Gone but never forgotten 5 long years

October the 28th this year marked 5 years since my father passed away. Since then i have always tried to make a short post here on the site each year to mark his remembrance and reflect on the passing years.
I can’t believe it’s been 5 very quick years since you left us and the pain of your loss doesn’t get any less , if anything it gets worse as i realise more and more all the sacrifices you made for us; to give us the many things and lifestyle we enjoyed .
All those many hours of work you used to put in, out in all the harsh weather Scotland could throw at you (often coming home late, soaked to the bone and filthy black from the wet soot).
Everyday more often than not you would risk your life on numerous occasions, free climbing buildings (many of which should probably have been condemned).

Also at home too in the evenings; endlessly calling customers (or going to their doors when most people didn’t have a home phone).Doing the book work to organise the many customers you had built up over the 46 years you spent as the local chimney sweep.
One can only truly appreciate a person once you have had the chance to walk a mile in their shoes and over the last 5 years i have come to realise i am lucky if i am half the man you were. Modern technology has made things a lot easier now than in your time and i only wish you could have stayed around to see some of the developments in the field.

You dealt with the many trials and tribulations that come with being your own boss in a business that demands its’ owner wear so many hats because delegation was impossible.
Now each passing year brings more memories of the many things i realise i took for granted because you never once complained or grumbled about all the things you had to do to keep the ship afloat; just gracefully accepting your duties as a husband , father and business man, taking it all in your stride.
I feel i can never do you justice in these few words i write here , only that you lived your life to the full and as each year passes i can only hope to try my best to emulate the high standards of the determination and integrity examples you set for me.

I love and miss you so very very much dad, i really hope you are in a better place being payed back as generously as you were with us.

Mr T Reid Snr

Mr T Reid Snr

On Wednesday 28th it will have been four years since my father, Mr T Reid Snr passed on, he was only 67 years old and is very sorely missed. I still get regular comments from customers about Tommy or Tammy Reid the sweep (as they used to call him) in the old days. Some tell a wee story that makes me laugh whilst reminding me just how hard he used to work back then and how i can’t believe its been four years already.

My own memories too are still quite vivid; being the sweeps son back in the 70’s brought with it much opportunity for adventure. I being a somewhat precocious child , of course took every chance i got to explore customers gardens , farms , outbuildings , animals and the best part, the views from their rooftops. I remember in the days before we got our first roof ladder, when the job was very much more about climbing skills , judgement and a fair bit of daring…at times it was even acrobatic and at high heights too. No joke, it was a dangerous job and we regularly risked life and limb for just a few pounds each sweep back then [but without any foolishness and we prided ourselves on keeping our skill levels high] and that’s not even considering all the soot that was inhaled and otherwise ingested into our bodies too.

My father was one of the most patient and generous men i ever had the the good fortune to meet and was a great dad who always really went above and beyond for me. He liked his work but him being the very sociable man that he was, liked his customers even more. He had a great relationship and reputation with nearly all his customers, some of them being loyal for decades at a time including familial generations and some are still customers to this very day.

I had a very lucky childhood growing up as the son of the chimney sweep in the 1970’s, of course the days were very different from now back then and after a hard days work he’d often come home with an assortment of gifts from customers farms or whatever businesses and hobbies that they spent their time on. Great times , great memories of a really really great man.

A brief history of Chimney Sweeping

A brief history of Chimney Sweeping

Even in the Georgian period of history of chimney sweeping, it was understood that chimneys had to be brush cleaned. Back then the 17th century Master Sweep of the day would employ small boys to climb and scramble up chimneys. The task for these climbing boys was to brush clean the inside of the flue with small hand-held brushes and they also used metal scrapers to remove the harder tar deposits left by wood or log fire smoke.

The boys were apprentices and were bound to the trade as young as seven years old. A Master was paid a fee to clothe, keep and teach the child his trade. Sweeps’ Boys were usually parish children or orphans; though others were sold into the trade by their families. Some grew up to be Journeymen (assistants to the Master) and the remainder were put out to various trades to try to learn a new occupation. There was even a London Society of Master Sweeps with its own set of rules, one of which included that boys were not required to work on Sundays but had to attend Sunday School, to study, learn and read the Bible.

However, conditions for the boys were harsh and often cruel, they slept in cellars on bags of soot and were seldom washed. It was a dangerous and filthy job for the boys to do, especially without the protection of modern safety clothing and respirators. Years of accumulated soot and grime often produced chimney sweeps cancer (of the testicles).There are many recorded instances where these Climbing Boys choked and suffocated to death by dust inhalation whilst attempting to clean chimneys. Casualties were also often due to boys becoming stuck in narrow flues or falling from climbing rotten chimney stacks.

It took many years and campaigns before Acts of Parliament finally approved by the House of Lords outlawed the use of Climbing Boys. In 1864 Lord Shaftesbury brought in the “Act for the Regulation of Chimney Sweepers” which established a penalty of £10.00 for offenders.

In the early part of the 18th century various types of chimney cleaning methods were being developed. An engineer from Bristol, Mr. Joseph Glass is widely recognised as the inventor of the chimney cleaning equipment which has become universal even to this day. His was the design and introduction of canes and brushes, which could be pushed and propelled up from the fireplace into the chimney above. Early canes were made of Malacca and imported from the East Indies and brushes were made of whale bones.

1800'sThe other method of cleaning flues that was developed originally came from the Continent – Europe (and was adopted in Scotland because of the historical contacts we had with Europe) was the ball, brush and rope system which was lowered down from the top of the chimney. The weight of the lead or iron ball pulls the brush down, cleaning the chimney. With the Industrial Revolution and ever greater demand for coal production, chimney sweeps grew in numbers. In Victorian London, there were over 1,000 chimney sweeps serving the area.
The continued expansion of coal as the main fuel for domestic heating ensured that the sweeping trade flourished. This was up to the early 1960s when gas began to be installed and replace coal as a source of domestic heating. The switch to gas continued in the seventies and many of the old-established family sweeps retired or gave up the business. Until this period, sweeps had traditionally cleaned only coal, wood and oil chimneys. Public awareness of the need for clean, safe and clear chimneys was almost non-existent but Carbon monoxide poisonings from blocked chimneys began to be noticed.

Above text copyright Martin Glynn, President of The National Association of Chimney Sweeps (Used & adapted without permission). You can read more here on http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chimney_sweep