Ernest Richard Shotton was born in 1878 and he lived a long life of 100 years. Born in Birmingham, he was one of the 12 children of iron foundry worker Henry Shotton and his wife Clara. Shotton’s memoir focuses heavily on his working life in Birmingham, the city in which he took residence for all of his life. My main reason for choosing Ernest Richard Shotton for my author blog was my interest in exploring working class life in the city in which I live too.
Ernest’s memoir opens with some short paragraphs explaining his decision to write such memoir. From this particular section it is evident that Shotton is writing solely for the benefit of his family and most importantly himself. He includes a statement explaining his “strong personal objection to any personal publicity” (Shotton. E. R, 1) of such memoir and if such event did occur, he wished for names to be altered in his writing. To honour his wishes, I will refer to his family members using just their initials
Ernest introduces his grandparents, parents and siblings in small detailed paragraphs about them. He then goes into the main body of his memoir beginning with details about his childhood. From the beginning of his work, the fact that Shotton is writing for his own personal benefit is evident. You get a sense from his writing almost as if he is speaking directly to someone he knows. The working class background of his family is shown from the very beginning of his memoir. His childhood home was not only the living quarters for his family but also where his father ran his coal business and his mother ran a crock selling shop. It is interesting for me to see how important family life was when attempting run a successful working class business in what can only be imagined as quite a small space.
The memoir itself is very well structured and its chronology is helpful when getting a full picture of how Shotton’s life materialised. Each section is titled for example; childhood, early manhood, middle years. This gives the audience a direct idea of what happened during each part of his life. The main body of the memoir focuses on his working life.
One of the things I discovered when reading the memoir was my author’s ability to not seem arrogant when writing his memoir. When exploring his work it is palpable that he managed to achieve a lot throughout his life which is what gives him the material to write such an extensive and detailed piece of work. This gives me some great work to explore and I look forward to learning a lot more about Ernest Richard Shotton.
Ernest Richard Shotton, ‘The Personal History and Memoirs of Ernest Richard Shotton,’ Burnett Archive of Working Class Autobiography, Special Collections Library, University of Brunel, 1:627.
Shotton, E.R, in Burnett, John, David, Vincent, David Mayall, (eds) The Autobiography of the Working Class, Critical, Bibliography, 3 vols (Brighton Harvester, 1987) 1:627