www.kbgs.com

KBGS Old Boys' Forum

A place to discuss Keighley Boys' Grammar School. 


Terms of use.  Anonymous, offensive, or malicious postings will  be deleted. School-related topics only please. If you need to add a "family notice" reply to any of the current messages in that thread, and remember to change the Subject to the name of the newsworthy person.

 

 

KBGS Old Boys' Forum
Start a New Topic 
Author
Comment
Vanishing occupations

When I was a lad my father was a fettler. When I was very young I had no idea what this entailed but it sounded like a responsible job to me. When we used to go into town on Saturday mornings so my dad could buy his "bacca and papers" we'd sometimes meet Jim who was an "ovverlooker" (I'd always ask my dad what people's jobs were). This also sounded like a responsible job. It was when we met a "poverty knocker" that I became baffled. It's time to find out.
Who can tell me what a poverty knocker was/is? And do they still exist?

Years at KBGS e.g. 1958-1964 (optional) 1958-65

Current location (optional) Leeds

Re: Vanishing occupations

A handloom weaver, apparently, Shaun:http://www.thedialectdictionary.com/view/letter/Lancashire/6582/

And yes, they still exist, especially on Harris, where Keighley made looms are still used to make the tweed.

Re: Vanishing occupations

There were many weaving overlookers around Keighley and the mill villages. As I recall, it was their job to keep the looms going and to fix any problems. When I emigrated to Australia in 1954, I lived with a great aunt and her husband. They had emigrated in the late 1920s because of the textile industry in Geelong and when I arrived and learned that he was a "loom tuner" I asked what was that? I had never heard the expression before. He laughed and said that he was a weaving overlooker really but the Aussies had a different name for it.

I expect this thread will bring some good responses. What about the "knocker upper"? My grandad was always woken up early by this method. Really he was the man who turned off the gas lamps early mornings and with his long stick thing he just knocked on my grandads window.I suppose that was more of a favour than a job but it was well known. Cheers.

Years at KBGS e.g. 1958-1964 (optional) 1947-51

Current location (optional) Auckland, NZ

Re: Vanishing occupations

In 1996 and 1967 whilst waiting to be conscripted, I worked as a Typewriter Mechanic. I heard on Toby Foster (BBC Radio Sheffield podcast) the other day that th elast typewriter to be produced in Britain had rolled off the assembly line.

Re: Vanishing occupations

William Firth (my grandfather) was an overlooker at Sutton Mill.

1954 photo of him here with other mill employees.
(He is 2nd from right, front row. Marked WF on the photo)

Current location (optional) Singapore

Re: Vanishing occupations

Poverty-knocker – They wondered about this back in 1887. A Query in Notes & Queries said “In Oldham a weaver is sometimes called a " poverty knocker." I am informed that the sound made by the picking-sticks, which send the shuttle from one side of the loom to the other, is construed by weavers into "poverty knock "; hence the phrase.”
Someone replied:
*' Poverty Knocker" (7'^ S. iv. 32 .— This phrase is well known in the West Riding of York-shire, but is not in such general use now as it was forty years since, when hand-loom weaving was still common in the outlying districts around Leeds. The phrase can scarcely be an onomatopoeia, as the simple click of the picking-stick of the hand-loom can only by a most vivid stretch of the imagination form the words '' poverty-knock." Here the words were used contemptuously of a hand-loom weaver, whose earnings were much less than those of a power-loom weaver. Most probably the words have a reference to the timid single knock, such as is made by a poor beggar, as distinguished from the more fashionable rata-tat made by a person who ‘' knows manners.'' I well remember many years since hearing an old hand-loom weaver (who dwelt on a wild moorland road leading into the Slaithwaite valley) say that he could almost tell a poor person from a well-to-do one by the kind of knock he gave at his cottage door when asking the way across the moor on a dark night.

Years at KBGS e.g. 1958-1964 (optional) 54-59

Re: Vanishing occupations

I pay a visit to a foot fettler now and again. She calls herself a 'podiatrist' but I know she's a foot fettler!

