A Vendor of Water

Le Conte’s engraving

49] The Vendor of Water is another figure copied from David Allan’s Painting, who appears also in his drawing of the High Street.  He is not identified in Kay’s Portraits although the water vendor’s activities are described.[1]  At that time there was no piped water in the city and water had to be carried from the cisterns and wells into the dwellings and up many flights of tenement stairs. The water porters were both men and women who had to queue up at the limited number of wells and cisterns to fill the small casks, known as stoups, which were slung on their back.  They developed a stooping attitude to ease their burden, and this attitude persisted and identified them even when they were not working. Each vendor had his round of customers whom he kept regularly supplied at the rate of a penny a cask. They became friends with their customers and were missed when piped water was introduced. 

[1] Kay, J (1837-8) A series of original Portraits and Caricature Etchings with Biographical Sketches and Illustrative Anecdotes, 2 vols(text by James Paterson et al) Edinburgh, Hugh Paton 2 p36