Google Analytics

Sunday, 24 July 2022

Oil Lamp

In Bright In The Background, I recalled how my brother gouged a deep groove into the front of our parents’ brand new sideboard the day after it was delivered (I wasnt entirely blameless). I guess my brother would have been around ten at the time which may excuse things a little. But it did not put an end to our unruly “riving about” as Mum called it. We did a similar around six years later when we should have known better, when my brother was taking his O levels and I had started work.

I can be fairly precise about the date because it was shortly after the February 1972 power cuts. Most of our electricity was then generated from coal, but the miners had gone on strike forcing the government to schedule power cuts to private homes. The Central Electricity Generating Board divided days into three-hourly time-slots and assigned homes to areas. Power was then rationed by areas. Typically, your power would be switched off for two time-slots on three days each week, and you would also be on standby at other times in case further cuts became necessary. Rotas were published in regional newspapers. 

I remember being in our shared house in Leeds, playing chess by candlelight. At least we had a gas cooker and a gas fire. 

At home, Mum brought an oil lamp back from Grandma’s after she moved into a smaller house. I remember she had three or four of them from the days before electricity reached her village. Mum must have used them in her childhood and Grandma in hers too, because the wheels that adjust the height of the wicks are embossed:

        Evered No. 4 Duplex
        Evered & Co. Ltd.
        London and Birmingham

which dates them as Victorian, perhaps from as early as 1850. All parts, including the glass shades, were original. I never thought to ask about them, or how long they had been in the family.

Mum filled the lamp she had brought home with fuel, trimmed and adjusted the wick, and set it alight. As far as lighting was concerned, there might well have been no power cuts at all. It was easily bright enough to read by quite comfortably.

That was the last time it burned. A week or so later, the two naughty too-old-to-be-boys knocked it over and broke the shade. Zoom in and you can see where my brother stuck it back together with Evo-Stik.

And so, fifty years later, it found itself in our loft. And a leaflet came through the door from a Mr. Madgewick of Wombell. It gave me great expectations. The leaflet was covered in drawings of gold and jewellery, coins, military items, furniture, musical instruments, china and ceramic, typewriters, cameras … I immediately thought of the oil lamp in the loft. 

      Anything old and interesting considered
      Instant cash paid

And he did. It was like the daytime TV antiques programme ‘Dickinson’s Real Deal’. At first he said he was not interested, that he might have been had the shade been intact. But as he started to leave without it, he suddenly turned back andto do me a favour named a figure and pulled a roll of bank notes out of his pocket. I’m not kidding it could have been £10,000 thick. It was my turn to pretend not to be interested. Eventually, he and counted some notes into my hand.

Another piece of clutter gone from the loft.

Of course, I’m sure I’ve been done.

32 comments:

  1. At least you didn't try to sell him your water tank like the old joke.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. A man invites an antique dealer to look at something old in his attic. "Is it old?" Says the man. The antiques dealer says: "It's old alright. Its your bloody cold water tank!"

      Delete
  2. The two of you must have been unruly - allowed to run wild like young colts. In contrast, there was discipline in my family. There would have been hell to pay if we had smashed up treasured family heirlooms. Were your parents hippies?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. They were at work on Saturday afternoons. There was another time we put a football through the back room window. Went and got new glass but they spotted the fresh putty.

      Delete
  3. You two sound like my scary cousins. We dreaded visiting their house when we were children as they were a bit too rough around we two little girls.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We weren't especially rough but as my brother was some years younger than me, he used to go at me no holds barred, whereas all I had to do was fend him off.

      Delete
  4. I remember running around the house with my brother knocking things over. Fortunately we didn't break anything meaningful -- at least not that I can recall at the moment. If it was just sitting up in your loft it wasn't doing you any good at all, so why not sell it? I think you made a good decision.

    ReplyDelete
  5. You might need it again this winter!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ha! so they say. We have a butane camping gaz light in reserve and a supply of cylinders.

      Delete
  6. I wouldn't describe your lamp as 'clutter'. I hope your mother was blazing mad with you two big kids for breaking such a lovely family object! Rosemary at Share my garden.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's a beautiful object and clutter only in the sense that it's been stuck in our loft for 15 years, the kids don't want it, and to have it out anywhere attracts dust and risks further breakage. If I hadn't sold it then eventually someone else would have to deal with it. I believe my uncle simply threw the other three away.