Years at KBGS e.g. 1958-1964 (optional) 1945 - 50

Current location (optional) Norfolk, UK

Re: Vanishing occupations

Quite a well known folk song, even around the Oz folk clubs!!
The lyrics tend to support the notion that 'poverty knock' is indeed onomatopoeic


http://www.yorkshirefolksong.net/song_database/Occupational/Poverty_Knocks.40.aspx

Re: Vanishing occupations

You can hear it here!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Blw5_H9aw-U

Re: Vanishing occupations

My Gt-grandfather and grandfather worked at Clough`s as Finisher`s.Also, a Mender in the family . Lady near where I live was a Doffer.
One old lady I knew spent her whole life from being an half-timer in the mill as a weaver spent the last 2 years of her life in a N.H. Had to sell her house to pay her fees and died penniless after a life-time of scrimping and saving and hard work!

Years at KBGS e.g. 1958-1964 (optional) `59-`66

Current location (optional) HAWORTH

Re: Vanishing occupations

So, what was a doffer?

Years at KBGS e.g. 1958-1964 (optional) 1958-65

Current location (optional) Leeds

Re: Vanishing occupations

a doffer was the person who went around the weaving shed from loom to loom collecting the empty bobbins. He wheeled a box to allow him to collect quite a number. The bobbins were then sent back for refilling.

Years at KBGS e.g. 1958-1964 (optional) 1949-53

Current location (optional) Bingley

Re: Vanishing occupations

Yes Bill there was indeed an occupation known as "Knocker-upper" We lived at the top of a street which led down to West Lane Mills and as kid in the 30's I remember seeing a bloke with a long lance like stick, at the end of his round, and asking Mother what he was up to , "Knocking up " was the reply with an explanation of the job .

Years at KBGS e.g. 1958-1964 (optional) 43-46

Current location (optional) Tasmania

Re: Vanishing occupations

The northern industries were a great source of folk song - here's the Doffin' Mistress'.
I used to sing this song in a folk trio.


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=79paawzGYRg

Re: Vanishing occupations

Mike Nichols
Yes Bill there was indeed an occupation known as "Knocker-upper" We lived at the top of a street which led down to West Lane Mills and as kid in the 30's I remember seeing a bloke with a long lance like stick, at the end of his round, and asking Mother what he was up to , "Knocking up " was the reply with an explanation of the job .


Thanks for confirming this Mike. No doubt there will be a few other strange or forgotten occupations turn up on here. Cheers.

Years at KBGS e.g. 1958-1964 (optional) 1947-51

Current location (optional) Auckland, NZ

Re: Vanishing occupations

Of course everyone knows what a sagger makers bottom knocker was.VXTT

Re: Vanishing occupations

Yes, Denis. I think all of us from our age group can remember that occupation cropping up on "What's My Line" many years ago, can't we? Something to do with the pottery industry, I recall.
On a similar vein, I was reading a book on the "Bronte Country" recently and came across a section about a teacher in Stanbury in the 1890's, recording the occupation of the fathers of his pupils, such as cartwright, engine tenter, warp dresser and fariner. The word 'fariner' puzzled me a little and thought it might have something to do with flour. When I checked it out on 'Wicki', it turned out to be someone who supplied animal feed and in times past the name had been used as a surname.
That said, it was good to see you on Monday last, Denis, when we shared a meal at 'The Beeches', a 'Toby Inn' of some renown these days. The place was packed!! Good to hear you made it home to Wisbech safe and sound, floods an' all!

Years at KBGS e.g. 1958-1964 (optional) 1945-50

Current location (optional) Keighley

Re: Vanishing occupations

Back to textiles, what about "bobbin liggers"?

