Ellen Gill (1888-1988): Habit, Culture and Belief

I never remember being interested in any of the sermons.’ (p 4)

Ellen presents no signs of ever having taking part in recreational activities as a child; it becomes apparent that all she felt necessary to write about was education and work. This could be due to the fact that she was from a working-class family and there were not as many opportunities to go on day trips and to do other activities as it all had a price. One activity that Ellen mentions frequently throughout the memoir is going to church and attending Sunday school. A cultural activity shared with many from her community, where both genders were involved.

woodhouse temperance hall 1907

The sermons where held at Woodhouse Temperance Hall where Ellen and her brothers would go and sing from melody books untitledsuch as ‘My drink is water bright’ (6). Good Friday was often a special day were they would learn special melodies in celebration of this. Easter was a time where the entire community would participate in. ‘All the Band-of-Hopes in Leeds used to walk in procession headed by decorated vans and a banner; ours had Woodhouse Temperance on. We all went to Leeds Town Hall and sang our melodies.’ (p 6) 

Ellen was also a member of the choir and on Easter Sunday she had to say a recitation, ‘When wilt Thou save the people’ (p 6) Ellen’s father was encouraged by her words and later he and Ellen’s mother signed the pledge, and decided to give up alcohol and ‘they had many happy hours there for many years.’

It is quite uncommon for working-class people to have the time or money to go on holidays, however Ellen saved what she could and with the help of her parents she was able to travel to North Shildon, near Newcastle-on-Tyne by train to visit her Aunt Mary Ann. ‘What an adventure! I shall never forget the thrill I got out of it.. one day Uncle took us all on the electric train.’ (p 8) The next real holiday she describes was 2 years before she got married, when she visited Scarborough for a weekend with Arthur and his family, in brackets she wrote, ‘(Arthur paid for me)’ ( p 8)

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Gill, Ellen, ‘Ellen Gill’s Diary’, Burnett Archive of Working Class Autobiography, University of Brunel Library,Vol. 1 No. 269

Gill, Arthur, ‘I remember! Reminiscences of a Cobblers Son’, Burnett Archive of Working Class Autobiography, University of Brunel Library,Vol. 1 No. 268

Image one and two: http://www.leodis.net/

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