Life and Labour Part Two – George Clifton Hughes

“During the time of the long strike the mid-day meal for many was little more than ha’penny banana”

The setting of the Post Office of Rhosllanerchrugog

Hughes gives off the sense of poignant and striking sense of political history within his memoirs, when discussing the issues of work. He is able to brilliantly discuss the social issues of the early twentieth century. He is very much straight to the point in his message to the bourgeoisie of British society, yet caveats it brilliant with his unique tales, Hughes highlights the struggles of the mining industry by as he says;

‘There was no money for meat.’  

The memoir is full of the challenges brought on by Austerity which affected communities such as ‘Rhos.’ Hughes delivers a message that is mixed with the importance of work to the community but also the sense of belonging that brings to the town. Hughes talks about the local post office clerk as ’popular’ and ‘efficient.’ He uses Mr Jones as the symbol of the community who he identifies as ‘the soul of efficiency, was courteous and business like at the same time.’  Despite discussing something as novel as a post office in a relatively small community, Hughes has a great literary ability to build up a tension within his work. He introduces he reader to a standoff between the Mr Jones and ‘The Inspector’ who ‘demanded to see his accounts of the numbers of postal orders sold, of the registered letters,  of stamps sold to the general public and a separate record of the penny stamps bought by the pupils at the school for their Post Office Savings.’ In comic fashion, Hughes relates how the postmaster Jones took ‘perverse delight in giving negative answers and for good measure, reminded the Inspector that the last time he has distinctly informed him that he kept all these figures in his head.’ In this somewhat comedic scene the Inspector was found ‘losing his temper.’ This leads to a volatile exchange with Jones saying; ‘How dare you take it upon yourself to utter one word of criticism of me in front of a customer. Get out of my shop. OUT!’ Supported by Hughes, Mr. Jones is now described as the ‘compete master of the situation.’  With the inspector rapidly retreating out of the store.

“Horses are still in use and likely to be for some time to come because the motor cars are not all that reliable”

Hughes’ passive assessments of the goings on around him depict his memoirs as a personal diary, but are able to be read as historical documents as they feed so much into the history of Rhosllanerchrugog. As demonstrated in the Life and Labour blogs he gives both a serious history of the town, but also demonstrates a humorous and human approach to his writing. The particular style of writing, speaks with the reader, especially those of the modern day who are close to the town of Rhos , Wrexham and its surrounding areas.  Hughes has a good sense of the important matters regarding, social issues and he is never too far away from discussions of local politics. Focusing on the influential historical figures local to Rhos, he describes ‘Lord Howard de Walden’ as having ‘urban powers’ later describing him as the ‘perpetual mayor.’ It appears that this gives Hughes a source of inspiration. Hughes is also driven by the force of education which will be discussed within the next blog coming soon…


G. Clifton Hughes. Burnett Archive of Working Class Autobiographies, University of Brunel Library, Special Collection Library, vol. 4  2.426

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