Biggar, Lanarkshire, Scotland
Thank you to Brian Gourlay, Biggar, Lanarkshire, Scotland, who
remembers the old street sweepers in Edinburgh.
"Fifty or more years ago, before
politically correct council staff invented titles like ‘hygiene
consultants or technicians’ for street cleaners, the cleanliness of
Edinburgh’s streets was in the very capable hands of ‘scaffies’ –
the city’s formidable road sweepers."
"Scaffies were well armed with a broom
and a large shovel and pushed a cart with a couple of containers
with flip-top lids to put the rubbish in. In my time the carts
or barrows had evolved to spoked-wheels with pneumatic tyres. I’m
not sure which depot the scaffies operated from but, presumably,
they had to push their barrows some distance across the city."
A Scaffy’s broom (I don’t know its
correct name) was a work of art. It seemed to be made of a long pole
with a tightly- bound collection of some type of twigs on the end –
very much like a witch’s broomstick. I’ve watched scaffies cut and
tailor their brooms until they got it exactly the right shape and
flexibility to suit their style of sweeping.
Sweeping isn’t really the right word –
scaffies had a deft way of stroking, shoving, dragging and flicking
dirt, rubbish, leaves and fag-ends, often with a quick flick of the
wrist, until the pile was ready to go on the shovel – held securely
by the broom-head then dumped in the cart.
It might be my imagination, but I think
Edinburgh’s streets were probably cleaner when the scaffies were
around – partly because they got into all the nooks and crannies a
machine can’t – and partly because you were living dangerously if
you dropped litter in sight of a scaffy."
Peter – somewhere in your archives you
may have a photo of a ‘scaffy’ – or know where to get one – probably
the Evening News. I’m sure many of your followers will have very
fond memories of Edinburgh’s scaffies.
I’m not sure the word Scaffy came from –
it seems a bit too obvious to be scavenger."
Brian Gourlay, Biggar, Lanarkshire, Scotland:
August 14, 2007
Unfortunately, I don't have any of my own photos of Edinburgh
scaffies. Perhaps somebody else will find one and send it to
me to be added to the site.
Incidentally, the 'Scottish Slang Dictionary' on the First
Foot web site says that scaffy is derived from scavenger.
- Peter Stubbs: August 16, 2007
George T Smith
Thank you to George T Smith, British Columbia, who wrote:
"I recollect 'scaffies' as wearing a
double breasted grey uniform tunic with silver buttons.
Somehow or other, this image is from a
memory of such a person outside a black and white shop behind St
Patrick's Square - some sort of predecessor of Wal-Mart or
ASDA near the Mc Ewan Hall.
As far as I recollect they had a barrow
painted grey, nothing too complex, just a sort of cover flap over
George T Smith, Nanaimo, Vancouver Island,
British Columbia, Canada: August 17, 2007
Thank you to Margaret who wrote:
Broom and Cart
father, now dead, was one of those Edinburgh Scaffies whose beat was the
Royal Mile and Abbeyhill and Easter Road.
He used to
make his own broom,. He had a cart which he pushed around . It had
two areas with flip-up lids. He loved his job and was well known character
in central Edinburgh."
he was at the Tattoo cleaning up after animals and the large amount of
rubbish under the benches. One year he was caught in the spotlight
and was given a loud cheer by the audience."
awarded the Queens Silver Jubilee Medal in 1977 and had his photo taken by
The Edinburgh Evening News.
He told me he
always got a wave from the Queen Mother when she was in Edinburgh."
Margaret, November 13, 2007