08 December 2014
Irene Lebeter recalls a hair raising incident which took place in Scotland during World War Two. ...
Irene Lebeter recalls a hair raising incident which took place in Scotland during World War Two.
My mother was grateful that I was a sound sleeper as it meant that on nights undisturbed by air raids, she enjoyed an unbroken repose. But my sound sleep pattern was to be further proved by a story my mother often told. The incident occurred in December 1942, when I was nine months old. During the war my family lived in a top storey tenement flat and on this particular Monday morning, her weekly wash day, my mother piled the soiled clothes into her laundry basket.
First thing that morning she’d gone down to the brick built washhouse in the back green. With no running hot water, she lit the fire to boil water for the weekly wash. The fireplace was situated on the opposite wall of the washhouse from the two deep tubs positioned under the window. There was a scrubbing board to use in the hot tub, while the cold tub had a wringer positioned beside it. When my father (who was home on army leave) had taken my older sister Marjory to school, wash day began in earnest.
My mother laid me in my pram, the laundry basket balanced on top of my covers. The plan was that I slept in the back green and she kept an eye on the pram from the washhouse window. Sleep had already overtaken me by the time my mother started to bump the Silver Cross pram down the tenement stairs. All went well until she had turned the first landing and started down the stairway leading to the floor below ours. Halfway down, her heel caught on a stair tread and she slid backwards, losing her grip on the handle.
The heavy navy blue pram flipped over, its wheels spinning in the air while the handle thudded against the door of the one-roomed middle apartment.
Mrs Rainey, the elderly resident, opened her door. In the deathly hush that followed, my mother and Mrs Rainey looked into one another’s white faces. Bearing in mind the concrete landing underneath the upturned pram, the two women righted it, terrified of what they were going to find.
There was no sound from inside the pram as it came to rest the right way up. The bedding was in total disarray but relief flooded over the two women when they discovered me, still sleeping soundly, in a cocoon of dirty washing.
(Image copyright Tuck DB Postcards)