BNC Text K6L

Oral history project: interview. Sample containing about 7341 words speech recorded in leisure context

3 speakers recorded by respondent number C634

PS5LX X f (Margaret, age unknown, historian) unspecified
PS5LY X f (jo ellen, age unknown, historian) unspecified
PS5M0 Ag5 f (Nan, age 70+, retired french polisher) unspecified

1 recordings

  1. Tape 100301 recorded on unknown date. Location: Probably Glasgow Or Area, Possib () Activity: Interview for oral history project Interview, reminiscences

Undivided text

Margaret (PS5LX) [1] third nineteen eighty nine, this is Margaret with Jo Ellen in the home of Nan , Glasgow. [break in recording]
jo ellen (PS5LY) [2] Well when Margaret suggested er doing a project on French polishing, I had to admit that I didn't really know what French polishing was.
[3] Er
Nan (PS5M0) [4] Mhm.
jo ellen (PS5LY) [5] could you tell me er
Nan (PS5M0) [6] Well French polishing is what they term the original polishing of furniture.
[7] You know, that was Now that is a mahogany table, now that table is in It's been stripped.
[8] Now the first er process after that, it's all sanded down, and then there's a sort of whitening mixture, stooking mixture, is all rubbed into that and you've to wait till it dries.
[9] Then that's rubbed up, that's to fill in the grain of the wood.
[10] That helps it you don't need so much polish if they use that they they fill that in.
[11] Then after that it's all sanded down and it's [...] it's stained after that, it's stained.
[12] And then it's sanded down you'd use a terrific amount of sandpaper.
[13] It's all sanded down again, then you put your first coat Now you use what you call a rubber which is consists of a piece of cotton wool You know you know, cotton wool
jo ellen (PS5LY) [14] Mm.
Nan (PS5M0) [15] that you use like the chemist.
jo ellen (PS5LY) [16] Yes.
Nan (PS5M0) [17] And a cotton rag over the top of that.
[18] And you have er French polish which is shellac
jo ellen (PS5LY) [19] Mhm.
Nan (PS5M0) [20] and methylated spirits.
[21] It's diluted with methylated spirits.
[22] And it's raw linseed oil, you dip your you have it in a dish and you dip this pad into the into this dish and you put a little drop of raw linseed oil on that, and you work it in and you go round and round in circles and you you know, I mean, and that's left.
[23] You maybe turn this table upside down and then you work on the legs.
jo ellen (PS5LY) [24] Mhm.
Nan (PS5M0) [25] The same procedure.
[26] And you coat that.
[27] Then you leave it and then it's sanded down again and er the same procedure only you use thinner polish you know, you dilute it you make your polish thinner.
[28] And you dilute it with more methylated spirits.
[29] But you've got to be very very careful because if you use too much methylated spirits, it cuts and takes the polish off.
[30] So And you have to don't use too much oil and you use the oil on it you know, and then when you get what we call a good body on it, that's when all the pores is filled up.
[31] And then it's sanded down again.
[32] Then you do what you call, colour it.
[33] Now you've seen different See that see that light part of the wood
jo ellen (PS5LY) [34] Mm.
Nan (PS5M0) [35] there.
[36] Well you mix up er ... you mix up some colours, black and er and black and wh i stuff Bismarck brown which Mix them together and you make a colour to match up the rest and maybe bring in darker streaks and make a pat You know what I mean?
jo ellen (PS5LY) [37] Mm.
Nan (PS5M0) [38] See that would have to be all darkened down that See that light bit of the wood, that's got to be all darkened down and brought up The colours is all sort of you see, matching and that.
[39] You know, sort of match That's French polished.
[40] Mhm.
[41] You can see that's got a [...] there.
jo ellen (PS5LY) [42] Mm.
Nan (PS5M0) [43] It's just [...] polisher he could get a job, see that. [laugh]
jo ellen (PS5LY) [laugh]
Nan (PS5M0) [44] So however [...] And then you start you've got to start and use very little polish and very little methylated spirits and what we call to work out the the all that oil has to be lifted out and it's you dra it's you work in circles and work in circles cos that fills in the pores and then near when you're on maybe bout the last th th takes about three or four coats you know, working on it All depends just how how how long it takes to get it filled up.
[45] And after your colouring after your colouring you sandpaper it very very f very fine sandpaper.
[46] And er you get out give it another coat with a thingummy and then you work straight across straight across and you just gradually add maybe just a wee drop of methylated spirits till you get all that oil and you see it glistening.
[47] You know, the oil gets lifted out.
[48] You know, and then you leave it It's what they term soft and it's got to be left to sort of harden you know, and then some instances some people prefer a dull polish, they don't like a a very bright and they'll say what they call pumi powdered pumice stone and they put that sprinkle that on, and it's got to be done a certain way with a brush so to not to leave any marks.
[49] You know, to brush it and it leaves a very very dull surface.
[50] You see lots of er antique dealers and you know, people that you know, there's there's different classes of people that like well what they term, the dull polish.
[51] And others like a really brilliant polish you know, they [...] like to see their things shining like a threepenny bit.
[52] [laugh] But er there's quite a lot of it's it's hard work.
[53] You know, it really is, it's hard work.
[54] But er when just before I left the polishing which was in nineteen thirty eight, er they were bringing in a lot of cellu it's all th a lot of all this modern stuff is what they call cellulose, but I couldn't tell you how it's done, it's done with a spray.