Years at KBGS e.g. 1958-1964 (optional) 1958 - 65

Re: Vanishing occupations

Sagger makers certainly existed, though there weren't many around Keighley. They made the saggers that pottery was placed in to be fired (a visit to the potteries museum in Stoke-on-Trent is a wonderful day out).
A sagger makers bottom knocker was an "occupation" that was invented for comic effect to denote someone who was of an even lower status than the sagger maker.

Years at KBGS e.g. 1958-1964 (optional) 1958-65

Current location (optional) Leeds

Re: Vanishing occupations

Just come across this interesting post for the first time and am looking forward to reading through.
As for your first query, Shaun - have you come across the folk song "Poverty Knock"? I have the sheet music somewhere. The chorus goes as .........
"Poverty, poverty knock,
My loom is a working all day.
Poverty,poverty knock,
Gaffer's too skinny to pay"

- then the memory fails.
I think that Liverpool group The Spinners recorded it.Or was it The Oldham Tinkers?

Years at KBGS e.g. 1958-1964 (optional) 1952-60

Current location (optional) Lincoln

Re: Vanishing occupations

To digress slightly: a lot on us (in the '50s), struggling to stay on target at KBGS, had to raise cash through the only way we knew how: a job in local industry during the school holidays.

Labouring was the only work you could get - I had a spell (aged 14 - the then school leaving age) in a sawmill - bottom of our street - (Leightons) next to the Eastwood Tavern and opposite Prinnies Burlington Shed..

But once you stepped inside a textile mill, mugging was classified.

My recollection is that most mills in Keighley were woolen / worsted spinners - some knitting wools - some producing warp and weft for suiting. My first experience was with Hayfield Knitting Wools at Glusburn. My uncle, Les, was a time and motion man there and I had a spell in the spinning under an "owerloooker" called Raymond .,,,,,(from Beechcliff Keighley) - a stern taskmaster and an off-duty "connoisseur" of Taylor's bitter with a propensity to vent its more gaseous qualities at inopportune moments. (fart noxiously).

There was a free staff Hayfields Bus that left North Street, Keighley from outside the Regent picture house for the morning work. I forget what time I had to get up but I remember running like hell up Bradford street , Lawkholme and Alice Street to catch it or lose a day's pay.

All this is leading to the fact that I had a "position" as a "setter and doffer" at the behest of the said Raymond.

As a setter I brought empty bobbins in a little cart to the spinner's "gate" and filled the empty spindles waiting on the frame to receive spun yarn. The setter's knack was to pick bobbins between digits 1/2, 2/3 and 3/4 (left and right hands). Then in alternate (l and r) movements you served (set) the vacant spindles with empty bobbins - each time aiming to break your record.I could set a side of 120 spindles in just under 120 sex (secs)atbe (all things being equal)

Once set, and the frame was ready for an exchange of full bobbins of spun yarn for empties (the serious bit), the spinner who would shout for the doffer to come and switch over the full bobbins of spun yarn for the empties waiting to be filled. And so the sequence repeated itself. But this was a crucial time for the doffer - a moment of slackness and you could have all the full bobbins rolling all ovver't'floor and the spinner cussing you high and low.

I didn't know that there should have been two doffers and setters to service the spinners in our room. The setter/doffer (ME) had to take the filled bobbins of yarn to the twisting store; collect the rovings from the bobbin room or from the roving room when we were waiting. (I was fetcher and carrier doing two jobs) but I had to keep our women working because they were on piece work and their wages depended on continuity.

It was hectic. I worked so hard my "Ss" followed my "Qs"
When my time came to an end, Raymond (t'owerloooker')said he was "capped" I had stuck it out and gave me 30 Senior Service and a few bits of cake paid for by a collection from "t'lasses".

Years at KBGS e.g. 1958-1964 (optional) 1952-60

Current location (optional) Lincoln

Re: Vanishing occupations

Hi Shaun -

Poverty knocker is almost certainly a (grimly)
humorous name for a weaver.
Old Tommy Daniels of Batley used to sing (and might
have written)the song Poverty Knock which has the lines:

Poverty, poverty knock,
My loom it is saying all day,

The reference is to the sound made by the shuttle and the
poverty of the hand loom weavers.
Clearly the term lived on well into the time of the power loom.

