RENE Riddell was ‘such a tomboy’ according to her older sister.

“She had the most beautiful violet eyes and a cow’s lick in her hair,” says Charlotte Ann Skewis, who is now 81.

“Even after all this time, I still miss her.”

Sadly, Rene died in a fire in Glasgow in 1961, two days after Charlotte Ann’s 21st birthday.

“She was badly burned in the fire, as was my ma, who crushed Rene into her own body to try to save her, but she did not survive,” she adds.

“I have a picture of my ma with her first nine children – Rene is the baby in her arms.”

Glasgow Times: Charlotte Ann with her mother and some of her brothers, sisters and cousins at Alexandra Park.

Charlotte Ann got in touch with Times Past to share memories of growing up in Townhead and Easterhouse in the 40s, 50s and 60s.

Her fantastic stories – a mix of the moving and the hilarious – are bound to strike a chord with many of our readers.

“I remember the summers, when the tar melted on the cobbles and all us children would get tar on our toes, and all the mothers used margarine to get it off,” she says.

“I loved the steamie, when the blankets had to get washed and me and one of the wee ones would go with Ma to dance on them in the sink.

“Sometimes Ma would get early turns at the steamie on a Saturday morning so my sister Rebecca and I could get in the swimming pool and pretend it was ours.”

She adds: “I was always Esther Williams….and sometimes we would be thrown out if our brothers came and dived in off the balcony.”

Charlotte Ann was part of a family of 16, and they lived initially near the canal in a room and kitchen in Townhead, before moving to a five-apartment in Easterhouse.

“The canal was a magnet for kids in Townhead,” she explains. “Alexandra Park was another great place to go. Every Sunday, rain, hail or snow, we went with two bottles of orange juice.

“One of my fondest memories is going to a café in Castle Street on a Wednesday night, me and my four friends, and we’d order OXO drinks and two cream crackers for thruppence. Those OXO drinks were like nectar to us….”

Later, when Charlotte Ann and her sisters started work, their mother would take them to Margaret Forrester’s on London Road.

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“This is where we got out first rigout,” she explains. “We got to choose our own style and colours. Mine was navy and white, with white nylon gloves.”

The Glasgow Fair was a ‘big thing’ for the Riddells, says Charlotte Ann.

“We always got a visit to Kelvingrove Museum, and treats,” she adds.

“A big treat in our house was bath night, when Ma would fill the bath with two pots of hot water and cold water, and my younger brothers and sisters would go in, three at a time. When they were done it was our turn.

“It was good when we moved to Easterhouse and could get a bath each – Glasgow Times: Charlotte Ann, left, with her friend Ritaalthough the wee ones still went in three at a time….”

Charlotte Ann recalls an unusual ‘beauty’ treatment.

“Every Friday night, my Ma would cover the faces of us girls in egg whites, which she’d stored all week in a jar,” she recalls.

“It was left on until it hardened and then you splashed your face about 18 to 20 times with cold water and your face tingled.”

She adds: “Most of us still do it, but only my sister Kathleen still drinks the cabbage water we used to get. She says it keeps her slim…”


When Charlotte Ann was 15, she and her best friend Rita worked for Binn’s the shirt factory, and went to the staff dance at the Ca’ D’Oro on Union Street.

“In this picture, Rita is wearing a beautiful white chiffon dress her ma got at C&A,” says Charlotte Ann. “And I am in a rose taffeta dress my ma got at Goldbergs.

“We thought we were the bee’s knees….”

Do Charlotte Ann’s memories spark any for you? We’d love to hear from you here at Times Past - get in touch to share your stories and photos.