Although it is evident in Jack’s writing that he is literate, there is very little mention of his schooling and further education. Beginning work at the age of fourteen due to his mother’s inability to afford grammar school, Jack appears to have an understanding of his social position. However, his lack of an academic career does not appear to have affected his ability to write at a high standard within the memoir.
‘I had a good schooling, but was unable to go to Grammar School because my mother could not afford it…I got a job delivering papers which necessitated going to Cromford Station morning and evening so I saw quite a lot of trains’ – (Vallance, 1G)
From this quote, it is possible to see that Jack’s writing consistently refers to the railway – demonstrating his enthusiasm and interest in from an early age.
Jack states ‘I left school (when I was 14) on a Friday and started work on the Monday at a colour (paint etc.) works where barrels were made for…82 1/2 p per week, considered a good wage in 1928’ (1H). He then went on to work at Longcliffe Quarry in Matlock after ‘being dismissed from the colour works for ‘larking about’ (1H). Youth employment was typical for children from working class families, particularly males. There was often a necessity for extra income for the home which resulted in the children leaving school and beginning work, much like Jack. Being from Cromford, Jack was lucky to have been born in the 1900s, as the local Mill run by the Arkwright’s was known for its use of child labour in the 1800s. As Joseph Farington noted in his 1801 entry from The Farington Diary, ‘In the evening I walked out to Cromford and saw the children coming from their work…These children had been at work from six or seven o’clock this morning and it was near or about seven o’clock in the evening. One of them, a boy of ten or eleven years of age told me his wages were 3s and 6d a week’ (Farington, 1928, 314). This is a stark contrast from Jack’s work-life and wage, although his education was restricted much like the labourers. With regards to the education of the child workers, Farington stated that ‘These children are employed in Mr. Arkwright’s mill, work in the weekdays, and on Sundays attend a school where they receive education.’ (1928, 314).
Much like the children employed by Arkwright, Jack would have been educated locally, more than likely at Cromford Church of England School, which is still running as the village school today. At the time, this school would have been considered a National School – led by religion as a Church of England institution for education. These schools supplied 3/4 of spaces for working-class children.
Jack’s young life does not appear to have been driven by his education. Instead, with the acceptance of his social standing, Jack writes about experiences with friends and co-workers.
Sometimes Jack ended up in trouble – ‘I attacked a boy. I didn’t remember coming home never mind the fight. rhubarb wine must be potent…Beware – Rhubarb Wine’ (Vallance, 1H). This event shows the changing roles of children within the education system. Jack appears to have taken on a an adult’s role at a much younger age than should be expected today. Drinking, fishing and getting into mischief were Jack’s pastimes as a result of this. However, his lack of education does not appear to have hindered his ability to have had a successful career within the Railway industry or write an extensive and well-written memoir which we now have the pleasure of reading.
Burnett, John, David Mayall and David Vincent eds. The Autobiography of the Working Class: An Annotated, Critical Bibliography 3 vols. (Brighton: Harvester, 1984, 1897, 1989). 2:780.Farington,
Joseph. The Farington Diary. London: Hutchinson & Co, 1928.