Wash Day in the 50s

It was always Monday and a real chore, especially if the weather was poor.

On would go the big galvanised zinc boiler on legs to heat up. It had a large lid, and a tap for draining the hot soapy water away later. Rinsing of the clothes and bedding was done in the big Belfast sink before everything went through a mangle. Then, if the weather was kind, all the washing was pegged out on several lines strung across the back yard, and raised up by home-made clothes props.

Every time the boiler lid was raised clouds of steam filled the kitchen. At various points the washing was 'possed' - a wooden stick worn thin and smooth by much usage - by swirling the clothes in the boiler. Mum added dolly blue bags to the water to enhance the whiteness of the wash. Soap powders were Omo or Daz or Persil and, of course, Robin starch. For hand washing it was always Lux Soap Flakes and for heavy soiling on shirt collars and cuffs then it was Fairy Green Household soap, energetically scrubbed on the wooden draining board of the sink.

The clothes off the line were carried back into the house in a hue white enamel bowl and then either draped on lines in the kitchen to finish drying, or brought into the living room to go on wooden clothes horses around the coal fire. No chance of seeing the fire once the washing took over!

The one luxury item we had was that because Mum had worked for the Electricity Board before the war, she had a very 'modern' iron. Some friends of Mum's were still using flat irons.

We pegged out using Dolly pegs. Every year the Hoppings came to Newcastle - a huge fair - and this was when Gypsies used to come round the houses selling baskets of Dolly pegs and tiny sprigs of white heather.

This was also the era of knife sharpeners and the rag and bone men.

Dorne Coggins