Living in Glasgow in the 1950s my playgrounds were the streets and backcourts of the blackened city tenements. Each tenement building had up to nine or eleven flats (3 apartments on each of the three landings, and two in the close.) that each housed anywhere from 2 to sixteen or more people. (Mother, Father, the weans, as well as other family members.) And when you consider that most of these flats were only two rooms you can see how the housing authorities were concerned about health issues.
The backcourts of these tenements were our playgrounds and the middens our Treasure Islands. The middens, little brick huts that stood five feet high and had 6 ‘midden’ (trash) bins in each had concrete or corrugated tin roofs and were situated mostly in the middle of the backcourt. (Ma, I’m gaun, doon the back, roon the back, in the back, and oot the back, were all common phrases.) I should tell you before I go any further that only the posh folk, those who didn’t live in slum tenements, called the middens middens. All the rest of us called them the midgies. If you went treasure-hunting in the midgies you were called a Midgie-raker. And if you were a bad-yin you were called a Midden. “That wee midden swung aff my washin-line and broke it. An aaw ma washin wis lying in the muck!”
Children of all ages would climb the midgies and jump from one to the other proving our bravado was sincere and not hot air. Of course if you fell aff the midgie and skint yer arse or knee you weren’t feeling quite so brave. Especially if you’d ripped your dress or tore the arse oot yer good troosers. (Them being the wans you wore tae school.) Because then you were going to get a skelped arse into the bargain.
All photographs from the Mitchell Library in Glasgow.