Alfred George Henry Lay (1869-1958) Education and Schooling

Alfred’s education has had a massive impact on his life. He came out of education on June 6th 1889 ‘after serving six years apprenticeship to the fishing trade’ (21). Even though his apprenticeship has shaped his life he only mentions it briefly in the beginning of the entry entitled ‘America’. For Alfred to have continued working as a fisherman for a lot of his life his apprenticeship must have been one that had a positive effect on his life and one that he enjoyed. For him it must have been somewhere he felt he belonged after the abandonment that occurred during his childhood. To spend six years with someone who is willing to teach you not only your occupation but about life would have been refreshing.

              Whilst Alfred’s education is only mentioned briefly in this one entry it is a much bigger underlying theme in his diary. Without this apprenticeship Alfred may not have travelled the world to extend that is mentioned within these entries. The way in which he provides a life for his family would have also been very different. Instead of going fishing on the ‘Vampire’ in order to make money and find food his method of earning money what be something else.

A 19th Century Steam Powered Fishing Trawler Or Dragger. Trawling Is A Method Of Fishing That Involves Dragging Or Pulling A Trawl Or Net Along The Sea Bed. From Meyers Lexicon, Published 1924.

              When talking about his Master he has nothing but good things to say. ‘My time expired when I had been out 5 week and two days. My Master paid me for the full eight week and turned me out very fair’ (21). Throughout his diary we are told of a few times where Alfred has not been paid in full or not been paid at all. For his Master to pay him the full eight weeks pay having only worked five weeks shows you the impression that Alfred left on him. Alfred must have worked hard and well whilst aboard the ‘Silvery Smack’.

              There is no mention of any other form of education within his diary suggesting the small impact it must have had on his life compared to his apprenticeship. Whilst it is unclear what education Alfred had before he joined his apprenticeship. Jason Czarnik claims that ‘there were generally three paths for an orphan’s life’ (Czarnik, 2005, n.pag). He continues stating that ‘boys were often taught a trade’ (Czarnik, n.pag) which I think is unlikely as Alfred joined his apprenticeship when he was 16. Another suggestion that Czarnik offers is that he could have possibly been ‘placed in an educational institution’ (Czarnik, n.pag). This is possibly the most likely as it would explain how Alfred learnt how to write. According to Czarnik ‘these places were still unsanitary, crowded and did not give the best education possible (Czarnik, n.pag). This could be a possible reason as to why this form of education is never mentioned in Alfred’s diary.

              Alfred’s apprenticeship helped shape his life into one that allowed him to explore and visit places he may never have had a chance to visit if he was involved in a different profession. It allowed him to provide for his family and earn a living.


Czarnik, Jason “Living Conditions of Orphans in Nineteenth Century England”. Charlotte’s Web. Ed. Lissa Denney, Elizabeth Bellalouna, and Lauren Russette. U of Michcigan- Dearborn. Winter 2003. 10 March 2005. Accessed 22 May 2020.

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