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A photograph of Isobel Miller

Isobel Miller

Oh, what a change!

Born: 1919

Duration: 11m 44s

Type: Audio

Filesize: 7.5 Mb

Recorded: 1 October 1988

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About this recording

Listen to the late Isobel Miller reminisce about life in a rural community, with no electricity or running water in the houses and with peat as the main source of fuel.

Isobel was born in Lyth in 1919 and recalls fond memories of attending school.

The local school was two miles away and we had to walk off and we had to walk home, except on wet days when my father gave us a run there in the gig.”

On her way to school she had to pass Barrock House with its walled garden, beech hedge and laburnum trees. Isobel talks about, the walls puffing away with smoke in the wintertime.” She explains that fires were lit in small lean-to buildings with chimneys and these were built into the walls of the garden, to provide warmth and shelter so that fruit such as apples, pears and grapes could grow. The local children were allowed to gather berries for making jam.

At home, oatcakes, pancakes and scones were made on the open hearth and Isobel recalls the elaborate process of baking cakes and sponges too. She also describes the preparation of potted meat as well as black and white puddings.

She talks of the hard work of washing sheets and blankets and the process of using an iron, heated on the open fire. She also describes the warmth and comfort of sleeping in a box-bed. Bath night was a weekly event, when the bathtub was taken indoors and filled with hot water.

The smallest and the cleanest ones went first”

This interview was conducted in the 1980s as part of a job creation project funded by the Manpower Services Commission. The aim of the project was to collect memories of life in Caithness in spoken and written form.

The recording has been digitised and re-edited.

With gratitude to Isobels daughter, Margaret Sinclair, for allowing Wick Voices to use the interview.

Thanks also to the staff of Nucleus: The Nuclear and Caithness Archive.


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