SHUT THE MOUNTAIN GATES
‘It is difficult to remember whether some things are personally recollected or whether, at a later inopportune stage, they are family stores reserved specially for revealing before one’s friends and relatives.’ – George Clifton Hughes, Shut The Mountain Gates
George Clifton Hughes was raised in the mining village of North Wales not far from Wrexham called Rhossllanerchrugog. Born in the early twentieth century therefore just before the first world war, Hughes details vividly his recreational actives as a young child. Hughes opens us up to his world, detailing his attendance at his various schools such as Ponciau Junior Boys’ School. He then went to earn a scholarship as a student of Rhuabon Grammar School in 1922. This suggests that Hughes was born in 1911 as the entry for grammar school was 11 years old.
Hughes talks romantically about his time spent playing football on the school playground with his friends. The theme of football runs throughout Hughes’s text, with the climax of the text reaching Wembley Stadium, almost acting as a metaphor for Hughes’s tales. I am going to document the life of Hughes through his work entitled ‘Shut the Mountain Gate’ by using the reach of my twitter (@writinglivesmod). This will open his story up to a whole new audience. Hughes portrays the image of an intimate quaint North Wales village that allowed his early years to be full of fun and what appears to be a pleasant childhood. ‘Our light do-it-yourself entertainment centred largely around the extra mural activities of the churches and chapels.’ Yet with the first world war haunting the country during this period, this of course was not always the case In the early stages of his memoir, Hughes introduces a memory of news from the first world war filtering back through to the village and of the villager scanning the Liverpool Echo regularly as their source of news about the war.
Hughes appears to have been a pleasant enough character with a solid enough education yet still with the ordinary misdemeanours that are synonymous with young men of his age. We are aware he acted as bit of a rogue during his early stages of his life. For example, he portrays an image that many of us may be accustomed to during our early years at school: ‘I am supposed to have escaped over the playgrounds spiked railings’.
Despite using my blog to authenticate somebody from the early 20th century, I want to use the work to become an investigator of sorts as well as a blogger. As we do have limited information regarding his family and any marriages. As well as historical websites Mike Savage’s Social Class in the twenty first century offers us a context to some of the scenarios that Hughes is faced with. Savage writes of the early twentieth century class structure: ‘We see a persistent emphasis on the divisions within the middle reaches of the class structure. This was no longer a straightforward divide between non-manual and manual labouring classes but rather a tripartite on between the service class, the intermediate class and the working class’. Hughes himself develops our understanding of his class status, by demonstrating to us the struggles the town felt ‘in a period when the demand for coal slumped alarmingly in a time of prolonged depression, planned to shape the number of days worked per week to the maximum benefit of the men.’ It is clear to us that Hughes has become engaged in class structures within Britain, and appears to be taking on the bourgeoisie of prime minister David Lloyd George’s government, by being a member of the Liberal League Club.
It was Hughes’ down to earth nature that lead me take a further interest into his work. My particular interest swayed towards the story of Hughes with his journey to the first FA Cup final held at London’s Wembley stadium. Often described as the best sports tournament in the world, I think it is a special and unique exercise for myself to undertake that I can bring the journey of someone travelling to such a big sporting occasion to life. The subject will obviously speak to many people as sports fans, but it is the rare accuracies that happened during that particular cup final that he really spoke to myself and through my blogs will speak to the reader.
Hughes’s level of writing is clearly of a sufficient level so obviously, a clear indication that he was someone that when he wanted to he could apply himself in the academic environment. Regardless of this, this is a man that we know who got up to so much mischief yet has documented his life through the form of literature so the question must be asked whether why he is using his writing to get his true feelings across.
The last known whereabouts of Hughes are that we was living in Bristol in 1984 at the age of seventy-three. Going by his memoirs it is safe to assume that he is enjoying a long life. We can also assume that Hughes was also retired at this point, although Hughes never documents his work life but his knowledge of the mining industry is an indication towards he himself or a family member working as a miner.
G. Clifton Hughes. Burnett Archive of Working Class Autobiographies, University of Brunel Library, Special Collection Library, vol. 4 2.426
Savage, Mike. Social Class in the twenty first century. Pelican. 2015.
Web. Wrexham-history.com. Ponicau Junior School. Date Accesed. 28TH Feb 2019.