Authors: Tenement Girl
Table of Contents
AS THE YEARS GO BY
BRIDGE OF HOPE
THE BUTTERFLY GIRLS
A HIGHLAND ENGAGEMENT
THE ROAD TO THE SANDS
THE EDINBURGH BRIDE
THE GIRL FROM WISH LANE *
A SONG IN THE AIR *
THE KILT MAKER *
THE MELODY GIRLS *
THE WARDEN’S DAUGHTERS *
PRIMROSE SQUARE *
THE HANDKERCHIEF TREE *
TENEMENT GIRL *
* available from Severn House
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First published in Great Britain and the USA 2013 by
SEVERN HOUSE PUBLISHERS LTD of
9 – 15 High Street, Sutton, Surrey, England, SM1 1DF.
eBook edition first published in 2013 by Severn House Digital
an imprint of Severn House Publishers Limited.
Copyright © 2013 by Anne Douglas.
The right of Anne Douglas to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted in accordance with the Copyright, Designs & Patents Act 1988.
British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data
Douglas, Anne, 1930-
1. Edinburgh (Scotland)–Social life and customs–20th
century–Fiction. 2. Great Britain–Economic conditions–
1918-1945–Fiction. 3. Love stories.
ISBN-13: 978-0-7278-8253-0 (cased)
ISBN-13: 978-1-78010-391-4 (epub)
Except where actual historical events and characters are being described for the storyline of this novel, all situations in this publication are fictitious and any resemblance to living persons is purely coincidental.
Lindy Gillan’s stepmother had found her out – again.
Not with her fingers in the till of the corner shop where she worked as Myra’s assistant. No, no, nothing like that. Just agreeing to a bit of extra credit for certain customers, that was all. And you’d need a heart of stone to say no, wouldn’t you, if you thought the bairns had nothing to eat? This being 1935 with Scotland, like everywhere else, in the grip of a depression and so many folk without jobs.
Not that Lindy thought Aunt Myra, as she called her stepmother, had a heart of stone. Not really. She had to think of making a profit in Murchie’s Provisions, which she managed for a lady-owner they never saw, or the shop would fail and then where would they be? Lindy and Myra would be out of work and Scott Street – that dark, sloping row of tenements in Edinburgh’s Old Town – would lose its one bright spot. For that was the way most folk saw Murchie’s, even if Lindy herself daydreamed of one day getting away.
Was that what was called a pipe dream? She smiled as she saw it was six o’clock and time to pull down the blind over the door that said ‘Closed’, scarcely listening to Aunt Myra droning on in the background. She’d heard it all before, or something very similar.
This time it seemed that Myra – a bony woman in her forties with stringy blonde hair and narrow green eyes – had come back from the post office in time to see Aggie Andrews leaving the shop with a great stuffed shopping bag. And had guessed at once what Lindy had been up to. Now, didn’t she know very well that Aggie had had her credit stopped when she’d never paid off a penny? So what was Lindy thinking of, then?
Standing at the shop counter, Aggie Andrews’ tick book in her hand, her eyes fixed on her stepdaughter’s long, slender back, Myra was beginning to get annoyed.
‘Lindy, are you listening to me?’
‘Sure I am, Aunt Myra.’
Lindy, opening wide her dark blue eyes as though amazed at her stepmother doubting her, moved back to the counter.
She had known Myra all her life; from the age of three, anyway, when her father, George, had married her; his first wife, Janie, died when Lindy was born. Struan, her brother, was two at the time, and for those first years before Myra came, their grandmother, George’s mother, looked after them while George was away at the war. But then Grandma died and next thing they knew they had a stepmother, who wasn’t too bad, did her best, but oh dear, she was a bit on the sharp side, they had to admit. Neither Lindy nor Struan let her fault finding and occasional lectures upset them, though.
‘It’s water off a duck’s back for you two,’ George would sometimes say admiringly, but then he was so easy-going himself, it was the same for him.
All in all they made the best of things, living across the road from Murchie’s at number nineteen, Scott Street, a tenement packed with tenants they had learned to put up with, trying not to worry too much about the future – though lately of course the threat of unemployment was always with them. Struan, now twenty-two, had joined his father at Bayne’s Brewery, hoping they’d both be all right – folk still drank, eh? While Lindy, at twenty, had her daydreams, and who could blame her? She was such a beautiful girl, everyone said, something good would be sure to happen to her.
