OUR recent Thanks for the Memories features on the old Glasgow steamies have got readers in a spin.

Letters and emails have come flooding in from many who remember the city wash-houses.

Alex Guy got in touch to tell us: “We stayed in Greenfield Street, Govan. I’m nearly 70 now but l remember at the steamie in Harhill Street my maw, in a hurry, tried to get her washing out before the spinner stopped.

“She was swung round a couple of times before she was flung out. Luckily nothing was broken. She didn’t try it again....”

And Kerry Black summed up how many of our readers feel about the old steamies in a wonderful poem called Ode Tae the Steamie.

“I based it on my granny’s tales of the steamie, or wash hoose, which was a way of life for women not just in Glasgow but in the wee mining villages of Fife too,” she said.

Here is Kerry’s poem.


When Ah wis jist a bairn, Ah mind ma granny washin’ claes,

Sweatin’ ower a biler, the washin’ took her days.

Her scullery was fu’o’ steam, there wis washin’ everywhere,

Hingin’ oan the pulley an’ piled up oan the flair!

While ma grandad was diggin’ tatties or haein’a pint at the pub,

She’d be sweatin’ in her peeny, gien claes a scrub!

Tae ma granny this wis luxury, washin’ in her ain wee hoose,

She saw it as her solemn duty tae keep awehing clean and spruce.

She’d tell us o’ the auld days, when she could only wash wance a week,

When ye took yer turn at the steamie, e’en when yer bairns were seek!

She’d pile her claes in an auld pram and go trundlin’ doon the road,

Wi’ her mum and her sisters, they’d share the laundry load.

Wi’ Soda Crystals and Acdo, the bilers were lit by coals,

Mined in the pits by their men, God rest their weary souls.

They’d burl their claes thru’ the wringers, wi’ the help o’ muckle great tongs,

Fortified by blethers, cups o’ tea and songs!

Oan a guid day they’d tak it hame tae dry oot oan their wee back greens,

But in the dreich and damp, they’d hae tae stick it oan fireside screens!

Eventually gran got a twin tub, wi’ its ain wee spinner,

Chuckin’ oot her wringer, we were sure she’d feel like a winner.

“It’s no’ the same”, she’d say, through clouds o’ soapy bubbles,

“The steamie wis oor way tae wash away oor troubles.

Maist o’ us had nothin’ much, no’ even an inside loo or a bath,

But when we were in the steamie, we aye had such a laugh!”

So sometimes when Ah’m scunnered and Ah feel Ah cannae cope,

Ah picture ma gran in the steamie, Ah can smell her Carbolic Soap!

As Ah turn the dial oan ma washin’ machine, Ah see her face thru the steam,

Wi’ her sisters and her mother like a faded technicolor dream.

These women o’ the steamie were the backbone o’ this nation,

They scrubbed guid sense

intae aw o’ us, wi’ love and dedication!

Tony Roper’s The Steamie is at the SSE Hydro from December 27 until 31.