[55] I never work because it was a small workshop that I worked in and in the south side where I belonged, there was an awful lot of Polish people and Jews and they had all these wee furniture places and they made up There was quite a community you know, they were had wee workshops and cabinet makers and my boss was a Latvian.
[56] And er he was a first class tradesman you know, really really made quite good stuff.
[57] And er was very very fussy very very fussy you know.
[58] So but
jo ellen (PS5LY) [59] What [...] What was the name of the firm?
Nan (PS5M0) [60] Well he was called Fred you know, German you know,
jo ellen (PS5LY) [spelling] []
Nan (PS5M0) [61] C It's [spelling] [] .
jo ellen (PS5LY) [...]
Nan (PS5M0) [62] Yeah you know.
[63] Eh er but er he had flown from Latvia.
[64] He said that He used to tell me about his country that you know it was taken over by the Russians and then it'd be taken over by the Germans and You know what I mean.
[65] And then he he him and his wife fled you know, that would be er er the you know the rising the communist [...] rising you know.
[66] They came to Britain penniless.
jo ellen (PS5LY) [67] Mm.
Nan (PS5M0) [68] But he was a first class tradesman.
[69] But there was a whole lot, there was an awful lot of Polish community cabi
jo ellen (PS5LY) [70] What part That's South side, where ?
Nan (PS5M0) [71] In the South side.
jo ellen (PS5LY) [72] Where?
Nan (PS5M0) [73] All round about er the Clydeside you know, round about erm
jo ellen (PS5LY) [74] Is it [...] .
Nan (PS5M0) [75] No no er in the Sou the th [...] 's North the
jo ellen (PS5LY) [...]
Nan (PS5M0) [76] It's the South side of the river right enough, but the South side that er I'm talking about is the er round about the Richmond Park and the the you know, facing the the you the other side of the Glasgow Green, Street, along that way and all that area.
[77] [...] and all that area.
jo ellen (PS5LY) [78] What street was Fred on?
Nan (PS5M0) [79] He was on the Street.
[80] It was that Street then.
[81] And er just a small three roomed shop and they had er they had cabinet makers and French polishers you know?
[82] But he had worked with a big er in a great big firm and he then he branched out on his own you know.
[83] But he was a very very hard worker you know.
[84] And er my chum's mother, she was a forewoman French polisher and he asked her to come and er work along with him you know, but it was I mean that was during the depression years, that was in the [...] the twenties right through to the you know the The first bright spot was when the Queen Mary got started it gave people And then of course, just after that, things was beginning to pick up, but it was really preparing for war.
[85] That's [...] .
[86] But er then of course I got married and I never went to I used to do occasional stuff you know, but I never [...] enjoyed it er
jo ellen (PS5LY) [87] Mhm.
Nan (PS5M0) [88] But there were some like Cathy's er My chum was Cathy and it was her mother and she was a first class French French polisher you know, and her daughter was a French polisher who was a chum of mine and her son was a cabinet maker and er we used to laugh [laugh] we used to say.
[89] [...] different people you say, Oh my, your house must be lovely Mrs .
[90] Er you've two French polishers.
[91] [laughing] And she used to say, I had to run and shut all the doors. []
[92] [laugh] [laughing] She says, For the blue bloom. []
[93] [laugh] You know [laughing] the bloom that comes on furniture []
jo ellen (PS5LY) [...]
Nan (PS5M0) [94] [laughing] you know [] . [laugh]
jo ellen (PS5LY) [95] Is that what you call it, the blue bloom?
Nan (PS5M0) [96] Blue bloom.
jo ellen (PS5LY) [97] Is that an official name?
Nan (PS5M0) [98] No it's just a sort of you know, you've seen furniture you know that that's sort of damp.
[99] It's the atmosphere that causes it you know .
jo ellen (PS5LY) [100] [...] Of course.
[101] Right.
[102] Yes.
[103] Yes.
[104] Mm.
Nan (PS5M0) [105] But er you used to [...] say, Oh Mrs , Oh your place must be lovely.
[106] [laughing] She said to run and shut all the doors. []
[107] [laugh] She says in case the folk see the blue bloom, because she was out working.
jo ellen (PS5LY) [108] Of course.
Nan (PS5M0) [109] And Cathy was out working and her her her sons was were were all you know what I mean, they were all but e the father wasn't working.
[110] He only got started to work just about a couple of years before the war.
[111] He was idle for years you know.
[112] But it was er you know, it was a lot of [...] wee thriving community you know,ju just wee individual shops you know, but they were nearly all There was an awful lot of Jews that you know, that what you'd term [...] the Gorbels that's I couldn't get the name, the Gorbels area .
jo ellen (PS5LY) [113] Aha.
Nan (PS5M0) [114] The Gorbels area was surrounded with er you know, wee cabinet making shops and all that sort of thing you know.
[115] But er is there anything else you would like to know girls?
jo ellen (PS5LY) [116] Sure erm it's such an exact craft such and art, how did you how did get into it, how did you
Nan (PS5M0) [117] Well actually how I got into it was I was idle at the time and er my two chums were French polishers and as I've said and they said, Er now would you like to come in and try it?
[118] Well at that particular time [...] on the bureau, the means test was prevalent then and you were getting twelve shillings a week.
[119] And I started with twelve shillings a week .
jo ellen (PS5LY) [120] Mhm.
Nan (PS5M0) [121] And my my aunt that I my grandmother that I stayed with, their neighbour down the stair was quite indignant and saying [...] , I'm away to work and she's getting twelve shillings the same.