Beautiful? Well, it wasn’t for her to say, but Lindy thought perhaps she was. When she looked in the mirror and saw her heart-shaped face, her perfectly straight nose, her glossy dark hair she kept fashionably short (always saying she’d rather die than not have a good cut), she was inclined to hope that one day she would be lucky. You never knew, did you? On the other hand, being a beauty in Scott Street was not such a good start. Had to work pretty hard to believe the dreams, if you thought of that. Lindy still believed them, anyway.
‘What was I thinking of?’ she repeated on that bleak January evening when she was longing to put on her coat and go home. ‘I suppose I was thinking of Aggie’s bairns, that’s all. Aggie said she could manage a few days with what I let her have. A few onions and potatoes, a cabbage, ham, and two loaves of bread. No’ much, eh?’
‘No’ much?’ cried Myra. ‘It’s a lot. Added to what she already owes, she’s never going to pay for it.’
‘I did write it down in her book,’ Lindy said calmly. ‘No fiddling. And as soon as her Tam gets a few days’ work, she’s promised to pay something off. You have to think of the bairns, eh?’
‘Think I don’t? I lie awake worrying about the bairns. But if I let people keep on having ticks, you know what’ll happen.’ Myra leaped to her feet. ‘Och, we’ll away home. The men’ll be back any minute and I’ve the stew to heat up – no rest for the wicked. Get your coat, Lindy.’
Having locked the door of the shop they stood for a moment peering at the street, where the wet road glittered in the weak light of the gas lamps.
‘Let’s cross,’ Myra muttered. ‘Take care, now.’
Together they gingerly crossed the street and into the comparative warmth of number nineteen, where they had no stairs to climb, being on the ground floor. No men had arrived when they let themselves in, and only a sleepy ginger cat greeted them as they hurried about, stoking up the range, moving the kettle, putting on pans.
‘Mind now, Gingerboy!’ Myra cried, moving the cat from her feet, and Lindy, setting out his milk, thought: I’m glad I did give Aggie credit, anyway, whatever Aunt Myra says. Now I can think of all her family having something to eat when we’re having our stew.
Scott Street, running between the High Street and the Cowgate, was not, unlike some Old Town streets, a place that had gone down in the world, for most would agree that it had never been up. While the ceilings of its houses were high and their windows long, the street had been built for ordinary folk, the aim being to house as many families as possible, which meant that each floor had two or three flats, some consisting of only one room, some being a little pricier with two, and a few superior ones with three.
The Gillans were lucky – they had one with three: a pleasant living room with a box bed in one corner and two proper bedrooms. No bathroom, of course, but their own WC, which was luxury indeed compared with the lot of the poor souls in the single-room flats, who had to use the one on the stairhead.
‘Better than in the old days, anyhow,’ some would say. ‘When folk just used to shout “Gardyloo!” and throw their dirty water and slops out of the window!’
Thank heavens number nineteen didn’t go that far back, Lindy would think, and was pleased enough that she was living in 1935. But that didn’t stop her adding a smart house to her wish list of clothes that she hadn’t had to run up on Myra’s sewing machine. All part of getting away, wasn’t it?
Having been brought up at number nineteen Lindy knew all the tenants, old and new, and could have reeled off their names from top to bottom, but only two were special – Jemima Kerry and Neil MacLauren. Jemima lived with her widowed mother on the second floor, and worked as live-in lady’s maid to a Mrs Dalrymple in the New Town, while Neil was one of five brothers whose parents lived at the top. He worked as a printer but had ambitions to be a writer, thought by most at number nineteen to be a bit of a laugh.
Jemima, small with ginger hair and hazel eyes, was twenty-four and rather on the plain side. ‘Aye, no’ married yet,’ she would sigh, then laugh for she didn’t care, only loved her job and was good at it, and could hold Lindy in thrall with her stories of life ‘upstairs’: the parties and dances, the splendid meals, the beautiful clothes and the daughter’s presentation to the King at Holyrood.