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IF YOU ever took a turn cleaning the stairs, if you know what a wally close is, or if you can explain a stairheid rammy to a non-Glaswegian, then you probably lived in a tenement for part of your life.

(Just FYI, a wally close is a tiled entranceway -see also: wally dug, which is a china dog statue which sits on the mantelpiece; and a stairheid rammy is a localised quarrel, usually between neighbours.)

Reader Jim Tennant got in touch with his memories of living ‘up a close’ in Glasgow in the 1930s.

“As a child I lived up a close but at that time in the east end of Glasgow almost everybody did,” he says.

He laughs: “A close, for the benefit of people from far away places, was the entrance to a tenement building, the front close or the “close mooth”. Halfway up the close was a flight of stairs that gave you access to the landings. On each landing there were three homes - usually there was a room and kitchen at each end, and a single end (just one room) in the middle.”

Glasgow Times:

Jim recalls: “There were no toilets in these flats - families had to share a toilet which was located halfway up the stairs between each landing. I became a very good whistler because I would whistle a tune to make sure others would know the toilet was engaged…”

He adds: “Every close was built the same, yet every one was different.”

Often the back close of a tenement led to the back court, home to the midden, the wash house, a stone building containing a huge basin with a fire underneath which always had to be kept lit, and a dyke for ‘dreepin’ aff’.

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He says: “There were hooks embedded in the walls surrounding the back court which were for tying ropes to hang washing out to dry. The women often used pullies inside to dry the washing on too.People would hang carpets over railings, to beat out the dust and dirt. Occasionally someone would empty the ashes on a windy day, and it would go over the clean washing. My mother said there would have been skin and hair flying if the culprit was caught…”

He adds, laughing: “The back court was also used for winching, but I was far too young for that.”

Glasgow Times:

Jim describes his neighbours from those days as “the salt of the earth.”

He says: “There was a caring attitude. Every close had a Mrs. Bossy Boots who kept the children in check. She made sure none of us played on the stairs. The stairs and landings were washed in strict rotation.

“Pipe clay was the order of day. This white pipe clay was used to decorate the edges of the stairs in plain or fancy designs. Nowadays it would be called modern art…”

Read more: The clerk's son from Glasgow who became a world-famous architect

Jim has also written a poem, loosely based on a Glasgow close, which he has called Shades o’ Chic, in tribute to comedian Chic Murray.

“He nodded his heid as he passed me by/Like a fugitive from the FBI/As he passed me by/He nodded his heid/I’d seen him afore/But I thought he was deid.

Glasgow Times:

“He was takin’ the hawn/O’ a hawn-knitted wean/They stood up a close/To get oot o’ the rain/I widdny have seen them/I thought thought I/That’s if he hadny been/Just passing by.”

Send us your memories of the old Glasgow tenements..write to Ann Fotheringham, Glasgow Times, 200 Renfield Street, Glasgow G2 3QB or email