[122] And my aunt said, Well I would prefer her to to if that's what she wants to do and she's gonna learn something that might be a benefit to her later on in life.
[123] That's that.
[124] So that was er that was how and I was in I was I was at Well I think I was about nineteen er eighteen or nineteen at the time you know .
jo ellen (PS5LY) [125] Mm.
Nan (PS5M0) [126] and then of course er nineteen thirty eight, I got married
jo ellen (PS5LY) [127] Mhm.
Nan (PS5M0) [128] you know.
[129] But the boss had actually failed then.
[130] He was he was actually
jo ellen (PS5LY) [131] Yes.
Nan (PS5M0) [132] He failed because l all clever tradesmen, they had a drink problem you know, and th this was the you know it was just
jo ellen (PS5LY) [133] [...] his business had failed you mean?
[134] Yes yes yeah.
Nan (PS5M0) [135] Business had failed aha.
[136] And er there was a great big cabinet making place, along Street.
[137] At the at the Gorbels and after I was married During the war there was a terrific fire and he was burned to death in the lift going up to bring the girls down.
[138] He went to back to work in the factory in the big cabinet making factory, and there was a fire and he went up to help some of the girls and he was trapped in the lift.
jo ellen (PS5LY) [139] Mm.
Nan (PS5M0) [140] And he was burned to death.
[141] You know there was there was quite a there was quite a number of people er lost their lives at that particular time.
jo ellen (PS5LY) [142] What year was that?
Nan (PS5M0) [143] Now it must have been er it was during the war.
[144] Now the war was er thirty nine [...] I think it would be er I think it would be about s forty one or forty two.
[145] You know, and his
jo ellen (PS5LY) [...]
Nan (PS5M0) [146] his son worked in the same er place.
[147] But er there was a lot there was a lot of girls and th I don't know what had what had happened but I mean, that was the worst thing, he'd went up in the lift and there was quite there was some other the rest of the people in the lift er was trapped and was burned to death you know, [...] tragic end.
[148] But erm this was at erm you know, he was a very very intelligent man and you know, he could talk on any subject you know, but this is it.
[149] That's life you know.
Margaret (PS5LX) [150] So how many years were you a French polisher then?
[151] You started in nineteen
Nan (PS5M0) [152] I would say I would say a a I would say about er eighteen [...] .
[153] About er eight years you know.
[154] I got married you know.
jo ellen (PS5LY) [155] How long did it take you to learn how to do?
Nan (PS5M0) [156] Well ... I was thrown in at the deep end Different persons came in maybe if we had a job in a hurry and they would say, Oh you're on at such and such a time at this.
[157] But then I got pushed forward you know ?
jo ellen (PS5LY) [158] Mm.
Nan (PS5M0) [159] You started to work on the insides you know the [...] got er th you varnished and sandpapered the insides of wardrobes, that's where you started.
jo ellen (PS5LY) [160] Mm.
Nan (PS5M0) [161] And staining, I know, the dirty you know, the dirty work
jo ellen (PS5LY) [162] Mm.
Nan (PS5M0) [163] and then gradually they would give you a wee bit say maybe the legs or something to do a er polish you know show you how to start you know, how to rubber and how to fold your the cotton wool.
[164] [...] fo fold the cotton over the the the cotton wool and how to you know just so much.
[165] But er my [...] was a laugh you know she was really good, good te
jo ellen (PS5LY) [166] Did she show you most of it?
Nan (PS5M0) [167] Yes she kept aha she kept y she kept you right.
[168] Er [...] aye she she oh aye she we worked t together you know, but
jo ellen (PS5LY) [169] Was there [...]
Nan (PS5M0) [170] Sometimes it was a hunger and a burst you know, [...] jobs come in
jo ellen (PS5LY) [171] Mm.
Nan (PS5M0) [172] and they would be oh you know, waiting [...] but er it was really funny [laughing] you used to see [] couples would order a bedroom suite and you see, what do they want They're getting married getting married and they'd they'd be phoning [...] not ready, not ready, not ready.
[173] All they need is the bed.
[174] All they need is the bed.
[175] [laugh] You know you used to, All they need is the bed.
[176] Why are they worried about wardrobes when they're getting married [...] all they need's a bed.
[177] [laugh] But er oh he was an awful man you know.
[178] But er it was it's really hard work you know.
jo ellen (PS5LY) [179] It sounds like it.
Nan (PS5M0) [180] And you know when you start on the inside of wardrobes, you're drunk when you come out.
Margaret (PS5LX) [181] Oh I bet.
Nan (PS5M0) [182] There's the smell of the fumes you know ?
Margaret (PS5LX) [...]
Nan (PS5M0) [183] And there's an awful lot of polishers take to drinking methylated spirits.
[184] You know.
[185] There's quite a lot of them that used to drink that.
[186] Us the boss used to say, I like the polishers [laughing] [...] they can just blow their breath [...] spirits [] .
Margaret (PS5LX) [187] So it wasn't well ventilated?
jo ellen (PS5LY) [188] Mm.
Nan (PS5M0) [189] No you couldn't I mean er at you know the the doors wouldn't be open be I mean you know, you could picture a wardrobe without a door, but you were working you were sandpapering that on the inside and er maybe brushing it up and down and then sandpapering that again and then they had to go over with what we call the rubber.
[190] You know, to leave a soft er finish you know.
[191] And to m make it smooth on the inside.
