The Chimney Sweep

When we were kids we all loved to see the local chimney sweep and would rush out to see his brush pop out of the chimney.

That’s one of the abiding memories of my childhood. Something we’d look forward to every year and we’d all rush round to GG’s when we heard the chimney sweep was coming.

The sweep always seemed to us to be very old. And of course he was very black since there was no vacuum sweeping in those days. It was quite a dirty job and piles of soot would tumble down. He’d do his best to contain the clouds of sooty dust, but it was often a losing battle. GGrandma would complain when he’d left that she had to clean the room from top to bottom.

Of course nowadays they use high-tech equipment, but they it was just a man and his brushes.

He’d shout out to us – OK ready, run out to see the brush. And we’d tear off into the garden to see the brush appear at the top of the chimney pot. Such simple pleasures. I’m sure today’s children would be quite bewildered since they seem to be glued to their phones and games – hark at me, I sound like an old man!

The chimney sweep would start GG reminiscing about the old times and he’d come out with a few of his tales. He told us a story once of a poor family who had to send their son up the chimneys in the big houses. In hindsight, I realise he’d made this up, but it seemed very real to me at the time. And because GG was always so old, it seemed feasible that he was a 19th century child, lucky not to be in the workhouse and sent up chimneys.

But he was always fond of chimney sweeps. So much so that he and GGrandma had a sweep attend their wedding. Apparently it was considered good luck, so the local sweeps used to make extra pocket money by turning up at weddings to wish the bride and groom happiness in their marriage.  I always wondered whether they’d have a bath first or perhaps they were expected to turn up covered in soot and coal dust?