Wednesday, 13 February 2013

clogs chafing me

Glenys from Gallery Oldham joined us yesterday in workshops for making memories. She had with her a reminiscence box themed on the Cotton Mills. It was a subject that everyone in the room was affected by in some way, with relatives in the mills, or mill experience themselves. From the Industrial Revolution until the 20th Century, Oldham was a major centre of textile manufacture, particularly cotton spinning. It was wonderful to witness the objects and photos come alive as the group sparked into conversation.

Doreen reflected on her mother:  I would sit there with her in the mill sometimes if I were ill. Nobody said anything. Would have me meals with her. She never wanted me to go in there to work, she were determined. She swore I wouldn’t go into a mill, and I didn’t. She started in the ring room, did cones to go down to the card room. Used to sit in the ring room and have me dinner there. My mother wouldn’t have allowed me to work there. I sat for many hours whilst she worked. Took jam butties, she couldn’t afford childcare.

She spoke in a matter of fact way about poverty and held the attention of the whole group.

Had irons on me clogs, they were very uncomfy, chafed me ankles. Had to wear them as they were cheap. Got them at a shop at the top of Barker Street and there were May's Pawn shop lower down. Used to take clothes for me mother. Have them out for the weekend, then back in the pawn shop. Our best clothes and shoes. Course you were embarrassed, you would go round the back door- make sure no one was looking. Only posh people went in the front door- but they weren’t hawking stuff.

A women hawker came to us. Had a cinder bag selling second-hand clothes in it - I never had new clothes. Never had no shoes proper me, had clogs because they gave them out. We were allowed so many a year. Was born in 1936. Never had carpets on the floor, we did the donkey stones on the floor inside. Mother did peg rugs, some lovely designs. We must have been very poor, we didn’t think about it. 

Me mother was on the means test. It makes you different as you grow up. I made sure I gave my children everything. I think I went a bit over the top, spoilt them a bit.

Denise embroidering her picture of a clog.
embroidered shuttle
I offered members of the group squares of calico and coloured threads and invited them to explore the objects in more depth by drawing them, then embroidering them onto the fabric. Some gave polite excuses (hands not able to hold a needle anymore) others picked up the artwork straightaway and got on with the creative exercise. The conversation turned to the joy of stitching, past hobbies...

Doreen embroidering a shuttle

At the end of the session, the group reflected on the session: When people start talking it jogs your memory, it's really interesting. I got plenty off my chest, thank you. Doreen.

I didn’t come at first because I didn’t think I could remember anything, but when I came last week I thought how grand it were. Irene.

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