Apr 22 2011

Hanging out the washing in Cabra

Published by at 8:44 am under News

(Click on photo to renlarge)

How did my mother ever manage to wash the clothes before the family moved to Cabra? My father and mother along with four little children previously lived in a front room on the top floor of a tenement house in Gardiner Street. When they eventually moved to Killala Road in Cabra West the house had no bath, it was the war years and things were scarce. But they had the old Belfast sink in the kitchen which was used for washing everything. On Saturday nights it was like a sheep dip with so many Coffeys waiting to be washed and scrubbed with carbolic soap. On Sunday morning the Da’ used it for his wash and shave. All the cracked delph and odd bits of cutlery were washed in cold water during the week. When the bath was finally installed it became amongst other things the family washing machine. The Ma’ would half fill it with a mix of hot and cold water and put the bedsheets and the Da’s white shirt in to soak for a few hours. Then like an army of little ants we were marched upstairs and taking off our shoes we’d stand in the bath on top of the clothes and stomp our little feet up and down to help get the grime out of the clothes. The Ma’ loved a fine breezy day because it was ‘a good day for drying’. Because we had such a big gang in our family we had two clothes lines in our back garden. To stand in our back yard and look at the white bedsheets dancing on the clothesline was like looking at the Onedin Line on telly. They looked like great big sailing ships heading off to India and China for great big chests of tea that had the silver paper in them for the Black Babies. Our first washing machine had a mangle on the top of it that you had to turn by hand. The machine would stand in the middle of the kitchen floor and once turned on it would do a jig around the kitchen, we’d all hop on it for a jaunt, ‘Giddy up there cowboy’. The poor Ma’s hands were frozen blue with the cold and all wrinkled up from dipping them in and out of the water. We’d end up with more water on the kitchen floor than there was in the Cabra Baths. Windows and doors were flung wide open to help dry it all out. Sometimes the Ma’ would borrow space on the neighbours clothesline next door. I remember the clothes line full of football shirts and shorts belonging to a rugby team. They belonged to the Hibernian Bank rugby team, the Da’ worked in the bank as a porter and offered to have me Ma’ wash all their gear for free. To this day I still love the smell of freshly washed clothes coming off the clothesline, it brings me back all those years ago. (Thanks to Liam O’Kelly for the photo)

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