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Recorded Memories

Lilian Coley Interview. December 1997.

Work and family in an industrial village 1917-1961:
‘I happened to get a bit quick…don’t you think that’s a lot of money for a girl your age…’

‘She’d [mother] put a shoe together,the toe cap, the galosh, the back strap and father could make it up’

She remembers her mother working a machine under the window - ‘[she’d] put a shoe together…not the sole’, the toe cap, the galosh, the back strap and father could make it up, he had a little place, he weren’t very well, he suffered with his heart and had asthma. He did the shoemaking towards the end of his life, ‘before he worked at my uncle’s factory, Whitmore’s, he were the foreman tacker there’. Lilian’s father had married twice - his second marriage was to Lilian’s mother who had four children and his first wife was Lilian’s mother’s older sister who had six children and some of the children from the first marriage were already married, Lilian had been a bridesmaid at one of her sibling’s weddings. Sleeping arrangements were cosy - two double beds in one of the bedrooms where four of her brothers slept and Lilian slept in a double bed with her one sister, Kate and another sister slept in a single bed in the same room. Her father had had the house built seven years before Lilian was born and at the time of the interview the house was one hundred years old.

Lilian remembers there was a lot of singing at one time, not so much anymore. Her friend played the piano and every Friday, after all the work had been done, they’d have a singsong . Her older sisters remember an Italian coming round with a musical instrument and the girls would dance out on the pavement. They also had a lovely choir at the chapel and concerts. Lilian remembers one little girl in her Sunday School class who eventually worked with her, she taught her the welting and they remained friends until she died. Over the years factory hours of work became shorter and holidays became longer. Lilian started work in 1917, during WW1 and when peace was declared everyone downed tools and went home. She remembers seeing the Zeppelin over Earl Shilton and she was on holidays in New Brighton with her family when war was declared in 1914. While on holidays there had been an incident with a Norwegian boat and a German spy. They didn’t ‘board-in’ but rented rooms and Lilian’s mother would buy food which the landlady cooked and Lilian remembers as soon as war was declared the price of butter was increased. She also remembers walking to Thurlaston with her mother to collect 2lb of potatoes. One of Lilian’s older brothers joined the Ambulance Corps during WW1, he didn’t want to be a soldier and he was based in a hospital near Southampton. He could have trained as a doctor but could not raise the £100 needed for his training. He was called the ‘black orderly’, having black curly hair and brown eyes. Lilian had four older brothers, two of them were clickers and one of them was a tacker in the B&S. After the war, two of her brothers, Cy and Fred set up in business with an uncle from Barwell.

Lilian was working at Minard’s during WW2 and empolyees would organise raffles and collections for the young men who had been called up from the factory. The bosses’ sons were also fighting. Manufacturers at this time all lived locally - the Minards lived at the top of Bird’s Hill on the left (opposite side of the road to Bird and Yeoman’s factory, now demolished), Mr Wileman lived in a big house down Station Road (passed Breach Lane which still stands) and Mr Norton also lived in a big house down Station Road, opposite New Street (now demolished, The Grange ). Earl Shilton people were employed in local factories but a lot of people came into Earl Earl Shilton and Barwell to work in the numerous hosiery and boot and shoe factories. People came from Ibstock, Newbold Verdon and Barlestone. Lilian had a friend who cycled from Ibstock every day and stood all day working the S&Gs. Things are very different today, factories are closing, the hosiery and boot and shoe industries are ruined - so many imports. Toon’s had a big factory on Wood Street/Land Society Lane - ‘ever such a big factory’. People need cars to travel back and forth to work now - this is progress - from the cottoners, to the Niantics to the XLs. Over the years lots of developments in the factory - ‘you know I did the welting, now they make the whole stocking’.

Lilian was a very religious person and her life revolved around the Baptist church and at the time of the interview she felt, ‘there was a lot more up there to find out…’


Lilian's Interview No2.
Run time 21 minutes & 6 seconds.

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