It's April so it's time for our members to help us blog through the 2020 A-Z Blogging Challenge. Our chosen theme this year is Employment, also the topic of our Shared Endeavour where our members are encouraged to research employment within their one-place study. Today's entry is from Janet Barrie.

Xylophone. Unfortunately we have no xylophone manufacturers to my knowledge in Springhill. No xylophone players either, though one resident was a semi-professional kit drummer. I know, that would be ‘P is for percussionist’ or ‘D is for drummer'.

Tropenmuseum, part of the National Museum of World Cultures / CC BY-SA (
Tropenmuseum, part of the National Museum of World Cultures / CC BY-SA (

x-ray. i’m not aware of any X-ray operatives either, thought that would be ‘R is for radiographer’.

xenon administrator. Well, nearly. I am an anaesthetist and Springhill resident, and xenon is an anaesthetic. The only problem is that I’ve never actually used it…

x for the unknown. Now I have plenty of those:

Firstly there are people whose occupations are known, but I don’t know what they actually involved. One example is Harry Taylor, who worked all his working life in Gaghills footwear mill as a ‘clicker’. It was quite a while before I found out that a clicker was the man (and it was usually a man) who cut the leather to the required pattern to be sewn into shoes. Apparently it was one of the most sought after (and best paid) jobs in the factory. The name ‘clicker’ came from the sound the cutter made as it clicked over the corrugated support over which the leather was stretched. 

There are other examples. The 1841 census includes one Thomas Walsh, age 30, ‘chair bottomer’. Now that sounds obvious, but did they really employ someone just to put the bottoms on chairs? A ‘mule piecer’ spent his days joining the ends of broken spinning threads, not assembling beasts of burden. And if you are not familiar with the textile industry you may wonder what the census enumerator meant by ‘PLWC’ - power loom weaver of cotton.

Secondly there are people who I know lived in the area but have no idea what they actually did. The census of course helpfully lists names and occupations. Unfortunately other sources aren’t so kind: rates books, voters’ lists, lists of tenants in deeds… It’s relatively easy to know who lived where, sometimes much harder to know how they earned a living if they didn’t happen to be on the census. Some sources help of course. Newspapers may state the occupation and the council minutes helpfully document that one Eileen Taylor had recently been appointed as librarian.

But that’s all part of the fun. And it wouldn’t be fun if it was easy.

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