Margaret (PS5LX) [192] Cos they're like satin some of those [...] Yes.
[193] Yes .
Nan (PS5M0) [194] Aye [...] .
[195] The old ones are.
Margaret (PS5LX) [196] It really is good quality furniture hand finished.
Nan (PS5M0) [197] Oh aye.
[198] Mhm.
Margaret (PS5LX) [199] Mm.
[200] What sort of folk bought the furniture?
Nan (PS5M0) [201] Well er we did er furniture for quite a lot of the well known warehouses.
[202] And that in Street, that w they had worked in Now I forget the name of the big firm but they'd come out of one of the big er furniture warehouses and they started up on their own.
[203] And er that was the first time I'd ever seen a continental headboard.
[204] And they had got this contract for this er this lawyer who there was a great big er case it had run for long enough.
[205] Something to do with som something to do with a cotton mill in Paisley and it was s s s W I c just cannae recall what it was but it was a great big trial, there was a And er this this lawyer he had done quite well out of this case but it was a quite That must have been in er about nineteen twenty nineteen thirties about nineteen thirty two.
[206] But this was this big case was on you know, and it went on A big lawsuit it went on for quite a while.
[207] And the he had er these two men had started up then they started up and i They're still there to You know what i mean, I don't know if there's the same men are there, but 's still up in Street.
[208] And they started that and they were sent out to this big villa and er that was the first time I had seen a continental headboard and er we couldn't understand what it was you know.
[209] Great big when they you know when they brought it in you know, a great big thing you know and we said, What's this about?
[210] Do you know?
[211] And er then of course the bed was put in it and then there was you know things as the s pillars at the side.
[212] And er we'd done quite a l we'd he'd refurnished his who Th You know they got the contract to furnish the whole house and it was beautiful you know.
[213] Very very modern then.
[214] And er very very up date.
[215] But it was that's what it that's where er you know, there was he had been quite successful in this lawsuit you know, he'd made quite a bit of money.
[216] So that was the start of and lots of different And then we used to get er maybe a wee special jobs in for antiques.
[217] I we did quite a lot of these er these wee slipper boxes.
[218] Antique slipper boxes.
[219] And we would polish them so far, then kick them up and down the shop you know, to make them
Margaret (PS5LX) [220] Yeah.
Nan (PS5M0) [221] battered and you know, [...] .
[222] You know.
[223] They were rubbed with soot at the edges and to you know, just And then polished up and just to make them look er antique.
Margaret (PS5LX) [224] Even then they were doing that ?
Nan (PS5M0) [225] Even Aha.
[226] That was that was then that wa er I mean people knew that they weren't antiques but they were imitation antiques you know, but they were well made.
[227] And then er that's one of t the the boss made that cabinet there er it's got the [...] feet er but and these are what they call astricles These panes of glass are all in er individually you know, they're all put in and to polish these wee astricles oh you you had to be very deli cos they're very thin you know, and you had to flay them and polish and they lay them in the thing and then they they were fitted in and then the glass was The doors were sent to the glaziers Certain amount of polish on them and then the doors were sent to the glazers and then they were finished after that you know.
[228] But er
jo ellen (PS5LY) [229] Yeah.
Nan (PS5M0) [230] and then there was another man a way up Street and and he'd made the claw carved the claw and balls.
[231] See you can see the claw and balls.
[232] They were hand carved you know.
jo ellen (PS5LY) [233] Beautiful.
Nan (PS5M0) [234] Mm.
[235] But
jo ellen (PS5LY) [236] How long did it take to make erm pieces or like this tale, how long would it take to do ?
Nan (PS5M0) [237] Well ... To polish it or to make it ?
jo ellen (PS5LY) [238] [...] Oh to to polish it to finish it off .
Nan (PS5M0) [239] To polish it.
[240] Well I would say, I mean you you would be working on that and then be working on something else .
jo ellen (PS5LY) [241] Something else.
Nan (PS5M0) [242] And you would go back to that and you would maybe have um you maybe had you'd maybe have a chest of drawers and the drawers were out and you would be polishing you know, doing so much on them, put them aside and then go back to that.
[243] It would take about er it would take about three days like to to really give it and then it would have to lie for a wee while to to harden you know, the polish to harden.
[244] But erm French polish is easier [...] than the cellulose polish
jo ellen (PS5LY) [245] Mhm.
Nan (PS5M0) [246] because er I mean you put anything hot down on that and e the tip is if you put anything down hot, you take a rag and a a saucer with some raw linseed oil and you heat the rag and you rub it gently and it brings sometimes [yawn] you know the the the white marks.
jo ellen (PS5LY) [247] Mhm.
Nan (PS5M0) [248] And sometimes brasso just dipped you know?
jo ellen (PS5LY) [249] Mhm.
Nan (PS5M0) [250] Just brasso er rubbed into it can you know help to lift because there's something in the brasso.
[251] But it it it needs the heat to lift the the the white p You've seen the white polish
jo ellen (PS5LY) [252] Mhm.
Nan (PS5M0) [253] stain marks on it.
[254] Well now you know.
[255] But er [break in recording]
Nan (PS5M0) [256] There's quite a lot there used to be quite a contingent worked in ships and of course it's all stain work and just sprayed now.
[257] You know
jo ellen (PS5LY) [...]
Nan (PS5M0) [258] Oh some beautiful work.
[259] You know but er they're really a lot of hard working women you know and er
Margaret (PS5LX) [260] Was it mostly women?
