A Tale of a Victorian Drawboy
On a cold windswept morn along an unlit road I made my weary way toward the old town Father's old collar turned against rain and cold His old crumpled hat pulled tightly down. Along crowded streets through the bustling Horsefair Where cries of hawkers floated free on the breeze Through mud ankle deep, horse droppings everywhere Past the beggar's and vagrant's pitiful pleas. I was just ten years old, two years out of school A boy walking down a Victorian street My young bones were aching on a diet of gruel Only five in the morning, and dead on my feet. Down wet cobbled streets into Mill Street and on until the dull lights of the loom shop appeared Up worn concrete steps broken handrail long gone Through the creaking oak door I gingerly peered. The stench hit my nose like the fist of a man The dim candles flickering within the gloom threw shadows of a man urinating in a can Using it later to dye wool for the loom.
An empty shuttle flew past the side of my head
Twas Monday morning my weaver had spent the night
in the Freemasons Arms and had not seen his bed
‘Come on young Jack, you’re wasting my light!
He was still pretty drunk because of fall day
that was pay day for the weaver and I,
It was always on a Thursday or a Saturday
when it was missed, I’ve seen grown men cry.
We wove near twenty five yards a week
my weaver got paid one shilling a yard,
He paid me four shillings, his little pipsqueak
which I took home to Mother, times were hard.
It was the day we worked toward every week
so come Friday we’d work day and night.
My weaver sheared the carpet to tweak
and hated cutting ends to make it right.
We’d carry it to the factory for inspection
and, if all was ok, he got paid,
But if anything needed correction
we hauled it back and I got flayed.
From his wage he’d pay for candles and coal
and would have to pay his loom rent,
Then he’d be off to alehouse to drown his soul
till most of his earnings were spent.
Now here I am on a dark Monday morn
my old Weaver’s hung over and ill,
I have to work hard from dusk until dawn
so come Saturday he can have his fill.
I cast my eyes around my lowly workplace
three other workers toiled at their loom,
The strain and worry etched on their face
for each had babies in their woman’s womb.
Unpainted walls coated with fine yarn dust The stench of the wool an unbearable smell I hated this place but in God I must trust Till I too were a weaver inside this hell.
This was my life for eleven more years
when I too would have my own draw boy,
The thought was enough to turn me to tears
but the loom shop was home and here I would die.
In this year of our Lord eighteen twenty five you get on with life as best you are able Come Sundays you thank God you are still alive you thank him for family, food on your table. So even though poor, our blessings are counted there are others a lot more worse off than us Any problems arising are always surmounted With no heartache, no pain and without any fuss