McBirnies yard, which we now believe to be York House, details of which can be found on the census reports and in the photo's section, was a very impressive old house which seemed to be three houses in one as it had three entrances and a large yard behind, which in my days contained garages. The entrance to the garages was also a short-cut through to West Green Road. We used to run like hell to get through this short-cut as Mr McBirnie used to get upset about this and try to catch us. When it was raining however, we could not use this way as the entrance was often blocked by a very large puddle. Why he never got it filled in we will never know. We also had another short-cut across the front of the house, which cut the corner off the road, and again he got very angry when we used this one, but really it was just a laugh for us kids.
Mr McBirnie was a tall upright man with a big tash ! He used to drive large Armstrong Siddeley cars which had a sphinx emblem on the bonnet. These cars were really posh and had an electric gearbox, the forerunner to the Automatic transmissions of today. On thinking back I would say that Mr McBirnie was probably an Air-Force man and trusted the Siddeley engines, since he would not have any other make of car.
An Armstrong Siddeley 'Hurricane' Vintage 1952
[ For more information on the history of Armstrong Siddeley cars click HERE ]
His wife Mrs McBirnie, was a very nice lady who was always dressed in the green WVS (Women's Voluntary Service) uniform and was always to be seen running about doing work for this organisation. At times when Mr McBirnie was out she would take us into her kitchen to give us some cakes that she had made. I remember her kitchen sink which was a 'Belfast' sink, which was like a 'Butler' sink but long and shallow. It was light brown in colour with a fluted pattern down the front and sides.
Another thing I remember is Mr McBirnie's chair which was placed by the window where he sat. It was no wonder he came out everytime we took the short-cut. I also remember all the cardboard boxes everywhere in the house. The passage was full from floor to ceiling with boxes, perhaps for the WVS Jumble sales.
I can also remember that Mr McBirnie rented out a junk corner of the yard (by the old house) to a man called Ted White who used to race stock cars at Harringay Arena and we kids were in our element helping him to strip old cars that he had got for parts. We also helped him paint them and on a Friday night, he would put us under an old canvas in the back and took us to Harringay. Once he was in the pit area he used to give us the all clear and we would then hop over the fence into the stadium free of charge. After the races were over we would go out with the other spectators and then run round to the back of the pits area and get a lift back home. It really was good fun for us kids and the best thing was that, as we were helping Ted White with the cars, Mr McBirnie did not chase us anymore.
McBirnies Yard- Summerhill Road Entrance
At a later date in fact I found Mr McBirnie to be a very nice old boy and, when he eventually sold the house, I helped to take a lot of stuff to his new home in Blackboy Lane. This house used to belong to Ashley's the florists by the Blackboy pub. The house he moved to was in a terrace but had a large double wooden gate, which was sited underneath one of the upper rooms. This led into a large yard which run along the rear of the back gardens and was full of lock-up garages, all of which were painted in a light hospital green colour. You would never know these were there from the outside, and he never had to chase kids again. I bet he really missed that... Don't you!
Advertisement - Tottenham Herald 1921
This confirms Mr McBirnies interest in Auto's and perhaps his Airforce background
On the following photograph of Mr McBirnies house, which is also featured in the Photos-section, you will see in the bottom left hand corner the car site which was run by John and Peter Grimes' Dad (John and Peter are pictured as Lifeboys in the Photos section) and Sid Andrews' Dad. The car site was situated at the far end of the yard which was our short-cut from Summerhill Road to West Green Road.
Mr McBirnie's House (York House) with Car site in the background
Prior to it being a car site we had two shops here, Mr Day the boot-mender whose son Mickey Day played with us kids (He started his working life cutting hair in Ben's Barbers shop at the top of Summerhill Road). The other shop was Pam's the greengrocer who one day made the mistake of giving us kids a load of over-ripe cherries, so many that that even all of us kids could not eat them all! The result was a street fight with opposing groups throwing cherries at each other. The cherries went everywhere, both the road and the pavement were stained dark red with the cherry juice and people were slipping on the cherry stones. As you can imagine, we were all told off about this and we really went through it as it took such a long time for the stains to go. For some reason we never did get any more from Pam's or indeed any other type of fruit. We were sorry about that!
The front corner of Mr McBirnies house was used as a workshop for an upholsterer and we used to sit on the window sill ( The windows were often open all the time) watching the men working. I cannot remember the name except that it was a Jewish name, and they were well known for the style and quality of their work.
The land which was once McBirnie's yard is now 'Redlands Flats' which were named after 'Redlands orchards' which is the original name for the field and is featured in the 1619 map in the maps section.
(The part showing 'Redlands' is reproduced here to help emphasise this point).
[ Note: These memories of 'McBirnie's Yard' were written and prepared for the internet site by Ray Swain - July 2003]