Chimney Sweeps



Angus McKenna  McKenzie

Chimney Sweep

Thank you to Bob Henderson who lived at 17 Arthur Street, 1938-48, for his recollections of working as a chimney sweep around Edinburgh.

Bob wrote:

Slater's Apprentice

"When I started as a slater's apprentice in 1954, I used to go with the boss for 2 hours every morning sweeping lums.

As you can probably imagine it was a great adventure for a fifteen year old boy, and when I progressed to being the top man I was in heaven."

Chimney Sweeping

"Our call down and up the lum was a loud 'Hee Heeeeee'.  We almost never made a mistake but on the one occasion when I did so, the boss left me in the house for the day cleaning up.

We cleaned chimneys all over edinburgh from bungalows to the highest tenements, doing a different district every day.  My boss Angus McKenna  McKenzie used to say that the chimney sweeping was his pocket money."

Bob Henderson, Burdiehouse, Edinburgh: December 2, 2006



Holiday Cash

After reading Bob Henderson's chimney sweep recollections (in 1 above),  Matt Rooney wrote:

Half a crown per Lum

"Like Bob, I too worked as a chimney sweep, not as part of an apprenticeship but to earn extra cash to help pay for the holidays.  It was mainly when I worked the Night Shift and, on occasions, Saturday mornings.

It was half-a-crown (12.5p) per lum, as I had an Electric Sweep.  It  was an industrial cleaner, made for chimneys and / or for clearing up after the builders in the private sector housing market.

Wee Bucket

I did the roofs and May's nephew cleaned out the soot that didn't fall into our wee bucket.  The fireplace got hoovered and dusted until it was clean again.

I remember the day I cleaned the wrong lum.  it only happened once.  Fortunately it wasn't too bad as the lady had had the sweep (not us) the day before.

To save any problems, I promised to clean her lum for nothing for a year, and 2/6 x 4 wouldn't break me.  In those days, if you cleaned the chimneys 4 times a year, you were doing fine.

Our Signal

Our signal wasn't a shout, but the lad rattling a stick inside the chimney.  If you were lucky to get four in a block needing the sweep I could then walk across the roof and drop the brush when i was told it was OK, but those were few and far between.

The best ones were the farmers' houses as we got extra from them because of the Rayburn stoves.

Matt Rooney, Ayrshire, Scotland  December 8, 2007


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