Thomas Waddicor (b.1906): Home and Family

Mother was finding it more than usually difficult to make ends meet’ (p. 4)

‘There were eight children in the family – a group of four boys, two years apart in age, then a gap of four years followed by another group of four children, also two years apart in their age; two boys, of whom I was the younger, Gerald the older, and at last two girls, May and Nellie’ (p.1)

Being part of a family of ten, Waddicor is only able to describe and speak about a few members of his family. Whether he chooses not to go into detail is questionable. He only refers to some of his siblings by name and many are not spoken about in the memoir. Waddicor reveals small details about his family in the first third of his autobiography exposing limited information about who he abides with. When Thomas recalls going to Boggart Hole Clough, Manchester, we learn that he also had a sister-in-law called Bella. Thomas does this many times throughout the autobiography, and fails to describe people in his memoir sufficiently enough to accurately recognise them. On the other hand, Thomas may not believe this to be crucial information to disclose. This may be a flaw in his writing style or that he wishes his memoir to remain solely about himself.

Waddicor’s father is introduced as a drunkard and then Thomas does not speak about him again. Thomas recalls waiting for his father with his mother to have dinner and his father coming home ‘after the pubs had shut’ (p.9). He explains this event in a very detached manner without speaking about his feelings. David Vincent suggests some autobiographers used ‘borrowed clichés and literary phrases to give expressions their deeper feelings’ (p.228) butThomas does not include any emotive language with regards to his family members. Instead he speaks about them as an outsider would without referring to personal details.

Mrs Waddicor is illustrated as being very critical whose main concern is getting all her children working to support the family income. Education was not the main priority. Instead, the importance of supporting the family financially was something Thomas was conscious of at a very young age. The Waddicor boys were ‘pressed to find a part-time job to help boost the family income’ (p.4). The family’s main issue was money and in order to keep the family income steady as soon as they were of age to work getting a job was encouraged. Thomas, being one of the younger boys received hand-me-downs from his older brothers: ‘what I had to wear was anything that Gerald had outgrown…it was already rather worse of wear’ (p.13). Once Thomas works for Mr Hobson he sends his right-hand man to take Thomas out and buy him a new suit and to get a haircut. From the day Thomas starts his job as an assistant his life gets better. Mr Hobson is spoken about a lot more than anyone else as he becomes a main figure in his life. He looks up to him, admires him and values his opinion. He is a very important figure in his life and although Thomas doesn’t explicitly say anything like this the reader understands the bond which the two share and just how fond they are of each other.

Thomas doesn’t speak about his wife or children and just refers to them briefly at times. We are able to infer he had a wife  through his memories in London. Thomas writes in his memoir: ‘my wife’ and then, after editing perhaps, he adds the word ‘first’ handwritten in between – implying he was married more than once. Vincent explains that many autobiographers would rather leave details regarding their ‘private’ and ‘emotional’ out of their memoir entirely (p.227). This is the case in Thomas Waddicor’s memoir. We do not know when Thomas met his wives, when they got married and whether he had children. The main reason for this may be that he may not deem it to be crucial information and he may rather speak about his work life and achievements regarding that.

Generally, Thomas had a pleasant childhood in Manchester regardless of the fact that his family did not have much money. Once his living circumstances improved he began to relish a few luxuries: things which he could never have owned had he not left Manchester. Consequently, Thomas does not revisit his family in Salford after moving away or at least he does not reveal this in his memoir.

Works cited

Burnett, John. Autobiographies of Childhood, Education and Family from 1820s to the 1920s, 1982.

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

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