Memories of moving into a first home in the Seventies

18 July 2014
imports_CESC_0-is1q13ui-100000_30792.jpg Memories of moving into a first home in the Seventies
Bob McMillan recalls the excitement of moving into his first home back in the Seventies. ...
Memories of moving into a first home in the Seventies Images
Bob McMillan recalls the excitement of moving into his first home back in the Seventies.

As our marriage rapidly approached, my fiancée Irene and I decided that, in spite of lots of advice to the contrary from our friends, we should buy our first house. We looked at lots of houses in areas we (she) liked and even got far enough to shake hands over the purchase of a semi-detached property in Garrowhill in Glasgow. Within 24 hours I had my fiancé in tears saying she really didn’t want to live there.

Now up in Scotland a handshake is, or was, tantamount to a contract and so panic set in. Fortunately we were gazumped. Our next attempt again ended in gazumping and so financially poorer by the cost of a property survey, we tried again. This time we were successful.

We could get our first mortgage of £4,250 (yes, £4,250 for a two-bed, 1910 red sandstone semi) at a variable interest rate of four percent or a fixed rate of 4.5 percent but on our salaries that extra 0.5 percent was a step too far. The Mortgage Company retained some money until we fixed the gable wall and the roof but ‘Yahoo!’ we were on our way.


We ripped out plumbing and wiring, stripped many layers of wallpaper that had been varnished over and even, in the sitting room, painted matt black over the entire ceiling. We did a lot of the work ourselves but family members and friends helped with the decoration and the more challenging tasks such as sash window restoration. At one point my Dad brought my uncle and aunt to see the house. As they opened the front door there I was dangling through a hole in the floor where I was replacing floorboards. There were holes in walls and rubbish everywhere and Uncle Bill’s comments were simply ‘You’re mad.’

As was the fashion we took out the most of the old coal fires and bricked up the openings. I even built a fake fireplace out of ‘Fifestone’ a combination of cement and granite chippings. This I etched with neat sulphuric acid to etch away the cement and expose the granite. Imagine our neighbour’s consternation as the acid fumes, literally smoke, poured out of the front windows.

My fiancé came up one night to find I’d ripped out a ceiling in the kitchen and found rot in the floor of the half-landing bathroom above. She could now sit on the loo and talk to me in the kitchen. A carpenter friend offered to convert the inner front door from having leaded coloured glass in the top quarter and wood in the rest, into a full glass door. I carefully brought the sheet of patterned glass home in the car and laid it on paint tins in the front room only to trip over the whole thing then next day and shatter the glass. You can imagine the amusement in the glazier’s next day when I went back for another sheet of glass.

Naturally we couldn’t do everything at once so we got the sitting room, main bedroom, kitchen and bathroom in order in time for our marriage in June 1971. We’d no carpets, just a bedroom suite, a long-john coffee table, an electric fire, some kitchen units and a cooker, all given as wedding gifts, together with a rocking chair from my wife’s bedroom and a basket chair from mine. But the place was ours.

Gradually we fixed up the rest of the house and replaced the brush poles wedged in corners that acted as makeshift wardrobes with fitted wardrobes and the old rickety black and white TV with a rental set that actually stayed working all evening. I still remember the thrill of our first evening with a carpet on the sitting room floor. There was never a consideration of H.P., I guess our Calvinistic Scottish upbringing just didn’t make that a consideration; we saved up and bought when we could afford it. Each purchase was a milestone and pure delight.

We raised our first two children in that house. We laughed and, yes at times we cried in that house but it was OUR home.

My wife Irene and I put a lot of effort and a lot of love into the house and because of that we were rewarded with a cosy environment, a happy family home and a lot of joy. We finally sold it in 1981 when my work took me to Ayrshire. We had great neighbours in Coatbridge and we still keep in touch with them.

Would I take on such a project again? Well everything is ‘of its time’ and a project I’d happily take on as a 23-year-old would be beyond consideration at 66, but, yes, given the same circumstances I’d do it again because it got us on our way as a young married couple and ultimately as a family. Sadly I think that’s an unusual outlook with the ‘must have everything and must have it now’ attitude of young couples today.


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