David Love: Childhood by Iona Scanlan and Elizabeth Rigby

By Iona Scanlan and Elizabeth Rigby

David Love’s life started as many working-class people did. Born 1749 in Torryburn, Scotland to a father who was a coal digger and a mother who was a servant, David had a quaint upbringing. His father, William, started his life by ‘hating his own home’ (Love, 1823, 2) and was ‘not willing to work’ (1823, 2) if he could get by without doing so. David’s mother went into service at 15 ‘in a gentlemen’s family’ (1823, 2), who seemed to live a more selfless life, willing to sacrifice for her family, as it was made clear in Love’s memoir. David’s parents met during his mother’s service work, with David describing his mother as ‘religiously inclined’ and with a ‘steady’ (1823, 2) nature. It is clear that Love had a complicated relationship with his father, and the reader can infer this by reading the memoir. It seems that this relationship, or lack thereof, affects Love throughout his life, as to whether it be David by himself, or his family never really settling in one place until his final resting place of Nottingham. Love’s male senior was often focused on finding money to ‘uphold his drinking’ (1823, 2), even forcing his wife and his seven children into a life of work ‘hewing coals for seven years’ (1823, 2). This kickstarted David’s working life at a very young age, but he did not see the benefits as his siblings, mother, and himself never received the money given for their labour. Love’s father left and ‘never more returned’ (1823, 2), prompting David’s search for closure with his father, which lasted half of his life. 

Image of a late 1700’s/early 1800 British coal mine. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/gallery/2015/dec/18/coal-mining-britain-brief-history-in-pictures

“So much weeping, caused very grievous pains in her head and these pains gradually took away her eyesight.”

(1823, 3).

Shortly after the abandonment of his father as a young child, David Loves’ mother tragically lost her eyesight. Love supposes in his memoir that this was caused by ‘so much weeping, [that the] grievous pains in her head gradually took away her eyesight.’ (Love, 1823, 3). This proved impossibly challenging for the Love family, as his mother was left to care for seven children, alone. Their extreme circumstances led to the family having to sell everything they had, in order to survive. Love mentions: ‘mother’s good clothes, of which she was well stored, not a single article was left, but what she had on her body.’ (1823, 3). The family were therefore forced into an impoverished lifestyle, with Love nobly caring for his sick mother, unsure of where their next meal would come from. This then caused Love to mature extremely quickly and therefore build a dedicated work ethic, which he carried through into his adult life. Because of this early experience of life on the breadline, it arguably taught a young David the linguistic art of appeasing people in order to gain financial security. These hardships and his subsequent working-class background humbled David throughout his career selling his articulate work, which allowed him to support his own family.  

A poem regarding David Love’s father abandoning his family. (1823, 3/4)

As shown here in the image of Love’s poem regarding his father, it is made clear that Love was not spiteful or resentful towards his parent’s wrongdoings while he was a young child. In the first line of the second stanza, Love notes that his father is ‘proving so unkind’ (1823, 3), followed by: ‘my mother after soon grew blind.) (1823, 3). The rhyming scheme here infers that the adjectives ‘blind’ (3) and ‘unkind’ (3) seem to have an essence of cause and effect. Love blames his absent father for the blindness of his mother.   


Love, David. The Life, Adventures and Experiences of David Love. 1823. Sutton and Son. Nottingham.


Alamy. ‘A Brief History of British Coal Mining- in Pictures’. The Guardian. 2015. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/gallery/2015/dec/18/coal-mining-britain-brief-history-in-pictures

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