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Lilian Dumville (1889-1983)

Her father Joseph Dumville (1862-1959)
and other reminiscences

photograph: Lilian Dumville
Lilian Dumville
photograph: Lilian Dumville
photograph: George Thomas and Lilian Dumville
George and
Lilian Thomas
(nee Dumville)

At the age of 21 his father gave him £25 to sail to Massachusetts, USA, where his uncle had a mill. He came back home for a holiday and met my mother at a Whitsuntide Treat – all dressed in white. They soon married – father having got work at a silk mill in Buglawton, working from 6 am to 6 pm for 26/- a week. He couldn't afford a bicycle – in fact I only saw a penny-farthing and a three-wheeler. It was a long walk, so he was tired. My sister and I knitted some long leg supports for a halfpenny each.

He had moved from Buglawton after about eight years to a house in Congleton. There is just one and only episode I remember in Buglawton. I was born there in 1889 and was not very old, but a real nosey-parker when I spotted two stone jars on the top of the outside washing boiler. I tipped the first one and spilt coal tar down my red dress. Out came Mama – down the garden path we went, off came the dress which went seawards on the River Lune.

Now we've moved to Congleton to a house in Howey Lane with two nice rooms and a big kitchen and three bedrooms. Out of £1 a week, mother paid everything – even the rent, which was 2/6d a week. There was water on but no gas – lamps only. Yes, my Mum brought up two, later three kids on £1 a week, She was born in Berwick and her maiden name was Kidd. Here I will also mention that my favourite Aunt was born on Holy Island and knew Grace Darling's uncle.

Back to the £1 a week – Milk was 1½d a pint, coal ¼d a cwt, flour ¼d a stone, currants 2d a pound, However, father rented a piece of land and we had apples, gooseberries etc. I think Father never got a rise but when in America, he became a Quaker and learned Pitman's shorthand. He taught that subject in evening school and had private pupils – these in our living room for we couldn't afford another lamp or fire in the front room. Mother, my sister and I had to be 'non est' for hours. I read 'Chatterbox' and nursed my doll. Yes, at Christmas we always got a doll, an orange and one penny. I remember having a bath with my sister in the washing tubs in the same room as the private pupil.

My Mother used a huge two roller wringer with a peggy and a big wheel to turn at the same time the clothes were put through. I can see her putting sticks of rhubarb in too, for wine. My dear little brother's finger went in too one day and he was marked for life. (Herbert Dumville 1896–1948)

At the back of the house was a small piece of ground on which we had hens and two rabbits called Moses and Aaron. At the top was the 'loo' with a big wooden seat and a big hole – no lid – no water – just down it went to join the other rubbish and ashes to be shovelled up into a cart once a week.

Back to the Mill. The owner thought more of his games of golf, so the two overlookers had too much responsibility and the business failed. My father had been saving a little in the business but lost the lot – about £100. How sad for them. Also my wee brother was very sore through vaccination and then Father developed typhoid through eating oysters at Hanley, on one of his preaching trips.

Now it is time to mention that at nine years of age I was doing Pitman's daily and learning to play the piano. My sister and I went once a week to Miss Chatterton, who rapped our fingers with a ruler too often. She complained that while we sat on her chairs, answering theory questions we didn't understand, the buttons down the backs of our dresses scratched her chairs. The shorthand came in useful to both of us as we taught in evening school during War I and I often played for father at the Friends' Meetings and Socials.

During this time in Congleton my Father bred silkworms – golden and grey. There was only one mulberry tree in the town and that was in a doctor's garden where we regularly collected some leaves.

Did we have any holidays? Yes, once a year we went on a Co-op day trip to Liverpool and across to New Brighton. Also 1'm glad to say my parents went to Paris for the Exhibition, while I, at the age of 12, looked after my sister and brother. A lady came in at night to light the lamp and put it out.

As I said, Father was very ill with typhoid and we were to be sent up to Yorkshire. I remember seeing his forehead covered with leeches as we left to be cared for in the Guard's van. We were always very welcome at that Granny's (the Kidds). My Aunt had a milliner's shop and made lovely dresses for us too. My Uncle spent his life in the pub – open all day – beer 1½d a pint. He spent his spare time coming over for another 1½d and another. Later he married again – a rich spinster – so he had his own barrels!

I had still a few months to do at St Michael's School. At the age of fourteen, we left in those days, and through the Vicar I went to a grocer's shop as cashier. I stood 8 am to 1 pm one week and the next 1 pm to 8, 9 or 10 pm. All those hours for 7/6d a week. I was about nine months at the Grocer's shop and during that time I was never offered a biscuit or a bit of cheese, staring at the stuff hours on end; but being hungry never occurred to me. There was no check on my desk and never once did I have the exact amount on the cards I had to fill in. I always had more and the owner never reprimanded me. He knew I never stole a halfpenny. I lived on a threehalfpenny tin of Nestle's milk. My Mother couldn't give anything but perhaps bread which I often gave to hens on my way back.

After nine months at the shop, I went to an American can factory. (It was Hell with capital letters.) I was at a treadle machine curling over the edges of the lids like the tops of syrup tins – a lid with a hole in it or the bottoms of other tins. It was one big room with about fifty males and females: the males swearing and spitting. However, the three managers favoured me and I went on errands or made tea and so every closing time I was badgered: so what with bleeding hands too – it was misery for another nine months and all for 12/- a week.

By now, through a friend, my father had started the Mohair business at Lister's Silk Mill; so for 16/- a week my sister and I started work there from 6 am to 6 pm. I was at a roving machine and my sister a spinner. If a thread broke I had to put my fingers in and stop that particular spindle. So now I have knuckly knuckles and no wonder! I was there for nine months – all told twenty seven months of hell. Then the next important decision was taken.

While working at the grocer's shop for only half-days, I had to fill in the other half of the day at Remington's Typing School. I became an efficient typist and with another girl went for an interview for a job. The only question asked was 'How long have you been at Remingtons?' … She got the job.

So then it was decided that I was to be a teacher. Back to school after two and a half years in a 'dirty' world. I was at Belle Vue at the same time as J B Priestley. His father was our music master and we joined the boys for that. At a school social his father took my arm for a waltz. (He didn't ask me for another!) It was there I won the super Bible for my description of the Lord's Prayer. Father took the Bible and I never held it again.

After passing an Examination, I went to a school for half-days and then to the now Bradford University for the remaining half of the day. When at Tyersal School, Bradford – Edward and Alexandra rode on a tiny open-air train to open and bless some building: I've forgotten which one now but I was only a couple of feet away from them at the time.

And – so began my professional career in 1909 which ended in Truro at the age of 62 – having taught in well over 50 schools in Bradford, South Africa (black and white pupils), Bradford again, then London, Surrey, Gloucester and Cornwall.

A description of 'Early School at Wagg Street',
We went off with a small packet of sugar and oatmeal for play time. Reading is the only lesson I remember. We stood in a line and read with the help of a few readers in front: (no phonetics – look and see). Slates and slate pencils were used, We had a rag with which to wipe our spit off the slates. No toys – no crayons – no paper. I don't remember there being a piano or any singing.

See also:

Joseph Dumville (1862-1959)

Family Tree