[261] Nearly all women?
Nan (PS5M0) [262] Now there's men French polishers too.
[263] There's men.
Margaret (PS5LX) [264] Half and half or er more one than the other?
Nan (PS5M0) [265] There's more there was more er women French polishers but there there was a quite a there was quite a few men.
[266] And then there was different er types of polishing.
[267] There was oak and that didn't have as much work as mahogany and then there was er what they call the I don't know whether you'll ever have remembered seeing it but there was a fashion for a while just bef in the thirties what they called limed oak.
[268] They're beginning to bring it back in again.
[269] That's [...] you open the you know you put a layer of polish on so much and sandpapered it down.
[270] Then you put this lime wash and l white like whitening.
[271] And you rubbed it into the grain and you sandpapered that and it left white
Margaret (PS5LX) [272] Mm.
Nan (PS5M0) [273] Have you seen it?
Margaret (PS5LX) [274] I've seen it.
jo ellen (PS5LY) [275] Mhm.
Margaret (PS5LX) [276] I didn't know what it was called.
Nan (PS5M0) [277] That's aha.
[278] But er oo er that's what it was called.
[279] Er you know the you used a a wire brush to open the pores to rub this into it.
[280] But th i i i I was reading somewhere that they're bringing it back in again.
[281] Lime wash you know.
[282] And er then there was er oak and then there was different kinds of woods that you used to could you know s er imitate, make them look like maybe er er walnut.
[283] That's walnut there.
[284] That was a wee er [...] that er made that.
[285] On the South side.
[286] [...] that's a record cabinet.
jo ellen (PS5LY) [287] Mm.
Nan (PS5M0) [288] But er it was made to my uncle's specification like you know just for keeping gra er gramophone records in you know.
[289] But er this this is it.
Margaret (PS5LX) [290] Would they have been old fashioned records, the seventy eights?
Nan (PS5M0) [291] Aye there's er there's one of Caruso's records in there.
[292] I've got Caruso.
[293] My uncle Alec was he came away from America.
[294] He was in America when the world war broke out.
jo ellen (PS5LY) [295] Mm.
Nan (PS5M0) [296] First world war broke out and er he brought The gramophones were just being introduced.
[297] I mean America had them you know really And he brought one that er I think [...] one or two Caruso's records.
[298] The the great big old fashioned record there.
[299] Brought quite a lot of And he brought the gramophone with him you know.
[300] And he come over to fight for his country.
[301] [laugh] But er och aye.
[302] But th to go back to the the polishing, it really was it was you know, really hard work and But there was a great band of I mean the the used to Different firms that would h have a lot of work on one place and then they would move and then some would go to the shipyards.
[303] And there was a lot of work at that particular time in the shipyards.
[304] You know for polishers you know, when the boat was
Margaret (PS5LX) [305] Yes.
Nan (PS5M0) [306] And the though some were would actually go on the boats when after they were launched and finish the polishing you know.
[307] But I never ever worked on a boat you know.
[308] But er just er just different er Then during the war I I did the some of the er work for the cooperative you know, like fire damage or water damage and that you know.
[309] But er I never worked very much after a after I got married.
[310] I used to do just occasional jobs you know.
[311] And at that particular time there used to be er what do you call it, the fashion was mantlepieces.
Margaret (PS5LX) [312] Oh yes.
Nan (PS5M0) [313] And that was one of the first jobs I I practically did on my own.
[314] Somebody'd asked me and everybody was wanted their er these er imitation fireplaces.
[315] You know
Margaret (PS5LX) [316] Mhm.
Nan (PS5M0) [317] the mantlepiece.
[318] It was a wooden and pillars you know this was all down here and this this all'd to be French polished.
[319] That was j that was the ne About thirty six thirty seven everybody was wanting their French polished you know.
[320] And then pull out tables was in vogue then.
[321] And er they were quite tricky to to work with too.
[322] And er chairs, there was some factories did nothing else but chairs.
[323] You know that er French pol There was er factories away out at that just er [...] that did nothing else but take chair work you know.
Margaret (PS5LX) [324] Mhm.
Nan (PS5M0) [325] And erm my [...] used to tell me about er when they were serving their time, all the apprentices used to clump their work on a Monday afternoon to go to the panopticon [laugh] And at that particular time, they had turns on and if they didn't like them they pelted them with tomatoes and oranges and they had a big hook for [laugh] for pulling them off the stage. [laugh]
Margaret (PS5LX) [326] Where was this?
Nan (PS5M0) [327] You know, where the [...] is?
[328] Well there's a building just along there, it's it's into er shops now but there was a well it was er er er no Aye aye .
[329] He had this erm He was really a you know, he was really a character, one of the Glasgow characters.
[330] And he had this theatre the panopticon and er
Margaret (PS5LX) [...]
Nan (PS5M0) [331] the the apprentices er and the polish the you know the cabinet makers you know, young boys.
[332] And the f the the younger apprentices used to plunk on a Monday afternoon and all go along to Street to the this and she says, You didn't need to buy sweeties it was [...] the rails of the gallery were sticking with toffee.
[333] [laughing] [...] was really finny. []
[334] And she says they you know what I mean, they had a great they really had a good laugh.
Margaret (PS5LX) [335] Would they lose an afternoon's pay?
Nan (PS5M0) [336] Aha.
Margaret (PS5LX) [337] They weren't paid?
Nan (PS5M0) [338] They would.
[339] No.
[340] The the this was just at a just a custom you know.
