot of room for all of us in the cubicle so you two wait at the door with the caretaker as I go in and kneel down beside the bed. The old guy is sitting up on the bed, leaning forward, breathless. I introduce myself, get his name and ask him if he’s had this trouble before and if he’s been attending a doctor. I try to ascertain if he has chest pain or any other signs, symptoms or history that might indicate the nature of his ailment.

‘Ah’ve ayewaes bin bothirt wae mah chist son,’ he tells me quietly in short gasps. ‘Ah worked in eh mines ye know, aw mah life in eh pits’, he says proudly. ‘Ayewaes bin bothirt wae mah chist. Aye!’

I ask if he has any family.

‘Wife’s deid son.’ He pauses to catch breath. “Ah’ve a son an a doatir. Bit ah don’t want thaem tae know.’ With a wave of his hand he indicates the end of that line of questioning.

We set him on low concentration oxygen and prepare to transfer him on to the small folding wheelchair we’ve brought up with us. As all this is going on we note that our old guy has made considerable effort to keep himself clean and retain some measure of dignity. No mean feat in this place. Soap, razor and towel lie neatly on top of the wee cabinet. Some papers, and some sweets lie next to the inevitable packet of fags. As he comes to terms with his predicament he becomes agitated.

‘Ah don’t really need tae go tae the hospital son. Dae ah?’

I explain that this is the best course of action and try to reassure him. As he realises that he must leave his cubicle, he waits until no one is looking and gestures for me to look in a wee ‘hidey hole’ he has behind the cabinet. I find an old envelope with money in it. It doesn’t appear to be a great deal but it’s obviously all he has. He takes it from me and stuffs it down his sock. He looks at me without saying anything – he doesn’t need to, I’ve seen it many times before. I put his remaining bits and pieces into a carrier bag.

Once on the chair, we wrap him in a white, clean, cellular blanket, fix his oxygen mask and bottle in place and strap him in. He clutches his carrier bag on his lap as we wheel him out the cubicle and along the passageway towards the stairs. The groups of men are more subdued now, their curiosity satisfied. Some come over and offer good luck, some just nod and turn away. Our wee man is unlikely to be back, everyone knows that. Later tonight his cubicle will house another of Glasgow’s unfortunates, like it has for the past hundred years. We load him into the ambulance, make him as comfortable as possible, and manoeuvre out into the street again. Out through the ‘time portal’, back into the modern world… and fresh air.

Abercromby Street Model burned down in the early 1980s, nobody mourned it’s passing.

Photo: Abercromby St Model (formally named Clyde St Home)
http://www.theglasgowstory.com/image.php?inum=TGSG00014



Epilogue
One afternoon in the late 1980s my wife, kids and I visited the People’s Palace in Glasgow Green. For those that don’t know of it, the Peoples Palace is a museum dedicated to Glasgow, it’s heritage, and it’s culture. Among many exhibits (including Billy Connolly’s famous banana boots) there were reconstructions of old Glesca shops and, behind glass… an actual cubicle from a demolished Model, identical to that described above. As we stood in front of this, along with a large group of visitors and tourists, I said to my wife and kids, out loud and without thinking.

‘Aye, minny’s the time ah’ve been in wan eh them!’

The surrounding chatter immediately ceased as everyone slowly backed away from me. My wife spun on her heels and walked off, face bright red, the boys in hot pursuit!

Bob Wilson
ex Echo Station
Glasgow East
Scottish Ambulance Service 1971 - 1980

Guest

Post by Guest » Mon Dec 20, 2004 2:05 pm

That's just the kind of insight we need.Your other stories are fun and I look forward to each and every one.But this tale truely conveys the sense of hopelessness our ancesters must have felt in these conditions.
I also want to say thank you for the web site showing the picture of the building you discribed.I had never seen this site before.Thanks to your story and the attached link I've found my Great Grandfather on the Evaluation Rolls. :D That's a great way to start my day.
Have a good one
Heather

marilyn morning
Global Moderator
Posts: 3098
Joined: Sun Dec 12, 2004 1:45 am
Location: Rhode Island, USA

Post by marilyn morning » Wed Dec 22, 2004 3:17 am

Moonwatcher
After reading this well written posting, I dashed off to find my recently discovered copy of the 1891 Census for my ggg grandfather Hugh Dixon which lists his profession as a lodginghouse keeper in Beith, the street address is to blury but here he lived with his wife and 5 children. Do you know if the term "Lodging House" has multiply meanings? I hope so
Marilyn
Dogs leave paw prints on your heart.
Maxine Morning b. 23 April 1998 d. 14 Nov. 2008
http://talkingscot.com/gallery/displayimage.php?pos=-1718

Andy
Posts: 731
Joined: Sun Dec 12, 2004 8:06 am
Location: Gourock

Post by Andy » Wed Dec 22, 2004 8:57 am

They stayed at 12 Buns Wynd in Beith.

To my knowledge a Lodging House Keeper just meant someone licensed by the Council to take in lodgers (rather than having a License to sell alchohol). Some of the lodgers would have just stayed overnight but others, working away from home, may have stayed much longer. Some Bed and Breakfasts still operate in this manner but on a much smaller scale.

Bet Hugh's family weren't thinking way back then that so many people would be remembering the anniversary of his death 90 years ago today.
Searching for Keogh, Kelly, Fitzgerald, Riddell, Stewart, Wilson, McQuilkin, Lynch, Boyle, Cairney, Ross, King, McIlravey, McCurdy, Drennan and Woods (to name but a few).

Also looking for any information on Rathlin Island, County Antrim, Ireland.

