Water caddy — transcript


Our nation's history has been built not just by leading characters making big political decisions, but by a huge supporting cast of ordinary men and women prepared to do some really lousy jobs.
This time: breaking your back to quench the city's thirst, burning your toes to keep the traffic moving and the utter tedium of making the building blocks of the urban landscape. Welcome to The Worst Jobs in The City!
Today, 90 per cent of us live in cities. It wasn't always like that. In the middle ages most of Britain was rural. Towns slowly grew as people came together to make money by trading or to earn money by looking after the traders.
Cities are artificial, aren't they? If you are in the country, you can live off the land, but in the town everything has to be brought in and provided for you – even water. Nowadays we get our water from the tap, but for hundreds of years thousands of people living in cities had no running water.
Mind you, today most of us have a slurp from one of these occasionally, don't we. And it’s no problem
Mind you, if you've ever carried a party packet around you'll know how bad this next worst job can be.
It's the backbreaking task of being a water caddy. Water caddies had been around since the 1500s, but by the Georgian times up to a quarter of the population had flocked to the cities, which still had no running water. 18 century Edinburgh presented the water caddies with their ultimate challenge. Its buildings were up to 8 storeys high.
Of course, the first thing that the water caddy had to do was fill up his caddy with water.T: ‘Presumably, Liz, there must have been loads of wells dotted all over the city?’L: Well no, there wasn’t, because when they brought water in here in 1681, they only put five of these wells in the whole length of the High Street. T: For how many people?L: About thirty thousand people.T: So this is what I carry the water around in?L: That’s right.T: Can I fill it from here?L No, I’m afraid it’s not here anymore?T Could you hold my barrel?
The maths is simple: twelve two-litre bottles of water weighs 24 kilos, plus the barrel - that's over 30 kilos of weight I've got to carry on my back. T What do I do?L They carried it over their shoulders. T Oh, blimey, I can’t even lift it off the ground! Oh, God! God, I can’t even get up! Blimey! Liz, it’s choking me, this leather strap!L You have to pull the strap away from your face.T Well, how far did they go?L Well, the whole length of the High Street, and then of course there are steep hills down on either side and then up the stairs of the tenements (a large building divided into apartments, especially in the poorer areas of a city).
Many of the caddies were ex-soldiers, but this was an equal opportunity worst job, as their wives also did this backbreaking task. T: Where now? L Up there. T: Up here?! Oh!L See you later.
My muscles are screaming after ten minutes, but the water caddies had to keep going for hours. Like me, they left a trail of water behind, but it was important not to lose too much – they were paid per barrel. To earn a maximum wage of 3 shillings per day, they had to make a staggering 36 trips.
L: How is it going?T: Great. I’ve got water dripping down my back, my muscles are aching and I’ve got a permanent stoop.L: You know, were recognized for their permanent stoop.T: @#$%@@ surpriseless!L: That will be a shilling – a fine for swearing. Two shillings if you argued with somebody at the well, and as much as six shillings if you made a nuisance of yourself. I’m just going straight on, see you later! Up there, round the corner, nearly there!
T: I never thought I’d make it!L Now, this would be your regular route, because each caddy had the same houses that they served, so you’d be in the habit of coming up this steep route. . T Can I take this off then?L I’m afraid not, because, you see – the poor lived down on the ground floor, because it was smelly and overcrowded. The middle class – the people you bring the water for – they lived up the stairs, so I’m afraid it’s up the stairs you have to go. T Can’t you just tell me that?L No, you’ve got to go.

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