A Small Child, Chimneying


Here’s another experiment, listen to Radio Frank reading A Small Child Chimneying.

My mother was a church fund-raiser in our home town of Felling all her life.  When I was a child, the main scheme was a football competition which involved subscriptions collected door to door.  I can’t remember how it all worked but it happened every week through the delivery of a coupon and the pocketing of a small amount of cash.  Gambling was okay if the profits went to the church.  I think you could win a week’s wages if the teams allocated to you according to your membership number scored eleven goals from three headers, four direct shots, two penalties, and two deflections off the corner flag.  

I would go with Mam on her deliveries and was allowed as a three or four year old to push the coupon through the letter box of the houses if no one was in.  I must have been bright enough to be trusted because I remember being sent out to deliver a coupon just around the corner from where we lived in Norman Street.  The houses were all in look-alike Coronation Street terraces but maybe this house had a distinctive front door or something.  There must have been something because I was very young to be sent on an errand like that even if in those days small children were allowed out on their own when they weren’t cleaning chimneys whilst wearing special rounded flat caps. 

Whatever the circumstances, I delivered to Miss Milburn a few times.  

The first time I went there, I think it was Catherine Terrace, I was faced with a dilemma.  My mother clearly had not realised that the letter box was way up near the top of the door and I was so small that I carried around my own skirting board ladder.

I would now see Miss Milburn as a rather proper lady with ‘standards’ although obviously I knew no such concepts at the age of four.  All I knew was that my mam had entrusted me with this highly responsible task and so it had to be done.   I thought about it, hit upon a possible solution, and to my delight it worked.  

One day, Mam said;

‘You know when you deliver the coupon to Miss Milburn in Catherine Terrace?’


‘The letterbox is really high up.’


So how did you post the coupon through the letterbox?’

I told her.

The front doors on these stone built terraced houses were recessed and framed with smooth vertical granite blocks about a foot deep and eighteen inches high, perfect for the average width of a four year old.  If I placed my back on one side of the recess and my feet on the other, my knees were slightly bent and I could support my weight off the ground.  Then, by using my hands and feet I could inch my way up the doorway until I got to the letterbox whilst holding the football competition coupon in my teeth in those heady days when I actually had some.  Quod Erat Faciendum  as my old mate Euclid used to say in translation – what was required to be done WAS DONE.

I suppose Mam hadn’t really believed what she had evidently been told by Miss Milburn.  

Earlier that week, I had climbed up the doorway as usual and had just reached posting height when to my surprise the door, which fortunately I had not been leaning on at that point, opened and Miss Milburn’s face revealed her surprise at seeing a small child five feet up in the air.  She didn’t say much.

‘Hello, Miss Milburn.’

I extracted the slightly damp coupon from my teeth, handed it down to her, dropped to the floor, and went home.

Mam didn’t ask me to deliver there again.