Thomas Waddicor (b.1906): An Introduction

‘Memories of Hightown and Beyond’

cheetham hillBorn in 1906 Thomas Waddicor is a working class boy who lives in one of the most deprived towns in Greater Manchester: Salford. Regardless of their social position Thomas Waddicor and his family still find joy in many places. When reading Thomas’s ‘Memories of Hightown’, we follow him on his journey from rags to riches. Thomas’s life turns around when he meets Mr. Hobson, a wealthy advertising firm manager. Starting as a poor office boy he works his way up taking him to London and ultimately owning an adveristing business.

Waddicor achieves something that every one of his social class and financial position wish to do: escape the poverty in which he lives. Throughout the memoir Waddicor mostly speaks about his career and briefly about his parents and siblings. His autobiography focuses on his financial climb and does not refer to his wife or children. David Vincent explains ‘autobiographers felt it was out of place for them to discourse at length on their private lives, and quite improper to discuss any aspect of their sexual experience’ (Vincent, 228). This is also evident in ‘Memories of Hightown and Beyond’ as Thomas does not discuss his wives or children, however the reader is able to presume as there is enough evidence that Thomas had more than one wife: ‘my first wife’s brother’ (p. 29).

Thomas paints a very mundane picture of his life for us, which makes us pity his living situation. He pulls us in by expressing his life’s shortcomings which juxtaposes with the end of the memoir where he owns things he would never have dreamed of. The Waddicor family struggled to keep up with the expenses of having eight children, hence why Thomas had to look for a job and discontinue his education. Thomas, being one of the youngest, would have to wear his older brother’s clothes: ‘what I had to wear was anything that Gerald had outgrown…it was already rather worse of wear’ (p.16).

Early on in the memoir the reader realises that Mr. Hobson is a pertinent character in Thomas’s life. Mr. Hobson becomes more of a fatherly figure and opens many doors for Thomas; who he later leaves to become a business owner. Mr. Hobson becomes the main source of joy for Thomas who constantly spoils him: ‘I danced on air all the way home’ after getting a present from Mr Hobson (p.16). Thomas states that ‘amusement in Hightown was very much a matter of making it for oneself’ (p.2). He goes from being part of Boy’s Brigade to the ‘Midland Hotel for a slap-up dinner followed by a visit to the… palace theatre’ (p.18). Although Thomas was treated well by Mr. Hobson, this was not the case for many others. Towards the end of the memoir, Thomas ‘gradually witnesses at first-hand what others complained of in him’ and finally Thomas realises ‘that there were, indeed, some imperfections’ (p.32). Fifteen years later Thomas witnesses a fellow employee being subjected to Mr. Hobson’s anger and consequently let go without compensation or a pension and only a month’s pay. This encourages Thomas to leave and so he starts a new business with the ex-colleague. After parting ways Thomas and Mr. Hobson ‘met only once more after that, many years later’ (p.32).

The memoir ends with Thomas driving his car through London looking at the Royal procession. It represents Thomas always being lower than someone or having less than others. Thomas sneaks through and becomes part of the procession because of a policeman who makes an error, and he drives through and makes his way to his home. This could parallel Thomas’s climb up the social ladder and how Mr Hobson let him in and is the main agent in helping him get through to the other side.

When picking Thomas Waddicor his open writing was most appealing. He reveals his everyday occurrences and nonchalantly describes his success: going from Salford to London. Thomas’s humbleness even after acquiring wealth makes him a likeable character and so the reader wishes for Thomas to become successful and achieve things he would have not been able to accomplish in Salford.

 

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.

Hendrick, 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

Images.manchester.gov.uk, (2016). Manchester Local Image Collection. [online] Available at: http://images.manchester.gov.uk/Display.php?irn=14915&QueryPage=index.php&session=pass&nirn=31&QueryPage=index.php&StartAt=1 [Accessed 25 Jan. 2016].

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