I've just checked Wright's English Dialect Dictionary and it has
Poverty knocker - a. a weaver; b. the shuttle of a hand loom.

Years at KBGS e.g. 1958-1964 (optional) 1958-64

Current location (optional) Haworth

Re: Vanishing occupations

Poverty knock was sung for many years by the Oldham Tinkers -they introduced the song by telling the story of the weaving sheds around Oldham
Their CDs are still available from Amazon

Years at KBGS e.g. 1958-1964 (optional) 1959-1966

Current location (optional) cumbria

Re: Vanishing occupations

My old Dad was the village blacksmith and I don't suppose there are a great many of those left. I can still remember the smell of horses hooves burning as he put the hot shoes on.

Years at KBGS e.g. 1958-1964 (optional) 55-60

Current location (optional) Harrogate.

Re: Vanishing occupations

There are lots of Blacksmiths still in the rural areas where horses abound . There is one in a village where my wife went to school who still works under the shade of a chestnut tree .

Years at KBGS e.g. 1958-1964 (optional) 43-46

Current location (optional) Tasmania

Re: Vanishing occupations

Every morning on my way to school from Bradford Street then over Lawkholme Bridge to Alice street I used to pass a stone mason, an engine shed that housed shunters and a blacksmith at the bottom of Alice Street. Always thought that seeing such gave me a respect for honest labour and a deeper understanding of the work ethic.

Early Lessons

Bum-banging satchel belaboured me
running the long street to school.

The mason, hand bunched thick
round the stock of a flat chisel,
watched me through glasses
frosted by a million flying shards,
returned to peck at that day’s shape.
Strange curves emerged
from a peck, peck, pecking,
patient as dripping water,
that discovered bits of houses
in the bones of earth.

The oily shed, home to an old tank engine
that seethed like a great black kettle on a hob
steam flowered from sprung seams.
I knew the sear of that coal-gulping maw
and the sudden vent of dragon breath
that filled the yard with scalding vapours
and belches of sulphur that engorged a sky
bannered with the smoke of a town girded for war.

In the farrier’s hearth,
a hoop glowed in its golden nest of coke
bellowed to a heat I felt feet away.
Mightily rang the anvil with his bouncing hammer,
as he fettled the sparking iron, plunged it back
into the belly of fire. Swarthy and grimed,
he chimed from the heart of a Vulcan reek
of quenched iron and burnt hoof.

Late as usual, I was left to chase
into the place of hard desks,
chalk and the long slow plod of hours;
a place where good French seemed a logical impossibility
and Geometry was a foreign language.


Re: Vanishing occupations

Arthur, I thought that, when you would be making a contribution to this 'thread', you'd be mentioning one of our female forebears, who you found during one of your delvings into ancestry, who was a 'Corn Dolly Maker'. Not many of those around these days,eh?

Years at KBGS e.g. 1958-1964 (optional) 1945-50

Current location (optional) Keighley

Re: Vanishing occupations

These two films migh be of interest:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WohhLX_YLlE

about life in the West Riding in 1945

but, of more relevance is:

WIMSOL BLEACH FACTORY, KEIGHLEY (1951)

http://yorkshirefilmarchive.com/film/wimsol-bleach-factory-keighley?destination=search%2Fapachesolr_search%2Fkeighley%3Ffilters%3Dtype%253Ayfa_film%26highlight%3Dkeighley%26mode%3Dquick%26solrsort%3Dscore%2520desc%252C%2520sis_cck_field_film_id%2520asc&highlight=keighley

from 'The Yorkshire Film Archive'

Years at KBGS e.g. 1958-1964 (optional) 1959 - 1966

Current location (optional) Lancing/Shoreham border

Re: Vanishing occupations

Both videos posted before in the thread "We of the West Riding (in 1945)"