Margaret (PS5LX) [341] Mhm.
jo ellen (PS5LY) [342] Mhm.
Nan (PS5M0) [343] This is a just a custom you know and they just all skipped er their work and and they had a a right what we call a good tear. [laugh] .
Margaret (PS5LX) [344] Now the cabinet makers were serving their time, an apprenticeship you say .
Nan (PS5M0) [345] Aha.
Margaret (PS5LX) [346] Was that a five year apprenticeship?
Nan (PS5M0) [347] Yes.
[348] Be a five year then.
[349] And
Margaret (PS5LX) [350] And what about the French polishers, did you call that an apprenticeship too ?
Nan (PS5M0) [351] Well while you had an apprenticeship you had about four years.
Margaret (PS5LX) [352] Before you were fully fledged .
Nan (PS5M0) [353] Had four years.
[354] Aha.
Margaret (PS5LX) [355] Mm.
Nan (PS5M0) [356] Had four year and then you you went to a you'd a sort of four year er
Margaret (PS5LX) [357] And after that you could you really were in control of anything.
Nan (PS5M0) [358] Well you were supposed to be able to you know, be able to take command you know.
[359] But into your fifth year and you were supposed to be really you know, fully fledged but I mean you hade about four years to serve.
[360] You know but er oh there was a happy bane you know, it was good.
[361] There was good company.
[362] We had er we were all quite good friends and quite good company you know.
[363] But er we enjoyed it and as i say it was just like a family.
Margaret (PS5LX) [364] Yes.
[365] So just like a family, would you do anything special, say one of the girls got married or something like that?
Nan (PS5M0) [366] Er well there was none of them got married during the time that I was there.
[367] I mean that er shortly after it Molly was married at er Aye just a just before the war er broke out Molly was married, and Cathy got married during the war and I got ma er no The three of us got married just round about the same time you know.
[368] But as I say, the boss had er lost his business by then you know.
[369] But erm well you know what I mean th it was it was quite er It was really quite a sort of family atmosphere
Margaret (PS5LX) [370] Mm.
Nan (PS5M0) [371] I mean, Mrs 's son was a cabinet maker and the boss's son was there and then there was another Paul .
[372] [...] . He was a cabinet maker and er then the boss and we just all sort of worked You know sometimes we had a quite a lot of work going and other times we wouldn't have anything and other times you were standing waiting doing nothing, waiting in the job g coming for the cabinet makers who would send through legs, something to get started just as long as we got started to work, maybe it was in a hurry.
[373] We just started on different things you know.
[374] But er and other times we were just we were working to you know, quite late you know if the there was a special job that had to be out you know.
[375] But we did quite a a lot of work for E G in er Street.
[376] They were quite a well known er furniture very select furniture dealer you know.
[377] Different shops.
[378] Nice stuff And we did a lot of bureaus.
[379] You know?
Margaret (PS5LX) [380] Like like writing bureaus?
Nan (PS5M0) [381] Wr writing bureaus and er well th apprentices I was b started on the what they call the pigeon holes.
[382] They're they you they're all worked you know sandpapered and polished that's rough, what they call rough work and then you gradually go onto the maybe staining and the just quite a lot of oak and there's quite a lot of mahogany and walnut.
[383] And there's then he used to make great big er display cabinets with a cabinet with a full panelled door in the centre and two doors similar what your granny had you know, and er two w like er glass display cabinets in either side.
[384] And sometimes a bureau fitted on you know.
[385] Whatever was the order.
[386] But er then there was others sort of cheap joints you know, they just rushed things up and just a couple of just er When you see some of th You know that goodwill shop that that the thing when you when you see a lot of the things that's supposed to be polished, you know, they're just varnished over.
Margaret (PS5LX) [387] They're not polished [...]
Nan (PS5M0) [388] You know.
[389] Aye they're not really polished.
[390] But however I suppose it but it takes it's like everything else but it's a dead it really is a trade er Graham was saying to m to me when I was down in London, he says, It's a pity mum that you couldn't get work you know, I mean, you just didn't have the you know, your age and that to start work down here, he says, there'd be plenty of work for you.
[391] You know .
Margaret (PS5LX) [392] Yes, mhm.
Nan (PS5M0) [393] Plenty skill.
[394] Same with sign writers and all these sort of trades, they're all you know they're you know they're lacking a lot in the these things.
[395] He says there's stacks of work he says down i in London for people like that you know, that's
Margaret (PS5LX) [396] That are skilled.
Nan (PS5M0) [397] That're skilled you know.
Margaret (PS5LX) [398] Yes you don't here of many French polishers now.
Nan (PS5M0) [399] No.
[400] Mhm.
[401] No.
Margaret (PS5LX) [402] Do you know any?
Nan (PS5M0) [403] Er no I cannae say that er er There is one I I think there there used to be a a lad up the road there [...] I used to speak to his mother and she said he son was a French polisher.
[404] And my neighbour's husband down the stair, he was a first class French polisher.
[405] But he died a good about erm eight or nine years ago.
[406] And I have some of his polishes.
[407] He sent brought his polishes up to me.
[408] But they're still waiting on me polishing this
Margaret (PS5LX) [409] Mm.
Nan (PS5M0) [410] table here.
[411] So some of these Graham stripped it down, but some of these days I'll take a daft notion and er [laugh]
Margaret (PS5LX) [412] [...] three days.
[413] For three days.
Nan (PS5M0) [414] For three days.