Moonwatcher
Posts: 207
Joined: Mon Dec 13, 2004 8:38 am
Location: North West Highlands. Scotland

Post by Moonwatcher » Wed Dec 22, 2004 8:58 am

Hi Marilyn,

There was a distcintion between the two. Many families in Glasgow around that time (I cant speak for other areas but assume it was the same elsewhere) rented out their rooms as a means of income. If the house was big enough then it became a bona fide lodging house with paying guests. These types of dwellings shouldn't be confused with the 'model' lodging houses described in my post.

Hope this helps.

Bob.

marilyn morning
Global Moderator
Posts: 3098
Joined: Sun Dec 12, 2004 1:45 am
Location: Rhode Island, USA

Post by marilyn morning » Thu Dec 23, 2004 2:16 am

Hello Andy & Moonwatcher
My first thought was Inn Keeper as in Bed and Breakfast. Their home on 12 Buns Wynd Beith had 10 rooms so perhaps they rented a few.
Thank you both for these replies.
Andy, thank you for remembering Hugh on the 90th anniversary of his passing, I was stunned to find his record on the eve of his passing. (I've been playing the name game with this man, for some time now) If not for BobG this moment never would have taken place tonight and I need to thank him for helping me along with my searching. It was BobG who was able to untangle so much of this very confusing family for me by finding Hugh's 2nd marriage cert. plus so much more and also answered so many of my endless questions. Thank You BobG!
I'm sure at times he thought to himself when he opened his e-mail, "Oh, No, not her again with that stupid "Hugh Dixon" question. Bob you must be very very pleased I FINALLY found him. Thank You DavidW Andy William Jack Dwizel Davie & BobG and Tiny Tim, plus everyone here on TS. I'm only a very inexperienced researcher and all this information means so much to me.
Merry Christmas
Marilyn
Dogs leave paw prints on your heart.
Maxine Morning b. 23 April 1998 d. 14 Nov. 2008
http://talkingscot.com/gallery/displayimage.php?pos=-1718

BobG
Posts: 84
Joined: Sat Dec 11, 2004 12:46 am
Location: Massachusetts USA

Post by BobG » Thu Dec 23, 2004 2:59 am

Marilyn,
I never thought ANY of your questions were “stupid”. Questions are never stupid but the people, who don’t ask questions, well that’s a different story. Speaking only for myself, keeping you going in the right direction and helping where I could also sharpened my own research skills. I learned things too. My thanks to you for joining TS. I'm sure you'll be assisting someone else soon enough. Be careful out there and Happy Holidays!
BobG
Researching Grigor/Roy/Symon in Morayshire & Banffshire. Mearns/Roy/Low in Insch & Auchterless, Aberdeenshire.

marilyn morning
Global Moderator
Posts: 3098
Joined: Sun Dec 12, 2004 1:45 am
Location: Rhode Island, USA

Post by marilyn morning » Thu Dec 23, 2004 3:09 am

BobG
You Rock!
Marilyn
Dogs leave paw prints on your heart.
Maxine Morning b. 23 April 1998 d. 14 Nov. 2008
http://talkingscot.com/gallery/displayimage.php?pos=-1718

DavidWW
Posts: 5057
Joined: Sat Dec 11, 2004 9:47 pm

Post by DavidWW » Thu Dec 23, 2004 11:25 am

marilyn morning wrote:BobG
You Rock!
Marilyn
Marilyn

One reason that I contribute is that I learnt in this field long ago that I will never stop learning :!: (See thread involving Valuation Rolls!)

I was among the first so-called experts on the scotlandspeople.gov.uk DG along with others like sporran and Andy. One of the joys of taking part has been to see many tentative newbies gain confidence and slowly turn into experts in their own area. It's not just a question of frequency of posting, it's also a question of sharing specialist knowledge or easier access to certain resources.

There are no stupid questions, at least on this DG :!: You wouldn't believe what you will regularly see on other DGs, - e.g. "Where is Edinburgh?"; but even were such a question asked on this DG it would be answered politely, but more likely than not by guiding the questioner towards the resource that they need to use, rather than slagging them off. Courtesy doesn't cost anything.

And please, please, if you don't understand the answer given to a certain question, ask for clarification. Sometimes what I might think is a clear answer ain't !

Unfortunately it happened occasionally that a new poster on the scotlandspeople.gov.uk DG was ridiculed or flamed because of the perceived simplicity of their question, or because of the way that it was framed. Anyone who indulges in such treatment of newbies (or anyone for that matter) on this DG will quickly discover what the moderators and administrators think of such behaviour, and unless the behaviour ceases will soon discover the extent of the powers of the moderators and administrators of TalkingScot.

TalkingScot is intended for everyone with a Scottish interest from the newbie through to the expert; and is not intended to be like so many other DGs on the www (not just genealogy!), - no more than a forum for bickering, flaming, nastiness and self-indulgence.

Orraverybest

Wullie

Guest

Post by Guest » Thu Dec 23, 2004 2:17 pm

Hear,hear!I'm a member of 2 other forums that specialize in certain areas I have interest in and this forum is indeed unique in both it's content and it's members.I have never been made to feel stupid by those with more experience.Instead many like Wullie,Andy and Billy have shared their their knowledge of genealogy and their resourses with me so that I don't have to ask to be hand feed every answer but can enjoy the hunt myself.Even the good natured teasing of my Nova Stocia was done in a way that I could laugh at myself .I don't think the closing of the SP forum was such a bad thing.We have the makings of a truely informative and fun site to be a part of.I raise my glass to you all.Lang may your lum reek.
HK

Post Reply