Arthur Gill (b.1887): Politics, Protest and Class

“Vote, vote, vote for Peter Laycock, you can’t vote for a better man, Peter Laycock is the man, and we’ll have him if we can, and we’ll stick old (So & so) up the flue.”

As a boy Arthur looked forward to Election Day which was held on November 1st, although Arthur did not seem overly political, election days showed a very playful side to Arthur. He seemed to have a few political affiliations, but no strong ties as such.

Election day was almost viewed as a social event, where gangs of young men paraded around displaying their political colours, these were called ‘gangers’, on meeting of other rival gangs they would accost them. This recollection is fun-filled and demonstrates a whimsical side to Arthur. The reader wonders was this kind of past times symptomatic of the working class?

boys 1907

“And if they were opposite shade of policies to ourselves, our “gangers” quickly came into use. They were great times.”

These events allowed for young boys like Arthur to stay up all night, until the paper call the next day. The election results followed. The excitements expressed through his writing, a side to Arthur which was not otherwise explored. The excitement did not appear to stem from the preferable labour candidate Peter Laycock’s win, rather the build up and social side to the elections. The sense of freedom is very evident for all the young boys, like Arthur, who were involved in the election related events, enjoying the festivities and excitement.

Further, the reader feels that although Arthur had no interest in politics and was merely participating in the elections for the social side, it may be foolish to overlook his voting preferences. Is Arthur’s support of a labour candidate telling of his working class background?

Although Arthur doesn’t speak specifically about class, or how it affected his life, he does relate back to his mother’s childhood, and how she was expected to behave and conform within her class status. Arthur mentions his mother bowing to ‘the quality’, observing how much has changed since her day. To the reader, Arthur was not someone bound by class, nor was he someone striving to climb the social ladder; in fact Arthur didn’t appear to pay much heed to social class at all. Whether or not that hindered him one can’t confess to know, however given his memoir, it appears that class, or his class status did not impact his life much at all, or at least not directly.   And if it did, perhaps Arthur was use to it and chose to ignore when it happened.

It is thought that working class communities were closer in the 1900s than middle and upper classes, relying on each other when times got tough. Throughout Arthur’s memoir he demonstrates a sense of community, recollecting many characters, some in worse and better positions than his family. All the same, their class was not a focal point, something which was common of working classes, who sometimes were not aware of their own position on the social ladder and life.

Arthur’s memoir was filled with characters from all walks of life, but even with these differences in social standing, Arthur always managed to ignore their social class, taking the people at face value. This was indicative of Arthur’s character, he was unconcerned with social standing and where his place was. Arthur paints the picture of a family life undisturbed, for most part, by social standing

children playing




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