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Smart living in Balallan in the 1900s

Smart living in Balallan in the 1900s

This article was contributed by Joan Morrison, 20 Balallan for the Kinloch Historical Society

In 1886, when the croft at 20 Balallan was split, Malcolm Macleod who had a business Buth a Cheannaich moved to 20a and built a house attached to No 20. His son Kenneth took over the shop and opened a Post Office and Harris Tweed business at this address Buth Choinnich a Cheannaich

Glenmavis, which was the house at 20 Balallan, and the house attached at 20a Balallan, was in a class by itself. On the ground floor was the breakfast room, dining room and the lounge. A lean-to at the back of the house was the kitchen and a small bedroom for the servants. A few steps outside the kitchen door found you in the diary, with marble shelves to keep milk and other dairy products cool. The house had electricity from a private generator and modern plumbing. Upstairs there were two bedrooms and a bathroom.

The kitchen was small by modern standards but ahead of its time for Lewis, as it had hot and cold water. Initially, there was a small stove, later updated to a Rayburn. Above the stove on a shelf was a huge gleaming copper pan for jam making.

The breakfast room had a Triplex fireplace which had an open grate with patterned tiles along each side and a polished black canopy above the flame, which could be adjusted for ventilation purposes. By the side was an oven heated from the open fire. In the centre of the room was a substantial dining table surrounded by matching chairs. Within easy reach was a sideboard to complete the suite which had many silver ornaments on it. Beneath the table, on the floor, was a brass circle which was pressed with a foot to summon a maid.

The dining room was lined with ornate walnut panelling up to the picture rial. All around the room was a shelf with plates displaying thirteen of the sixteen "Cries of London". Alongside the magnificent stone fireplace hung brass bellows, in good working order as well as being decorative.

The lounge was seldom used and only for very important visitors. In this room was a multi-coloured wooden chest which when opened, unleashed the most wonderful aroma of oriental spices. These came from China where Mrs Macleod's sister and her husband were missionaries.

In the morning the maids were dressed in blue and in the afternoons they dressed in black dresses, white aprons and headbands. Every Thursday afternoon they polished the silver with a pink powder and polishing cloth. Each spring, all the carpets were lifted in turn and carried out into the field behind the house and for days the glen reverberated with the sound of the maids beating the carpets.

There were two walled gardens in front of Glenmavis. One was used for vegetables with a few decorative bushes around the edges. The adjacent garden was strictly flowery borders and lawns. In those days few crofter had the time or the inclination for growing flowers.

Title: Smart living in Balallan in the 1900s
Record Type: Stories, Reports and Traditions
Type: Story
Record Maintained By: CECL
Subject Id: 40821