One of the intriguing things about genealogical research and looking at old documents and censuses, is the number of jobs and trades which not only no longer exist, but are completely unknown in the modern world. I was looking up someone who lived in Oldham, and I was immediately interested because I lived there for many years. Oldham was one of the great cotton mill towns in the nineteenth century, they’ve all closed down now and most have been pulled down too.
The person I looked up, didn’t work in the mills, he was on the stage, he was an actor – but the description intrigued me, a self-actor minder… Of course when I tried to find out more it turned out that in fact he did work in the mill, he ‘minded’ or supervised a ‘self-actor’, a self-acting or automatic part of the machinery.
I looked up other names – and some of them sounded quite comical (although the life and times of a mill-worker were hard and tough). So what do you think these jobs were?
- beamer – someone who smiles a lot? Someone who is involved in building the mill, dealing with timber – i.e. beams?
- beam twister – someone who twists beams – for a spiral staircase?
- beam warper – ditto above!
- crofter – crofts are small parcels of land farmed by a crofter, so why might they need a croft at the mill? For a few cows to provide the workers with milk for their tea?
- doffer – someone who checks the workers doff their caps when the management comes round?
- fly maker – someone who makes fishing flies for the workers to catch fish in the many streams and rivulets in the area
- masher-up – in the north of England the term for making the tea is ‘mashing’ – is this the tea lady or man?
- mule spinner – obviously this can’t be someone who spins mules – but maybe he or she takes the mules used to transport things out for a walk.
- scutcher – it must be someone who scutches!
To find the answers, check here:
… and I will also give you the answers tomorrow!
My featured image is from Oldham