Frank George Marling (1863-1954): Life and Labour

I could not get any settled job. I helped my father in the post office, went with telegrams and eventually learnt to send and receive telegrams on the single needle instrument then in use. (But Allan was the recognised assistant. I had no definite status [)]. If there was a telegram to be delivered beyond the free limits I was glad to take it for the sake of the fee for delivery, payable by the addres[s]ee, a shilling or sixpence. (p.149).

“A late 19th century etching of a man using a telegraph machine”; BBC Schools.

Frank left school at the age of fourteen to work with his father at the post office in Sharpness (see Education and Schooling). At eighteen years, he tried to enquire at the Gloucester Bank at Berkeley:

Once I went to see the manager of the Gloucester Banking Corp. at Berkeley to enquire if I might be given a position in the Bank. I was then 18 and he said I was too old to start. I talked of trying to get into a drapery firm in Bristol but nothing came of it. Then just when I was twenty, Harry Hall, who assisted my father in the Dock Office […] was ordered a sea voyage to Australia. I was appointed temporarily in his place. Poor Harry died before reaching Australia and the Dock Company took me on at a £1 a week (pp.149-150).

Postmen on Bicycles; dated before 1901;

The £1 per week that Frank earned was equivalent to earning 20s per week (See more about currency here). This was similar to that of Farm workers, who also earned as little as “20s” per week (Benson, 2003). Farm workers were considered to be amongst the lowest paid in the late 1800s (Benson, 2003). This means that at the age of 20, Frank’s income was also low – in comparison to that of cotton mill workers, who earned as much as double the amount of Frank’s wage (Benson, 2003).

Frank writes about how he used his earnings to help his mother with the household costs for living at home. He also notes how he paid for life insurance in order to save for his future children’s education, as well as his future marriage:

I paid 10/1 or 12/6 a week to my mother for my keep, insured my life with the United Kingdom Temperance & General Assurance Institution for £100 with profits payable at death or on attaining 40 years of age, for I argued to myself, by that time I may have children and I am determined to give them a better education than I have had myself and this may enable me to do it […] a little time after this I began paying £1 a month […] to save up for the eventuality of getting married (pp.150-51).

Although he did not earn a great amount, Frank still helped his parents and saved what he could in order to make sure that he could better his future and the lives of his future family.

In terms of work in the home, Frank discusses the chores he and his brother, Allan, had to do. Doing work and chores in the home would have prepared Frank and his brother for a life of labour. Many children at the time may have had to work at a young age to help with the family income. Jack Lanigan, for example, worked at a “barber shop” from “the age of ten” years old (Shillcock, 2015). Although this may not have been the case for Frank and his brother, they still had to contribute to chores at home. Frank writes about having to “clean the knives” and was told how lazy he was for sitting down while doing it:

On Saturday mornings Allan and I had to clean the knives, each doing it every other Saturday. What a laborious task that seemed! In the summer we would do it outdoors: one morning I sat down on the pumpstone which was between our yard and that of the house next door. Presently out came the little old woman next door. “Well, I never seen such a lazy way of doing things in all my life!” She exclaimed […] As Allan became old enough he had to chop wood for the fires. One day he chopped his thumb with the axe so I had to do it until his thumb healed. His thumb got better but he never took to the wood chopping again! (pp.102-4).

Frank also worked as a Sunday School teacher for over fifty years of his life (I have also previously mentioned this in my Purpose and Audience post). Frank started working as a Sunday School teacher in 1879 at the age of 16 and ½ years. He worked at “Pitbrook Sunday School” (p.157) until February 1880, when he “transferred to Sharpness” once the Union Church had opened: The Sharpness Union Church was opened on 25 Jan 1880 and on the following Sunday a Sunday School was started! (p.158).

Piltz, Otto; The Sunday School; Brighton and Hove Museums and Art Galleries;

Frank was appointed the Superintendent of Sharpness Union Church Sunday School in 1890, until he retired in July 1929 (p.159). It was in 1929 that he was given the national Sunday School diploma for 50 years continuous Sunday School service. Frank was very dedicated to working for the Sunday School and loved working with children. Working at the Sunday School was a position that Frank was the most enthusiastic about when writing in his memoirs:

It is impossible to tell a hundredths part of ones experience and activity in the Sunday School, of the hundreds of boys and girls […] I watched from their earliest infancy till they grew up, some of them into grandparents! Sunday followed Sunday, anniversary followed anniversary. The time seemed crowded with all kinds of activities. For many years I trained some fifty scholars for an annual Entertainment consisting in later years of an Operretta. The children loved these and one got to know them so well in the practices (pp.159-160).

Section of the 1911 Census;

Other professions that Frank had during his life involved working as a “Pilotage Agent”, employed by the “Channel Pilot Co.” (1911 Census). According to the census, Frank was working in this profession at the age of 48 years old. At this time, he lived at “9 Dock Row, Sharpness”, with his wife, three children, and his mother – who was widowed (See Home and Family Part One and Part Two).

The next post: ‘Habits, Culture and Belief’, includes details about Frank’s time as a member of the Band of Hope!


  • Benson, J. The Working Class in Britain 1850-1939. London: I.B Tauris, 2003.
  • Burnett, J. Useful Toil: Autobiographies of working people from the 1820s to the 1920s. London: Routledge, 1994.
  • ‘Frank George Marling’ in Burnett, John, David Vincent, David Mayall (eds) The Autobiography of the Working Class: An Annotated, Critical Bibliography 1790-1945. 3 vols. (Brighton: Harvester, 1984, 1987, 1989)
  • Gagnier, R.  ‘Social Atoms: Working-Class Autobiography, Subjectivity, and Gender. Victorian Studies. (Spring, 1987). 30(3), pp. 335-363.
  • Marling, Frank George. ‘Reminiscences’. Burnett Archive of Working Class Autobiographies. Brunel University Library. Special Collection, 1:492.
  • Shillcock, L. (2015). Jack Lanigan (1890-1975): Life and Labour (Childhood). 10 December. [blog]. Available at:  (Accessed: 06/04/18).
  • University of Nottingham. (n.d). ‘Money’. [online]. Available at: (Accessed: 08/04/18).

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