A St Andrews house without electricity

Some of my friends shared a house in St Andrews that had never had electricity. It was thought bizarre that there should be such places in the mid-1960s. It did have gas lighting, though, with two gas lights on either side of the fireplace, which itself had a gas fire. It was like entering a time warp. The gas mantles in the lights were fragile, and often had to be replaced. This was quite a rigmarole since the mantles came as flat, soft pieces of perforated fabric that had to be shaped by hand into the traditional bulb shape before they could be fixed to the lamp and hardened.

I often visited, as did many friends, and it was a virtual salon most nights. I used to work there at the table, colouring my engravings under a Tilley lamp, a paraffin pressure lamp that had to be pumped up occasionally when its light dimmed. As a table lamp, it gave me enough light to work by, where the wall gas lamps did not. The student girls who lived there had a battery-powered record player for entertainment because, of course, there was no power for a television.

By gaslight we talked and drank coffee on innumerable happy evenings, sitting on ancient armchairs and an uneven sofa. The place is long gone. Indeed, the surprise is that it lasted as long as it did. A new development sits on the site, but when I visit St Andrews I sometimes take a detour to where the old house used to sit, on the road on the rise of a hill, and I recall many memories of those times.