Mr Strutt's Mill, Character 3, Kitty by Bridget McLarnon
A mill girl, a year or so older than Sarah, similarly dressed but with a small red cloak instead of a shawl. Her clogs are older, not so well polished. She waves her little sack happily.
I’ve cold bacon in my cob today, I’ll breakfast like a lord! We pay penny a day for tea morning and evening, I’ll have it with that – it’s dear enough is tea, I shan’t be throwing it over anyone again! It was only the dregs I threw that time any road – Betty asked for it, coming behind and pulling off my cap like that. The overseer made such a fuss, if I do it again they’ll dock my wage he says. Any excuse with you lot, says I.
It’s a mill isn’t it? That’s what they’re like – don’t think this one’s different from others. You get bored with machines bang-bang-bang, and overseers moan-moan-moan. I’d like to go for service in some big house, that’d be better, maybe become a lady’s maid, that’d suit me fine. Pa says the way I sit about at home I’m half-way there already. They all think that’s a huge joke but I’ll show them. Kitty Holmes is bound for better than this…
One day the militia went past, we could see them from the windows, they marched along to the beat of a drum – although you could hardly hear that with the crashing of the machines in here. Very smart uniforms – red jackets. Even a weedy fellow would look good in one of those. They must have gone wherever they were going and done whatever they do because after tea we saw them coming back. This time they weren’t marching, just walking along all anyhow. We called out to them from the windows and waved like mad and they saw us and waved back. One shouted they were going to the ‘George’ and why didn’t we join them after? Of course, Ma wouldn’t let me do that – told you life was boring!
The lads that are lively don’t stay long in the mill. There was one group jumped on each other’s backs and did like a horse-race along the gangway over the road. We all laughed ‘til we cried wi’ watching them. They got into trouble with the overseers of course, had their wages docked as forfeit, none of them stayed long after. One of them told me he had saved up for the stage-coach to London – would I care to go along? I was a bit frightened – I didn’t know him that well. We were going to tell no-one but I did tell my younger brother – it was a secret, I made him swear – then didn’t he go to Ma with it. She boxed my ears, said did I want to be a street-walker down south, that wasn’t what she’d brought me up for! What does she know about it that’s never been anywhere more exciting than Heage Feast says I – never to her face, though! I still think on what might have happened if I’d gone to London with that lad.
One day we were so dull what with sunshine out there through the windows and us inside with jennies and all the rest rattling and booming and some of us noticed they sounded like little drums for dancing – almost like that. So we made up a dance to go along, the clogs made a clatter as we kept time. It was like a wedding or sort of feast, we all laughed greatly and will do our dance next proper chance we get. It won’t be in the mill, I think. The overseers ran in, they were shouting, in a right rage. Then our wages were docked – we said we didn’t care, they’re always at that trick. This time it was to be different, Mr Jedediah saw it in the book and said they were to give us our money back. So they did.
By Bridget McLarnon, White Peak Writers