Thursday, 1 October 2015

On Deaf Ears

Earlier this year, not long after I had started working at Strutts North Mill, I visited Bletchley Park. There I saw a reconstruction of the Bombe equipment and read interviews with young women who had worked there. The noise, the movement and the urgency with which those tapes had to be looked after made me think of parallels between the working environment there, and spinning and weaving sheds in the cotton industry. I lived in a Lancashire mill town when I was at university, and there were older neighbours who recalled working in the mills. They learnt to lip read so they could have conversations across the factory floor. They even had sing songs, not that anyone could catch the tune! When the BBC started their successful series'Who Do You Think You Are', one of the early episodes featured someone who had been brought up in a Lancashire mill town. Both his mother and his grandmother had worked in the mills. His childhood had been blighted by the death of his younger sister as a baby. It was a heartbreaking story. His sister's death had led to his mother's breakdown and those problems affected the rest of her life and his. He blamed his grandmother, who had told his mother in no uncertain terms to leave the baby crying. The mother knew it was a different type of cry, but hadn't had the confidence to go against the grandmother's advice. I guess it must have been meningitis or something similar. It was one of those situations where you are trying to shout at the television. The grandmother would have literally been deaf to the pitch and urgency of the cry. How terrible. I do hope someone pointed this out and he managed to forgive her.

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