Allen Hammond (b.1894): Life & Labour

In the interview, Allen often converses in detail about his parents’ occupations, his father being a ‘seaman’ and his mother a ‘washerwoman’. The influence of geography in the working-class experience seems to be vital when exploring localities in early 20th century workplaces. The influence of living in Toxteth, Liverpool plays an integral part in how Allen’s anecdotes are detailed.

With Liverpool being a port city, Allen’s father was at the forefront of a revolution in the docking industry during the era:
“The Liverpool dockers, in particular, became engaged in 1890 in a protracted struggle involving almost as great a number of strikers as on the London docks in the previous year. This Liverpool strike had all the makings of a “labour war”, and it resulted in a profound impact upon industrial relations on the Mersey waterfront.” (1)

Allen was born 4 years after this strike, with docker’s and seamen in the midst of a major overhaul of how the Mersey’s industry was facing revolution. There seems to be a growing ideological re-evaluation in how the social consciousness questions working conditions, which in Allen’s father’s case leaves a lot to be desired. Allen in light of this often describes his father’s alcoholism, with his desire to escape becoming a daily ritual.

The interview however never seems to go into detail surrounding the every-day implications of being a seaman in the early 20th century, Allen just discusses his father’s absence. However, researching into the working conditions of a seaman in the early 20th century can be insightful:

“[…]men could work 18-hour days for 10 days at a stretch[…] One Loweshoft fisher described the work routine as ‘savage’.” (2)

So this may explain Allen’s ignorance towards his father’s work, sparing him as a child of the day-to-day anxiety which he probably had to face as an occupation.

The conditions where so ‘savage’ in-fact, that in 1911 significant violence broke out during riots in 1911 which lobbied “for better wages, conditions and recognition of unions.” (3) During these riots: “about 80,000 men and women marched to St George’s Hall. Scuffles broke out between protesters and police and within minutes fighting had begun, involving hundreds of people. The police attacked the crowd quite unnecessarily, many people were injured, many people were arrested, 186 people were hospitalised, and 96 people arrested” (3)

In the midst of said revolution in the primary sector, there also seems to be an imbalance in the labour work-forces representation. Especially when it comes to gender. Allen describes many masculine occupations that all seem to be in the sectors that mostly encouraged businesses or unionised positions: ranging from ‘butchers’ to ‘teachers’. Which comes in direct contrast with the women Allen talks about, who seem to partake in jobs that are in a completely different sector entirely. Most of the occupations that women had seemed to be for the benefit the neighborhood or community that they lived in. For example, Allen’s mother ‘used to do an awful lot for a midwife and people like that, who used to have white aprons and that sort of thing. […] she used to wash them and iron them, starch them and we used to deliver them’. Therefore, women especially in Liverpool seemed to be the local enforcers of issues which surround house-chores in addition to outsourcing their skills for income.

Dawson Street, now known as the Metquater Mall.

The difference between sectors and gender occupations is repeated not only through Allen’s mother, but another example Allen uses is ‘an old lady, she was a money lender by the way, and she had a bit of an old shop’- Women seem to stay within the community, where the men exit the locality and seek out jobs that would bring more money.

When exploring Allen’s childhood beyond occupation, the interview creates an overall tonality of hardship and struggle. Berger questions him about his experience with school-life, home and his well-being. Especially drawing upon the lack of food his family could afford, which becomes a stark outlook into Liverpool’s working class:

‘Perhaps I’d have a two pound piece of meat of something like that. Well we often used to go and get that you see, and that with say five pound of potatoes, which you could get two pence, in those days, and a main onion or something life that’

Allen alludes to the fact that most of this food would be dinner for the whole family for a whole week, for five people. After rent the household had to prioritize certain amenities even after working collective full time jobs.

Citations:

Memoir: Hammond, Allen, Programme number:P404/4. Transmission; 26 August 1963. Granada Television. Typescript, 15 foolscap sheets, Burnett Archive of Working Class Autobiographies, University of Brunel Library, Special Collection, available at http://bura.brunel.ac.uk/handle/2438/10895

1-https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/international-review-of-social-history/article/liverpool-dock-strike-of-1890/9DC40C7F0281C88BAE3597FB004EB599
2-https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=8lAPzo2PGUIC&pg=PA259&lpg=PA259&dq=working+conditions+of+a+seaman+in+1900+liverpool&source=bl&ots=_Kt-1STmf2&sig=ACfU3U2vZr10ywo5p6fkoz2fRTN-notvdA&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjh_biU58fhAhX0XxUIHXzEAD0Q6AEwB3oECAkQAQ#v=onepage&q=working%20conditions%20of%20a%20seaman%20in%201900%20liverpool&f=false
3- https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-merseyside-14529243

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