Before alarm clocks were a thing, you could earn a bit of a cash going round workers’ houses and tapping on their windows to wake them up for the early shift.
The Blantyre Project, a website dedicated to the history of the South Lanarkshire mining village, reckons these men, usually employed by the colliery to ensure its staff did not sleep in, could earn up to 6d.
The late Blantyre historian James Cornfield even wrote a poem about them, called The Rapper-Up Man.
“In days gone by in the miners rows, there lived a man who always rose/At an early hour from slumber deep to waken miners from their sleep/By rapping on the window pane, no matter the weather wind or rain/Be it Wullie, Mick or Dan, he was always known as the Rapper-Up Man….”
The chapper-upper, or rapper-up man, is one long-lost occupation Times Past readers may recall. Our recent story about lamplighters, chimney sweeps and more, prompted many readers to share their stories.
Robert McPhee commented on our Glasgow Times Past: City Memories Facebook page: “When I was a postman in the 60s, I started my delivery in Gourley Street, Springburn.
“At the time the closes were lit by the lamplighter and he used to give me 10 minutes of a start so I could see the names on the letters in the dark.”
He adds: “It’s not like nowadays, when nearly all houses have number. Back then, there could be eight or ten houses up a close….
“But they were happy days.”
Jimmy McGibbon told us our story had jogged his memory, too.
“My older brother William, now deceased, was a Glasgow Corporation lamplighter during the 1950s,” he told us.
“I dug out his death certificate and ‘lamplighter’ was written on it. I had never noticed this before.”
He adds: “His workplace was on the Gallowgate, at the Barrowfield Housing Estate. It was a very old building and was built before the original housing estate.
“We called it ‘the brickie’ as there were several brickworks located there – before my time. I wonder if there are any old photos of the lamplighter building?”
Jimmy also spotted an interesting detail in our photograph of the lamplighter up his ladder.
“He had highly polished boots,” he smiles. “Likely he was an ex-service man, like my brother…”
We also heard from a gentleman in Bath keen to track down details of a family of brushmakers who may have lived in Dennistoun around the late 19th century, early 20th.
Mike Lewis told us: “I am researching my family history and would be interested to hear from anyone who might know about their early life in Glasgow where they worked as brushmakers.
“Brushmaker John James Smith was baptised on February 8, 1846 at St. Michael’s in Gloucester, the son of James (also a brushmaker) and Maria Smith.
“The 1861 census shows John, aged 15, working as an Apprentice Brushmaker living at Northgate Street in Gloucester. By 1868, he had moved to Dublin, living at Cuffe Street, where he married Susan Green and their first child Emily was born in 1869.
“The 1871 census shows John and Susan then moved to Hanley, Stoke on Trent but by 1881, the family had settled in the Dennistoun area of Glasgow. At this point, John is 55 and is described as a manufacturer/employer brushmaker and his two sons William and John junior were working in the business together with their parents. John senior died in 1907 at the age of 61.”
Can anyone help Mike locate more details about this firm of Dennistoun brushmakers?
Get in touch with Times Past – and we’d love to here more of your long lost jobs stories too.