Arthur Gill (b.1887): Life and Labour

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At 13 years old Arthur left school to work as a gold beater for Mr Wallace Barnes. Arthur obtained this job through his brother Will. This is quite a disturbing account in comparison to the laws and regulation governing the education system today. Children of the 1900s were exposed to much more at a much younger age. Although even in the earlier accounts of Arthur’s working life it is clear he is a motivated and ambitious person, aspiring for better.

Considering the time, it was a very courageous thing for Arthur to leave his job as a gold beater in 1901 because he knew he ‘didn’t want to be a gold beater all his life.’ And so moved on to bigger and better, getting a job with Mitchell & Co in the show card and writing department. Arthur’s love and passion for this job is very apparent, and the reader can feel the level of excitement Arthur felt. Arthur was very keen to learn the trade, aspiring to be a show writer he worked incredibly hard.

“I remember the thrill it gave me as I watched these craft men wielding the fine sable writers and pens on the cardboard producing beautifully written show cards and tickets.”

After 6 months of hard work, Arthur asked Mr Mitchell for a rise which he got, the reader feels this is a real testament to Arthur, hard working and ambitious Arthur was a very determined character. Despite this, Arthur career as a show writer took a turn when Mr Mitchell suddenly died. Throughout the memoir it is becomes obvious that Arthur’s at his happiest while show writing, which he later confirms.

“When was the time of your life?” My answer would be “When working for Mr Mitchell.” (P.57.)

show writing

In 1906 Arthur got a job in Roberts & Co, where he remained until the war broke out and he was called up in June 1916. During this period Arthur befriended Benjamin Robert’s son Walter, a relationship of kindred minds, Arthur’s account of Walter was incredibly warm, and of a childlike nature.

“Job 6 – Teach us how to port arms or slope arms or order arms and salute.” (P83)

June 1916 arrived and Arthur was sent to Whitley bay for training in bay 2 due to his previous illness. Arthur was then sent back to England where he resided in many different locations, and partook in many different jobs. His final and perhaps most notable role was when he manned a canteen in North Cotes. This canteen was opened to soldiers, selling ‘cigs’ tobacco or anything else they may need. During this time Arthur and his partner slept at night in the canteen on roll out beds. It was with great humour Arthur recalled himself and his partner being plagued by rats. Throughout Arthur’s memoir the reader is stuck by Arthur’s wittiness and humour.

“I remember more than one occasion flashing on my torch and throwing my boots at the rats.” (P85.)

whitby bay

Before Christmas 1918 Arthur returned to B. Roberts & Son, however this was only for a short period as Arthur had his own aspirations.

In 1919 Arthur left B Robert’s & Son and began working for himself as a show card and ticket writer from his own living-room. It is very apparent that from a young age Arthur’s aspirations drove him, allowing him to master show writing, something which he was very passionate about. Although Arthur went on to work part time as telephonist, he still worked from home as a show writer also.

Arthur Gill was a motivated man throughout, incredibly proud of his work as a show writer, he could see the merits of his profession, his skills, and the great crafts men that surrounded him. Arthur’s life and labour for most part was a source of happiness to him, something which was very telling throughout his memoirs, and certainly spills out onto the reader, leaving a feeling of contentment for Arthur as we read about his life and labour.

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