Margaret (PS5LX) [415] [...] well what's easier, starting from scratch with a new thing that a cabinet maker has made or re refurbishing work like doing something over that's had marks and stuff?
Nan (PS5M0) [416] Oh I think er starting fr it's harder work starting Well it's hard work anyway th I mean sometimes er a a job that's been polished before, it's patchy but I mean that's really all stripped down to You know what I mean, it's it's a It's that's all stripped down to [...]
Margaret (PS5LX) [...]
Nan (PS5M0) [417] Ready for you know back to sort of it's original you know.
[418] But i See the likes of that wee there that wee dent in that?
Margaret (PS5LX) [419] Yes.
Nan (PS5M0) [420] Now do you know how you would fix that?
Margaret (PS5LX) [421] No idea.
Nan (PS5M0) [422] You would take a wet rag and a file you know, an ordinary file.
[423] Heat your file and put your wet rag on that and put the file the hot file you know, just
Margaret (PS5LX) [424] Yes.
Nan (PS5M0) [425] touch it up and that, the dap and the heat rises the wood.
Margaret (PS5LX) [426] Oh right.
Nan (PS5M0) [427] That rises the wood that would dry dry that
Margaret (PS5LX) [428] Kicks the dent out.
Nan (PS5M0) [429] Tha Aha.
[430] Just keep at it.
[431] Or if it was too deep, you could fill it with wax
Margaret (PS5LX) [432] Mhm.
Nan (PS5M0) [433] and what they call [...] .
[434] That's just something like you know, the the wax for er for s for sealing sealing wax it's something like that.
[435] And just you heat it and drip it in.
[436] That's if the dent was awful deep.
[437] And you just put a drop in there, heated and leave it till it hardens and then sandpaper it down level.
[438] You know.
[439] That er that brings it up.
Margaret (PS5LX) [...]
Nan (PS5M0) [440] But er tha this is how the the different things.
[441] But er n see that's a water mark there.
[442] Well that's been caused with a plant being put down in that now.
[443] That'll take [...] more sandpapering there and a bit camouflaging with your you wou use wee tiny tiny brushes.
Margaret (PS5LX) [444] Mhm.
Nan (PS5M0) [445] What they call colour brushes.
[446] You know to bring up the colour.
[447] And just bring you know just that sort of to raise that.
[448] So it's just like painting.
[449] It's a
Margaret (PS5LX) [450] Mm.
Nan (PS5M0) [451] very artistic
Margaret (PS5LX) [452] Yes.
Nan (PS5M0) [453] And your your eyesight gets very strained.
Margaret (PS5LX) [454] Yes I'm sure .
jo ellen (PS5LY) [455] Aha.
Nan (PS5M0) [456] Aye very strained with it you know.
[457] But er the colouring is really anybody that's really good at the colouring you know what I mean, they could do wonderful things you know, you could make plain wood look like like erm sort of walnut.
Margaret (PS5LX) [458] Mhm.
Nan (PS5M0) [459] You know they can make the designs with
Margaret (PS5LX) [460] Yes.
Nan (PS5M0) [461] these wee pencil brushes that colouring in bring out different er sort of, you know, knots and you know they bring in the pencil
Margaret (PS5LX) [462] Yes.
Nan (PS5M0) [463] marks and just er sort of make them brighter looking and you know, just make them a s a standing point you know.
jo ellen (PS5LY) [464] What was your favourite thing to do?
[465] What was
Nan (PS5M0) [466] Er my favourite thing er ... well I couldn't tell you that.
[467] I was always Because I started later i was always very sort of worried in case I wouldn't you know, get the thing right.
[468] Er I liked the colouring.
jo ellen (PS5LY) [469] Mm.
Nan (PS5M0) [470] And I liked er the the polishing you know, the what they call building up a body.
[471] But I was always you know, always awful tense at er There's a wee there's a wee woodworm there sitting.
Margaret (PS5LX) [472] You mean a live one?
Nan (PS5M0) [473] Aye.
Margaret (PS5LX) [474] Never.
Nan (PS5M0) [475] That's [...] .
jo ellen (PS5LY) [476] Gosh.
Nan (PS5M0) [477] No it's it's you wouldn't see it.
jo ellen (PS5LY) [478] No.
Nan (PS5M0) [479] Just er it might of been of course I had plants through there it might have been
Margaret (PS5LX) [480] Mm.
[481] Yes yes.
[482] Mm.
Nan (PS5M0) [483] But there's no woodworm there.
[484] In that.
[485] But it was just a wee just a tiny wee thing there.
jo ellen (PS5LY) [486] Mm.
Nan (PS5M0) [487] And er woodworms are is a rotten thing you know.
Margaret (PS5LX) [488] Mm.
Nan (PS5M0) [489] It's a rotten er And you can you you know you've to fill all the wee tiny holes.
[490] Dab them all with these Rentokil things to kill them.
[491] But erm can be a rotten thing to work with.
[492] Sometimes i they take the the hole the out and renew it then when it the colouring i that's when your colouring A good colourer is really
Margaret (PS5LX) [493] Mhm.
Nan (PS5M0) [494] It's like an it's very artistic you know.
[495] [...] work hard you know if
Margaret (PS5LX) [496] Mhm.
Nan (PS5M0) [497] anybody can camouflage and bring up the colouring you know.
[498] But er the likes of that See that mahogany band [...] round there.
jo ellen (PS5LY) [499] Yes.
