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A Ragged Schooling

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His father was an engineer and a drunk; his mother ran a shop from their house. The house was part of a slum in the mill town of Salford, Lancashire.


Robert Roberts was an Edwardian child and this book tells of his families struggle with poverty, squalor and hunger. But it’s not dull, or depressing, it is full of humour and love of life.


We learn about the over crowded houses where an unlucky, though not unusual, newly wed couple spent their first night together as man and wife occupying a single bed in a room which held ‘the wife’s parents, a grandmother and two younger brothers’.


How his mother kept the family afloat with her small shop

On Christmas Eve, cutting, carving and serving till nearly midnight, mother returned to the kitchen unsteady with fatigue and the next morning, the shop being closed one full day in 365, she stayed late in bed, rising to cook a turkey for eight of us.


they never heard her complain about the endless toil though once she remarked smiling, ‘Bury me with my arms folded, to show I’ve done enough.’


Spinsters were looked down upon, called ‘old faggots’

Spinsters deprived of male protection suffered constantly from the tricks of children trading on parental indulgence and their lives could be a misery.


And don’t let anyone know you do your washing on a Saturday!


Them as wash on Monday have all the week to dry,

Them as wash on Tuesday do little that’s awry,

Them as wash on Wednesday are not so much to blame,

Them as wash on Thursday are folk that wash for shame,

Them as wash on Friday most likely wash in need,

But them as wash on Saturday – they are sluts indeed.


So let that be a warning to you! :D


Books like this remind us how far we’ve come since the beginning of the last century, how when we moan about the welfare state and the NHS we should actually be glad to have them.


This is a little window on to the ‘good old days’ and how the past like the present and the future come at a price. But the costs are outweighed in each time by the humanity that helps us survive and evolve.

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