From Hugh Peden's
Written by his father William Peden.
the school age was compulsory from 5 to 14 years, after 14 years in my town,
there was no school for advanced education; had there been one, I could not
have afforded it.
But at 14
years it was considered that one had received sufficient education to go to
work in the shoe factories which were the main source of employment. I started
work at the age of 13 years, having obtained what was then called a labour
certificate from the school board. This was granted by the board after
satisfying themselves that the applicant was not an out and out moron and that
the proceeds from his labour would be a help at home. There was also a further
stipulation that on reviewing the certificate, one must attend evening classes
for two years and any breach of these conditions meant a return to day school,
so the rules were generally strictly observed.
Now lets have
a look at those shoe factories, where fathers, mothers and sometimes the whole
family worked, from the age of fourteen upwards.
The work day
started at 6 a.m.; just think of having to get up and light the fire on a cold
winter morning, grab a cup of tea and perhaps a piece of toast, and dash off
to the factory and be on time when the horn or siren blasted off.
the factory there was a large board on which were hung brass dice, similar to
dog tags in appearance and like them also, each one was numbered, the numbers
designating the different employees.
this was a black tin box; a deed box, which had a slot in the lid. On entering
one would take off his numbered check from the board and deposit it in the
box. About two minutes grace would be allowed after the whistle blew, then the
doors would be locked, the numbers of remaining checks left on the board would
be taken. Fifteen minutes later the doors would open again and the tardy ones
could deposit their checks, but would be docked fifteen minutes for being
late. The same procedure would become effective for the next fifteen minutes,
with a 30 minute penalty, if later than that one had to go home.
hours were from 6 a.m. to 8 a.m., then home for breakfast, back to work from 9
a.m. until 1 p.m., for lunch, then from 2 p.m. until six o'clock.
Note how the
work day was broken up, so that the maximum of energy was drained out of the
employees body and transferred to the employer in the form of shillings and
pence. Due to long hours, low wages, unsanitary conditions and poor food, many
children and grown ups alike contracted T.B. and died.
When I first
started work; for five and a half days, 55 hours, received the generous wage
of four shillings with the added incentive, if my production or usefulness
warranted it, of getting and increase of sixpence every six months.