Thomas Waddicor (b.1906): Education and Schooling

One could leave school at the end of the term following one’s fourteenth birthday.’ (p.15)

The theme of education is not an extremely prevalent theme in Thomas Waddicor’s memoir as he does not value schooling. Thomas depicts his education as being the secondary priority in life. He reveals snippets of his memories in school only four times most of which are very critical. Thomas is more concerned with earning money to support his family, just like his other siblings, rather than advancing in his education. Schooling is not important to Thomas: or to his family.

St Annes RC Primary School, Adelphi, Silk Street, Salford
St Annes RC Primary School, Adelphi, Silk Street, Salford

Education does not shape Thomas to be the man he is as this has always been is last priority. He eagerly awaits the day he turns fourteen so he is able to work and support his family – a pressure that he has to go through to lessen the pressure on his parents. He is better off earning money and he ultimately gets a good job and becomes quite wealthy living in London.

In the small extracts where Thomas speaks about his school he depicts his experience as boring and being an inconvenience to him. Thomas does not deem his schooling to be beneficial or worthwhile as he questions what is taught in school as being unhelpful. The fact that he does not speak about school a great deal is the main signifier that he did not enjoy it very much. Many recollections are negative and critical of the teacher and subject which is being taught. An example of this is when Thomas tells us about ‘one of the first, and lasting, lessons taught in primary School’ (p.2) In the lesson Thomas is learning arithmetical processes such as simple sums in terms of money. He decides that the whole process of having to find the total amount of money left is pointless. He goes on to speak about his father referring to money in his pocket as ‘nothing but a few coppers’ rather than calculating the actual amount.

Being poor and living in a deprived part of Salford was a disadvantage for the Waddicors. Not only did they have to walk a long way to get to school but their ‘mother had difficulty providing cash enough for the four of’ them (p.3). Waddicor recalls that his mother was unable to provide school money for the four children. They would have to walk home to have their lunch or mostly have packed lunch jam sandwiches to have in the caretaker’s cellar which was ‘unventilated and smelly’ (p.3). Although Thomas does not explicitly reveal feelings in his memoir, his dismay during this can be sensed and the reader cannot help but to feel sorry for him.

Although Thomas is very intelligent he focuses on earning money and immediate gratification is more important to him. Thomas reveals, in a very nonchalantly manner, that he was quite capable in school: ‘at the close of the Easter term I was second from the top – a giddy height for me.’ (p.15) Surprisingly, Thomas is top of the class which shows he could have had more potential to excel academically. His teacher asks the top students whether they have jobs or wish to continue to attend school. Thomas does not have a job secured but he is certain that he wishes to leave school to earn money and supplement the family income.

Overall, Thomas is a bright young man throughout which is why he is able to achieve so much in his life regardless of his poor background. Thomas also attended church every Sunday with his parents and was also part of the Boys Brigade which I have discussed in more depth in my Life and Leisure post.

Works cited

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Constantine, Stephen. Unemployment in Britain Between the Wars, Essex: Longman Group Ltd, 1980

David Vincent, Bread, Knowledge and Freedom. 1982

Davies, Andrew. Leisure, Gender and Poverty, Buckingham: Open University Press, 1993.

Eric, Hopkins. Childhood Transformed: Working class children in nineteenth century England. Manchester University Press, 1994.

Hedrick, Harry. Children, Childhood and English Society 1990-1990. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997

Gagnier, Regenia. ‘Working-Class Autobiography, Subjectivity, and Gender.’ Victorian Studies 30.3 (1987): 335-363

Griffen-Foley, Bridget. From Tit-Bits to Big Brother: a century of audience participation in the media, Macquarie University, Australia. P533-4

Lynn Broughton and Helen Rogers. Gender and Fatherhood in the nineteenth Century. Palgrave Macmillan, 2007

Marjorie Cruickshank, Children and industry, Manchester 1981.

Mike Savage and Andrew Miles, The Remaking of the British Working Class 1840-1940. Routledge London, 1994.

Rose, Jonathan, ‘Rereading the English Common Reader: A Preface to a History of Audiences.’ Journal of the History of Ideas. 53. 1 (1992): 47-70

Ross, Ellen. Love and Toil: Motherhood in Outcast London, 1870-1918. Oxford 1993, 152-3

Thompson, Paul. The Edwardians: the Remaking of British Society. St Albans, 1977.

Vincent, David. ‘Love and Death and the Nineteenth-Century Working Class.’ Social History, 5.2 (1980): 223-247.

Waddicor, Thomas. ’Memories of Hightown and Beyond’, Burnett Archive of Working Class Autobiography. University of Brunel Library, Special Collection, 2:787, (2016). Cheetham/Hill 1950s/60s?. [online] Available at: [Accessed 25 Jan. 2016]., (2016). Salford Schools. [online] Available at: [Accessed 25 Jan. 2016].

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