Beside The Slate House is a barrel with a tap to fill a bucket with water for cooking or washing. The barrel catches rain water from the end of a crude gutter made from two planks nailed together. Until the 1890s, all the buildings had thatch roofs. Thatch roofs do not have gutters and the rain runs off the overhanging thatch onto the ground, so water was usually carried in buckets from the burn.
The first house to have a water tap indoors was Eddie’s House, in 1940: the water was piped to it under the A83 main road from a spring and a small cistern in the field beyond. The New House, built in 1954, was the first to have hot and cold running water. The cold water was piped from the spring across the road behind Eddie’s House, and hot water came from a small boiler at the back of the coal fire in the living room.
Clothes were washed in cold water in the burn, or in wooden barrels cut in half and filled from buckets – at one time The Cart Shed was the township’s wash-house. Over the kitchen fires in the houses, it took around an hour to heat a two-gallon (10 litre) bucket of water until it was boiling. We think that Bella Munro, who lived in Stoner’s House from 1932 to 1937, owned the first washing machine in the township. It was very simple – half a barrel, with a paddle inside which went round and round when you turned a handle on the side. Even The New House did not have a washing machine, just two big sinks in the kitchen with a wringer between them to squeeze out the worst of the water.
People washed themselves with a cloth and some soap, in a basin of cold or warm water. Having a bath was a rare luxury. The bath itself was made of sheet metal, and would have been hung up in the barn or stored under a bed when not in use. You got maybe one bucket of hot water heated over the fire, and two or three buckets of cold water from the burn, water barrel or tap. The New House, in 1954, was first and only house to have a bath with hot and cold taps. We understand that Eddie MacCallum never really got used to the whole idea, and would sit in the big, modern, ceramic bath in two inches of lukewarm water because that was what he was used to!
The New House was also the only house ever to have a flushing lavatory (it actually had, and has, two of them). Throughout most of history people would have used a chamber pot, or a corner of the byre in with the cattle and horses. In the 20th century, Eddie’s House and McIntyres’ House had “dry closet” lavatories. These were small sheds outside with a bucket under a seat. When the bucket was full or became too smelly, it was emptied out onto the midden, where it rotted down into compost that was spread on the fields.