Memories of Dundee - Part Eight

Street vendors were commonplace in my childhood - there were so many different ones. One of the first who comes to mind is the milk man who had a small two-wheeled cart pulled by a pony. On the cart was a huge metal churn with a tap from which the milk was drawn to fill the customer's pitchers and jugs. Being two-wheeled the cart sloped and I could never understand why the churn didn't fall off and spill the milk. Then there was the banana salesman who came round carrying a basket of bananas shouting "ripe bananas sixpence a dozen" he left his basket on the street one day to go round the doors with a few bunches and when he returned to where he left his basket, someone had pinched a lot of the bananas from it. I felt sorry for him.

There was also a fish-merchant, also with a horse-drawn cart, who was a regular caller. Then there was the cutler, in a horse-drawn van who sharpened knives, particularly those from butchers and cobbler's shops, he fascinated us with fireworks displays of sparks from his treadle-operated grindstone. Then there was the firewood merchant, selling bundles of sticks or 'kindling' as it was called, essential for the householder to get the fire lit in the morning. Then the was the coalman who called regularly, every householder had their own particular coal merchant, in the same way as they bought their groceries from a particular shop, so there were quite a number of different coalmen. You could always tell when a neighbour was getting coal because you could hear and even feel the tremble as the huge bags of coal were tipped into the coal bunker situated in the kitchen/living-room of the tenement houses. I felt sorry for our coalmen when he came one Saturday, telling us that his new lorry, which he had waited quite a while to get, and which he was so proud of had been requisitioned from him by the Government War Office to be converted into an army truck.

The firewood merchant, poor man became the unwitting stooge for our childhood pranks. We timed his cry to perfection and just before it was due we would all call out in unison, "What do you feed your cuddy (horse) on? The poor man's inevitable and unavoidable answer of course was "Firewood".


Submitted by Walter Blacklaw