St Johnston - Carrigans     ~ Co Donegal.

Tilly Lamp

Before lamps and oil came in, people made their own tallow candles for lighting.

Tilly Lamps were in every house in the locality until the 1950's when electric lighting came in. 

Sarah Middleton, Craighadoes, St Johnston, used the Tilly Lamp until her death in the early ninties.

Sarah had been a dressmaker and seamstress.

She preferred to keep her life as it always had been and had no time for modern ways.  She did however treat herself to the radio using a wireless set.

Back to the Tilly Lamp.  Like everybody did in years gone by, she kept her lamp in the middle of the kitchen table.  It was run on Paraffin which she purchased from Harry McConnell.   Harry had a big rust coloured tank of Paraffin which had a tap on it.  There was a pump on the lamp and you could adjust that to give a brighter light. 

Some lamps were made of glass.  The glass was often a green colour and transparent.  There were white Paraffin lamps as well made of glass coloured pure white.  There were brass lamps which had to be polished regularly with Brasso.  This often took place once a week. 

On top of the lamp was a glass tube like component that was very delicate and easily broken.  It was reminiscent of a light shade but its purpose was to let all the light through and protect the flame inside from wind and setting fire to anything.

The light came from the mantle which was like the wick of the lamp.  Mantles cost a few pence in the forties.  They were very smoky when first lit up and turned into white ash and couldn't be touched for they were too delicate.

The Tilly Lamp was highly dangerous and could cause a terrible fire if knocked over.  But people were careful with them and every house forbade children to handle or move the lamps.

 

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