Nan (PS5M0) [500] Well you see, you bring in your dark strokes
jo ellen (PS5LY) [501] Of course.
Margaret (PS5LX) [502] Mhm.
Nan (PS5M0) [503] You know you highlight these lights at you know.
[504] Highlight them erm and the likes of these bring them out.
[505] You know.
[506] See that's these are these are beech legs.
[507] They're not mahogany.
[508] They're beech.
Margaret (PS5LX) [509] You get to lear know all the woods then.
Nan (PS5M0) [510] Quite a lot I have .
Margaret (PS5LX) [511] Yes.
Nan (PS5M0) [512] Some aha .
Margaret (PS5LX) [513] Yes.
Nan (PS5M0) [514] But sad to say, the forests are getting more depleted there are good woods now you know that er this is it.
[515] This is another factor of er the wood you know.
[516] Er there er I think anybody would be that's really handy with [...] or that and [...] keen on woodwork, there's quite a lot of old furniture that er they could you know, remake
Margaret (PS5LX) [517] Mhm.
Nan (PS5M0) [518] With the old type of wood in them you know.
[519] But erm it's a it's a game.
Margaret (PS5LX) [520] Yes.
[521] Did you ever have commissions say for big houses?
[522] Like stately homes that kind of thing?
Nan (PS5M0) [523] Er well that was about the biggest, that that we worked on and we maybe had er some things for churches.
jo ellen (PS5LY) [524] Mm.
Nan (PS5M0) [525] Er for to you know, different er wee things and er [...] Aye sometimes er different er wee sort of wee tables for churches and
Margaret (PS5LX) [526] Yes.
Nan (PS5M0) [527] Wee things like that.
[528] But I couldn't sa I couldn't say that I ever worked on any of the big
Margaret (PS5LX) [529] No.
Nan (PS5M0) [530] big houses you know.
[531] But er I would I would have liked to have been able to done that you know.
[532] But we used to get sent out to after the stuff left out the the shop, we used to have to go maybe touch up anything
jo ellen (PS5LY) [533] Mm.
Nan (PS5M0) [534] that had got marked.
jo ellen (PS5LY) [535] Mm.
Nan (PS5M0) [536] In a lot of the different houses you know.
[537] Thing is that the furniture trade was really booming then,begin that was in the thir you know in the th er early thirties that was the
jo ellen (PS5LY) [538] Yes.
Nan (PS5M0) [539] really the turn of the circle.
[540] You know the the the furniture trade th the furniture
jo ellen (PS5LY) [541] [...] Between the war.
[542] Mm.
Nan (PS5M0) [543] trade was between the wars, things was beginning to pick up.
[544] I mean you could get erm a bedroom suite for about twenty pounds then.
[545] And a dining room suite er would be about six pounds something like that.
[546] Seven or eight pound.
[547] That's four chairs and a pull out table and a sideboard.
[548] And then of course the there were some a lot of them mass produced then there was the mass producer come in then.
[549] They were just sort of as I said, they used this celluloid.
Margaret (PS5LX) [550] Mhm.
Nan (PS5M0) [551] And the chairs were sprayed and [...] which made them which made things a lot cheaper.
[552] You know that people were able to afford this like everything else er mass produced I mean at er that the public get the benefit.
Margaret (PS5LX) [553] Mhm.
Nan (PS5M0) [554] You know things become cheaper.
[555] But erm wardrobes and different furniture and that you know.
[556] But this is it.
[557] That's life.
[558] It's a full circle.
[559] But now they're they're gasping for tradesmen now.
[560] This is
Margaret (PS5LX) [561] Mhm.
Nan (PS5M0) [562] the this is the the tragedy of it.
[563] But erm this you know.
[564] The just wo you would like to see a return but I mean, it's still it would be expensive.
jo ellen (PS5LY) [565] Yes.
Margaret (PS5LX) [566] Mhm.
Nan (PS5M0) [567] You know, to go back to the the way that with the you know what I mean, the the trade.
[568] As I say, Well you've you've to spend a lot of time.
[569] It's like everything else that's done by hand it's Aha .
Margaret (PS5LX) [570] That's it, time is money.
Nan (PS5M0) [571] Time and money you know.
Margaret (PS5LX) [572] Why is it called French polishing?
Nan (PS5M0) [573] I don't know how it came to be, whether it was the the French that really in invented it.
[574] I suppose there must have been something associated er you know, the French would proba they were really first in the field with all these sort of
jo ellen (PS5LY) [575] Mm.
Nan (PS5M0) [576] I mean if you listen to the antiques.
Margaret (PS5LX) [577] Yes.
jo ellen (PS5LY) [578] Mhm.
Nan (PS5M0) [579] The the antique show you can se, they can tell you you know, even by the polish.
jo ellen (PS5LY) [580] Mhm.
Nan (PS5M0) [581] And er you know, the different er things they can tell you just how l old a thing th And then I think they were the sort of the fashion [...] Er you know they were first in the fashion trade to introduce these sort of things you know.
[582] But it must have been something connected to the the French when the they said it was French polishing.
jo ellen (PS5LY) [583] Mhm.
Nan (PS5M0) [584] But I never ever though very much about it you know, it was just it was just a term.
[585] Now this is it.
Margaret (PS5LX) [586] Now you know all about it.
jo ellen (PS5LY) [587] Mm.
[588] Mhm.
Margaret (PS5LX) [589] It's great.
jo ellen (PS5LY) [590] Mm.
[591] Thank you.
[592] Yes. [recording ends]