Life and Labour.
Life and labour play a huge part in Beeston’s life. He only discusses his work life from the age of thirteen to nineteen when he worked in a saw mill, during the war. For a working class author, Beeston’s account of his life is laid back and relaxed, without talking about hardship he could have suffered during WWI.
Saw mill work was physically taxing, and often dangerous (with old Mark who worked with Beeston losing four of his fingers) Beeston did not seem to take his work too seriously. A group of boys who left school with Beeston whose names he remembers are also included in his account of working life.
He talks about working behind the benches, or cross cutting outside in the yards where they looked after an engine, something he believed was the best job of all because the engine was warm and the weather was freezing cold outside in the winter time. This shows how hard work was in Beeston’s days, where they had very physical work, and lack of correct safety equipment as he says, “no wellington’s in those days.”(p.3)
There were many mills in and around Uley, so life in a mill would not have been uncommon, with the amount of mill buildings and people having few other work options, especially during the war when it was important to build boxes and other items. Beeston actually worked in three mills, Teaks mill which burnt down, top mill and bottom mill.
http://bioeddie.co.uk/uley/Uley-Mills.php Hicks and Shepard Mill.
Beeston was a mischievous teenager, and often had trouble at work with other men who worked there, mainly old Mark, who did not get on with the young men. At one point in his memoir, Beeston recalls how his boss threatened to sack him but Beeston knew he would not as he needed the workers.
`Playing pranks was commonplace here, and Beeston and his friends liked to prank old Mark, who used to caw at them to put them off their work. So to seek revenge they dug a hole in the earth where old Mark’s work station was and filled it with saw dust and pigswill so that old Mark fell in. This was daily life to Beeston who did not worry about safety in the workplace, and saw playing in a dangerous environment as being innocent fun. It shows how carefree Beeston was growing up, although he had a serious job, he was still able to have fun.
Although he doesn’t talk much about his private life or further work he may have done after the age of nineteen, it is obvious he enjoyed his time in the saw mill despite the working conditions being harsh, and the fact that this was one of the few jobs he would have been able to get at the age of thirteen.
Beeston, Reg, ‘Some of my memories of and about Uley until about 1930, Brunel University Library, vol no. 2:56