      Delete
  7. Well, at least you got something for it!

    ReplyDelete
  8. We used oil lamps at the very old farm house in France where we spent many a family holiday when we were kids. They were bright enough to read by, too. I have no idea how old the lamps were, but there was nothing newer than at least 100 years old in that house.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. They look right in the right kind of house, which ours isn't. You can't keep everything just in case.

      Delete
  9. I remember when these were our only form of lighting - quite good too but the smell never went away.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I seem to remember they gave off a lot of water vapour too. I wouldn't want to have to use them as the only form of lighting.

      Delete
  10. I remember one of country neighbours have a house lit by gas and there were still lots of kerosene fuelled lamps around when I was young but they were no longer in use. It is a pity about the shade. The buyer has to make a profit, usually quite a good profit from my understanding. Your clutter will please the eye of someone quite quickly, I'm sure.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I do hope it finds a good home. I also remember paraffin/kerosene heaters too. They really did give off a lot of water vapour. I don't think oil was quite as bad.

      Delete
  11. With my two brothers, things like that happened at our house, too. I really should say "my two brothers and moi". Our longsuffering mom directed cleanup and nothing more was said. I remember a brother tripping me on the way to the dinner table. Mom's precious ironstone milk pitcher flew from my hands and smashed. I loved that pitcher, and I turned on him in a flash and began beating the snot out of him, until he slipped in the milk and crashed to the floor. Mom picked up the chunks of pottery, but he had to clean up the milk and scrub the floor while we ate dinner.

    ReplyDelete
  12. What a shame to have broken the shade, you could have got a handsome sum for it intact. We weren't allowed to 'rough-house' inside, that was outside play and mum made that very clear. We preferred to be up trees and on roofs anyway.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Some seem to sell for hundreds of pounds, but it probably depends on the model. This was an everyday item from a country village, certainly not luxurious.

      Delete
  13. That is a wonderful old lamp! Our weather is getting severe enough that power outages are not as rare as they used to be. We have oil lamps in reserve at the retirement property. Can you still buy lamp oil?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I don't know about buying lamp oil, but as Tigger said above, yes they might come back into use again one day.

      Delete
    2. It is readily available here. I guess that I've never thought to wonder whether it is because we are rural, or whether you can buy it anywhere.

      Delete
  14. When we moved into our current (rural) house almost 30 years ago, the electricity service was marginal (our street was the furthest one from service). For months, virtually every night, we would lose power from dinner time until after 8pm. Unfortunately, besides the difficulty of making dinner, there were several teenagers in the house who needed to do homework, so I resorted to buying several oil lamps. That did the trick--much to the teens disgust. Simply told them to consider themselves as followers of Abraham Lincoln since he had to study by an oil lamp (albeit 150 years before them). Electric company finally added a new substation near us and our power became more reliable, but I still pull out those oil lamps when we have prolonged power outages during/after storms.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. They sound a useful standby. We don't have many cuts now, but have occasionally had to our camping gaz light and boil water a pan of water on the stove. An interesting experience.

      Delete
  15. I have some old Tilley lamps of the type that I recall my grandfather using in the Seventies power cuts. Who knows - we might need them again!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I always used the butane burners when camping, but there were still some you'd see using Tilley lamps. The fuel would have been a lot cheaper than the gas cylinders. I wouldn't rule out us needing them again, and soon!

      Delete
  16. I still have a similar type of old lamp that served us on two occasions during the power cuts. Would never part with it for any amount. However, your tale reminds me when a similar sort of 'antique buyer' (or as I call them, crooks) chapped our door one day and persuaded my father to part with an oval mirror and various other items for a song. The guy should've been wearing a stripey jumper and a mask.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I suppose they have to be ablt to make a profit, but it always leaves the question as to whether it's a fair profit.
      I know what you mean about not parting with it, but there is so much stuff in the house then things have to go, especially if we wanted to move to somewhere smaller.

      Delete

I welcome comments and usually respond the same day (unless it looks like you are trying to advertise something).