Patrick McGeown (b. 1897): Biographical Entry

Born 1897 in Craigneuk, Scotland, of Irish parents. Father a steel furnaceman and mother formerly a mill worker. 1 brother, 1 sister. Educated at St. Patrick’s Roman Catholic Elementary School and Motherwell Catholic High School (to age 15). Joined Workers’ Educational Association classes in later life. Married. First child died in infancy. 2 surviving daughters, one of whom was mentally retarded. Moved to Wigan in 1914 and later to Ancoats.

Barman (aged 15-17); began 48 years in the steelworks at age 17, commencing as a labourer and finishing in 1963 as a first-hand melter.

Secretary of a boys’ football club; member of Iron and Steel Trades Confederation; member of the Home Guard; became actively interested in adult education following retirement; contributor to radio and magazines.

A full account of the history of steelmaking in the first half of the twentieth century with evocative descriptions of work and conditions, balancing a sense of pride in the ‘art’ of manual labour against the ‘daily burden of tiredness and boredom’. Work-related topics discussed include the impact of technology; short-time working and unemployment; trade recessions; nationalisation; job hierarchies and promotions; suspensions; trade disputes; industrial illnesses and accidents. McGeown also writes of the general conditions of life in the tenement districts of Scotland around the turn of the century, recalling the ‘culture and natural dignity’ of the working class which seeped through the ‘muck of their lives’. Unsentimental observations are made on the different attitudes of miners and steelworkers during the General Strike; early home life; housing; schooling; household management schemes; adolescence and courtship; wife-beating; leisure (public-houses, music halls, cinema, boxing); local characters; the use of police spies among the Irish following the 1916 Easter Rising; holidays; retirement; immigrants (Irish, Poles, Lithuanians and Italians).

Bibliography:

493 MCGEOWN, Patrick, Heat the Furnace Seven Times More (Hutchinson & Co. Ltd., London, 1967), pp.192. Other edn., with an introduction by Asa Briggs, Readers Union, London, 1968, pp.192.

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