Tuesday, 26 June 2012

dodging the police

As part of the project Working Memories, yesterday was spent with the group 60 Not Out, based at New Mills Volunteer Centre. I worked with a large, lively and very talkative group, the only frustration was I could have spent an afternoon with any one individual... there was so much to learn.  I did however get wonderful glimpses of their work life.

Mildred was a very respectable looking women, who quietly told me about her early career as a bookmakers runner, she was rather embarrassed at times, particularly about collecting money from the many Mills that were in existence round here at the times (many of the others in the group had worked in the Mills or had had family working there) This was a time when most women's starting wage for £1 and a few shillings a week.

Mildred: Left school and started at 14, I was a bookmakers runner, I spent my youth dodging the police. It was illegal and I knew it very well. If a man lost on the horses he wouldn’t pay, if you wanted a bet you were supposed to pay the day after, do you think they would pay the next day if they had lost? The police also would have a bet. There were always police walking about, if a police man was stood outside the Beehive Pub wouldn’t go in.

I covered a lot of ground, carrying several hundred pounds in my shopping bag so I looked innocent. On big days, like the Grand National, it would be so much, all silver collected, my hands were filthy at the end of the day. My father was the bookmaker, collected quite a lot of locally, most of the money from Buxton, so had to go to Buxton two times a day from New Mills on the train. At 17 my father gave me driving lessons and I drove around which made things easier.

Men bet on the horses, and we also ran the football coupons, it was difficult to predict the football coupons. My father had an agent in every Mill round here, the agent would collect money from all the men there, and put it in a bag clicked shut with a clock- so when I picked up the bag I could calculate when they had clocked off- in case people tried to get a bet on knowing the result. The clock stopped that.

When my father retired I became a signal woman, I didn’t want a normal job, I answered an ad for the job ‘I’ll take you in this box and if you can move these levers you can stay’ they said. I was only 7 and a half stone, but managed it, it was a knack to do it.

No comments: