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Origins/ADD: A Piecer's Tale

GUEST,DK 20 Aug 11 - 02:25 PM
giles earle 20 Aug 11 - 02:43 PM
Mark Dowding 21 Aug 11 - 09:30 AM
Brock 23 Jun 22 - 04:22 AM
GUEST,henryp 23 Jun 22 - 04:59 AM
Joe Offer 23 Jun 22 - 02:27 PM
Joe Offer 23 Jun 22 - 03:03 PM
Joe Offer 23 Jun 22 - 03:18 PM
GUEST,henryp 23 Jun 22 - 06:53 PM
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Subject: a peicers tale
From: GUEST,DK
Date: 20 Aug 11 - 02:25 PM

Anyone have the lyrics to this Oldham Tinkers song. It begins 'Good Master, let a little child, a Peicer in your factory'


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Subject: RE: a peicers tale
From: giles earle
Date: 20 Aug 11 - 02:43 PM

Is this it?


Good master, let a little child, a piecer in your factory
From early dawn to dewy eve—relate her simple history.
Before I came to work for you, my heart was full of mirth and glee;
I play'd and laugh'd, and ran about, no kitten was so blythe as me.
But just when I was eight years old, poor mother, press'd with want and woe,
Took me one morning by the hand, and said, 'To factory thou must go.'
They thrust me in and shut the door, 'midst rattling wheels and noisy din,
And in the frame gait made me stand, to learn the art of piecen-ing.
I often hurt my little hands, and made my tender fingers bleed,
When piecing threads and stopping flys, and thought 'twas very hard indeed.
The overlooker pass'd me oft, and when he cried, 'An end down there,'
My little heart did tremble so, I almost tumbled down with fear.
When at the weary evening's close I could not keep myself awake,
He sometimes strapp'd me till I cry'd as if my little heart would break.
Oh, master! did you know the half that we endure, to gain you gold
Your heart might tremble for the day when that sad tale must all be told.
Ah! then I thought of days gone by, when, far from spindles, din, and heat,
I deck'd my little giddy brow with buttercups and violets sweet.
From year to year I sigh in vain, for time to play, and time to read.
We come so soon, and leave so late, that nought we know but mill and bed.
They tell us you grow very rich, by little piec'ners such as me,
And that you're going to Parliament, to guard our laws and liberty,
They say you pity Negro Slaves, and vow, oppressors to restrain,
To break the chains of ignorance, and Christian Principles maintain.
Oh! when you're there remember us, whilst at your frames we labour still,
And give your best support and aid to Mr. Saddler's Ten Hours Bill.
The poor, we know, must work for bread, but, master, are not we too young?
Yet if such little ones must work, pray do not work us quite so long!
Your 'Christian Principles' now prove, and hearken to the piec'ners prayer,
Soon Christ in judgment shall appear, remember, you must meet us there.


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Subject: RE: a piecers tale
From: Mark Dowding
Date: 21 Aug 11 - 09:30 AM

The version the Tinkers sing is slightly abridged to the words given above. I've put it in verse form to make it easier to follow. Michael Saddler was an MP who fought for shorter hours. Unfortunately he lost his seat in the 1832 elections but eventually working hours for women and children were reduced to 10 hours a day.


A PIECER'S TALE

Good master, let a little child, a piecer in your factory
From early dawn to dewy eve—relate her simple history.
Before I came to work for you, my heart was full of mirth and glee;
I play'd and laugh'd, and ran about, no kitten was so blythe as me.

But just when I was eight years old, poor mother, press'd with want and woe,
Took me one morning by the hand, and said, 'To factory thou must go.'
They thrust me in and shut the door, 'midst rattling wheels and noisy din,
And in the frame gait made me stand, to learn the art of piecen-ing.

I often hurt my little hands, and made my tender fingers bleed,
When piecing threads and stopping flys, and thought 'twas very hard indeed.
The overlooker pass'd me oft, and when he cried, 'An end down there,'
My little heart did tremble so, I almost tumbled down with fear.

When at the weary evening's close I could not keep myself awake,
He sometimes strapp'd me till I cry'd as if my little heart would break.
Oh, master! did you know the half that we endure, to gain you gold
Your heart might tremble for the day when that this sad tale must be told.

They tell us you grow very rich, by little piec'ners such as me,
And that you're going to Parliament, to guard our laws and liberty,
Oh! when you're there remember us, whilst at your frames we labour still,
And give your best support and aid to Saddler's Ten Hours Bill.


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Subject: RE: a piecers tale
From: Brock
Date: 23 Jun 22 - 04:22 AM

Thank you Mark! Just learning this from your Well Worn Path CD. Excellent stuff!


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Subject: RE: a piecers tale
From: GUEST,henryp
Date: 23 Jun 22 - 04:59 AM

Spinners and weavers longed for the ten hour day!

I work for twelve hours of the day
Then set off home again
And when the Factory Act is passed
I'll only work for ten

From Wikipedia; The Factories Act 1847, also known as the Ten Hours Act was a United Kingdom Act of Parliament which restricted the working hours of women and young persons (13-18) in textile mills to 10 hours per day. The practicalities of running a textile mill were such that the Act should have effectively set the same limit on the working hours of adult male mill-workers, but defective drafting meant that a subsequent Factory Act in 1850 imposing tighter restrictions on the hours within which women and young persons could work was needed to bring this about. With this slight qualification, the Act of 1847 was the culmination of a campaign lasting almost fifteen years to bring in a 'Ten Hours Bill'; a great Radical cause of the period.

Difficulties immediately arouse over the enforcement of the act, as millowners used legal loopholes to evade its provisions and the courts proved reluctant to intervene so that Lord Ashley, for example, concluded in 1850: "The Ten Hours’ Act nullified. The work to be done all over again". Supplementary acts in 1850 and 1853 did, however, see a ten-hour limit established in the textile industry, and without the negative economic effects its opponents had feared to come to pass. Thereafter the use of child labour certainly declined in Victorian Britain, though historians divide on whether this was the result of the law in action, as the Factory Prosecutions Returns would seem to suggest, or merely a by-product of technological change.


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Subject: ADD Version: A Piecer's Tale (from Oldham Tinkers)
From: Joe Offer
Date: 23 Jun 22 - 02:27 PM

Here are the lyrics from the Oldham Tinkers Website.


A PIECER'S TALE

Good master; let a little child,
A piecer in your factory
From early morn to dewy eve
Relate a simple history.

Before I came to work for you
My heart was full of mirth and glee.
I played and laughed and ran about.
No kitten was so blithe as me.

When at the age of six years old,
Poor mother pressed with want and woe
Took me one morning by the hand
And said “t’th’ factory you must go.”

They thrust me in and shut the door
Midst rattling wheels and noisy din.
And in the frame gate made me stand,
To learn the trade of piecening.

I often hurt my little hands
And made my tender fingers bleed
When pieceing threads and stopping flies
And I thought t’was hard indeed.

The overlooker passed me oft’
And when he cried “An end down there!”
My little heart did tremble so
I almost fell with fear.

When at the weary evening’s close
I could not keep myself awake.
He sometimes strapped me till I cried
As if my little heart would break.

Oh master did you know the half
That we endure to gain you gold.
Your heart might tremble for the day
When that sad tale must be told?

They say that you grow very rich
By little piecer’s such as me,
And that you’re going to parliament
To guard our laws and liberties.

Oh when you’re there, remember us
While at your frames we labour still.
And give your best support and aid
To Sadler’s Ten Hours Bill.

TRAD/Kearns
© Oldham Tinkers.
The piecer’s task was to re-tie the cotton thread if it snapped as it travelled from bobbins to paper cop, in the refining process. In the nineteenth century, the piecer’s were often children. Especially in the smaller, more secluded mills on either side of the Pennines, the child-labourers were victims of long hours and harsh treatment. Says E P Thompson, noted historian of the working class: ‘The exploitation of little children, on this scale and with this intensity, was one of the most shameful events in our history.’ The little song here (words from a broadside, tune by Gerry Kearns) puts the case poignantly.

A Piecer’s Tale
Sung by Gerry Kearns (guitar)

TRAD/Kearns
© Oldham Tinkers.
First recorded and published by Topic Records 1974.
Album: BEST O’T’ BUNCH 12TS237 STEREO
Recorded at Livingstone Studios
Produced by Tony Engle,
Notes by A. L. Lloyd and The Oldham Tinkers

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-ZydbjAPi5c

I wonder how A.L. Lloyd was involved in the information in the notes. Did he mention this piece in one of his books?


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Subject: RE: Origins/ADD: A Piecer's Tale
From: Joe Offer
Date: 23 Jun 22 - 03:03 PM

When Mr. Joseph Pease,one of the firm of Pease & Co., worsted manufacturers at Darlington, one of the Society of Friends, and a strenuous member of the Anti-Slavery Society, was a candidate for the southern division of the county of Durham, he issued an address to the electors, in which he said, “In all measures for the amelioration of our kind in striking off the chains of slavery and mental darkness, in restraining the oppressor, and in turning the attention of a Christian Legislature to Christian principles I would be ardent and exertive.”

Whereupon a little piecer in his factory was sent to him, with this little infantile speech in his hand:

    Good master, let a little child, a piecer in your factory
    From early dawn to dewy eve - relate her simple history.
    Before I came to work for you, my heart was full of mirth and glee;
    I play'd, and laugh’d, and ran about, no kitten was so blythe as me.
    But just when I was eight years old, poor mother, press'd with want and woe,
    Took me one morning by the hand, and said, “ To factory thou must go.”
    They thrust me in and shut the door, 'midst rattling wheels and noisy din,
    And in the frame gait made me stand, to learn the art of piecen-ing.
    I often hurt my little hands, and made my tender fingers bleed,
    When piecing threads and stopping flys, and thought 'twas very hard indeed .
    The overlooker pass'd me oft, and when he cried— "An end down there"
    My little heart did tremble so, I almost tumbled down with fear.
    When at the weary evening's close, I could not keep myself awake,
    He sometimes strapp'd me till I cry'd as if my little heart would break.
    Oh, master! did you know the half that we endure, to gain you gold
    Your heart might tremble for the day, when that sad tale must all be told.
    Ah, then I thought of days gone by, when far from spindles, din, and heat,
    I deck'd my little giddy brow with buttercups and violets sweet.
    From year to year I sigh in vain, for time to play, and time to read.
    We come so soon, and leave so late, that nought we know but mill and bed.
    They tell us you grow very rich, by little piec'ners such as me,
    And that you're going to Parliament, to guard our laws and liberty,
    They say you pity Negro Slaves, and vow, oppressors to restrain
    To break the chains of ignorance, and Christian Principles maintain.
    Oh! when you're there remember us, whilst at your frames we labour still,
    And give your best support and aid, to Mr. Saddler's Ten Hours Bill.
    The poor, we know, must work for bread, but master, are not we too young?
    Yet if such little ones must work, pray do not work us quite so long!
    Your "Christian Principles" now prove, and hearken to the piec'ners prayer,
    Soon Christ in Judgment shall appear, remember, you must meet us there.*

    (*italics are from the author's source, and are not his own)


Interesting piece, but I suspect it was written by an adult advocate, and not actually by a child working in a factory. There's a clear hint of propaganda in the piece.

Source:
I found the passage in The History of Cooperation in England: Its Literature and Its Advocates, by George Jacob Holyoake (London: Trübner & Co., 1879) - Volume 2, page 250.


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Subject: ADD: Pieceners' letter to Mr. Wilson Patton, M.P.
From: Joe Offer
Date: 23 Jun 22 - 03:18 PM

There's a much more legible copy of Holyoake's History of Cooperation here (click)

On the following page, it contains this pieceners' letter to Mr. Wilson Patton, M.P.:

The other instance occurred in 1833, when Mr. H. Warburton had introduced what was known as the Anatomy Bill, called in Yorkshire the "Paupers' Dead Body Bill," which provided subjects out of the poor-house for doctors to cut up.  As the wives and families of workmen in those days had no prospect before them but that of ending their days in the poor-house, they did not like this Bill, which they believed was intended to bring them all to the dissecting-room.  At the same time, Mr. Wilson Patten, instead of supporting the Ten Hours Bill, which the poor people believed would render pauper subjects scarce, had proposed a commission to inquire into Factory labour, but that subject, they thought, had been inquired into enough, and they thought the Commission a trick intended to delay passing the Bill.  It is a custom of Parliament when people are mad and perishing for lack of some long-denied amelioration, to appoint a "Royal Commission" to inquire whether they want it.  The young girl piecers, or the "pieceners," as they sometimes called themselves, addressed a letter to Mr. Wilson Patten, M.P.  It was shorter than the previous address, somewhat more lyrical, but quite as much to the purpose in its way.  It ran thus:—


"Have you no children of your own,
    Cold-hearted Wilson Patten?
We wish you'd send Miss Pattens down
    All decked in silk and satin.

Just let them work a month with us,
    And 'doff' their nice apparel;
And 'don' their 'brats' like one of us—
    We promise not to quarrel.

We'll curtsey low—say 'Ma'am' and 'Miss,'
    And teach them how to 'piece,' Sir;
They shan't be strapt when aught's amiss,
    They shan't be treated rough, Sir.

We'll call them up at 'five o'clock,'
    When all is dark and dreary;
No miller rude, their tears shall mock,
    Nor vex them when they're weary.

We'll guard them home when work is done,
    At seven or eight at night, Sir,
We'll cheer them with our harmless fun,
    And never show our spite, Sir.

And when they've wrought a month at mill,
    If they do not petition
For us to have the Ten Hour Bill,
    T
HEN SEND US YOUR 'COMMISSION."'


    In Frazer's Magazine at this period attention was called to the evidence of Mr. Gilbert Sharpe, the overseer of Keighley, Yorkshire, who was examined by the Factory Commission.  He was asked whether he had any reason to think that any children lost their lives in consequence of excessive work in the mills.  He said he had no doubt of it, and he gave this instance.  "Four or five months back, there was a girl of a poor man's that I was called to visit; she was poorly—she had attended a mill, and I was obliged to relieve the father in the course of my office, in consequence of the bad health of the child; by and by she went back to her work again, and one day he came to me with tears in his eyes.  I said, 'What is the matter, Thomas?'  He said, 'My little girl is dead.'  I said, 'When did she die?'  He said, 'In the night; and what breaks my heart is this: she went to the mill in the morning; she was not able to do work, and a little boy said he would assist her if she would give him a halfpenny on Saturday; I said I would give him a penny."  But at night, when the child went home, perhaps about a quarter of a mile, in going home she fell down several times on the road through exhaustion, till at length she reached her father's door with difficulty.

    Verse-writers with more or less skill put these facts into song.  Here are two of the stanzas enforcing the argument of contrast of condition:—


All night with tortured feeling,
    He watch'd his speechless child;
While close beside her kneeling,
    She knew him not—nor smil'd.
Again the factory's ringing,
    Her last perception's tried;
When, from her straw-bed springing,
    'Tis time!' she shriek'd and died!

That night a chariot pass'd her
    While on the ground she lay;
The daughters of her master
    An evening visit pay;
Their tender hearts were sighing,
    As negro wrongs were told,
While the white slave was dying,
    Who gain'd their father's gold.


    This is true of another factory child, who just before died of consumption, induced by protracted factory labour.  With the last breath upon her lips, she cried
out, "Father, is it time?" and so died.

    The true ground of resentment is not that employers should take children into workshops, for many workmen when they become overseers, and derive a profit on child-labour, do the same thing; it is that any workmen in England should be so base or so indigent as to send children into a workshop, and are not to be restrained save by an Act of Parliament.  If unable to protect their children it showed a humiliating weakness, and it was high time that the better-natured sought power by combination to prevent it.  This at least is to their credit.  These dreary facts of factory life recounted were told in every household of workmen in the land, and no one can understand the fervour and force with which industrial conspiracies were entered into, who does not take them into account.  Mr. Lucas Sargant, of Birmingham, has stated that, "though his interest as employer might lead him to deprecate trades unions and strikes, which have often caused him losses, he had declared in print his opinion that mechanics were wise to enter into such unions, and occasionally to have resort to strikes."

    A sense of right and sympathy always connected co-operators with the industrial conspirators, allies, or advisers.  It was on March 30, 1830, that Mr. Pare delivered his first public lecture in the Mechanics' Institution, Manchester.  He appeared as the corresponding secretary of the first Birmingham Co-operative Society.  It was Birmingham who first sent co-operation officially to Manchester.  The editor of the United Trades Co-operative Journal wrote of Mr. Pare as being "A young man who impressed his audience by his earnestness and wide information," but objected to his tone as to trades unions.  Mr. Pare did not speak in a directly hostile way of them, but suggested the inability and uselessness of combining to uphold wages.  Mr. Pare had caught Mr. Owen's indifferent opinion of everything save the "new system."  But at that early period co-operators were intelligent partisans of trades unions.  The Manchester United Trades Co-operative Journal of May, 1830, justified trades unions by the memorable saying of Sir Robert Peel in the House of Commons: "I wish the people would see their own interests, and take the management of their affairs into their own hands."  "Such is the advice," said the editor, which Mr. Peel, the Secretary of State, has given the working classes.  It is rare indeed that public men, especially ministers of State, offer such counsel, and it is still more rare for those to who the advice is given to act upon it."  It is a remarkable thing and a very honourable distinction that Sir Robert Peel should have conceived and given such advice.  Trades Unions and Co-operation are two of the matured answers to it.

    No advocate can influence others who is devoid of sympathy with them, and is not scrupulous in doing justice to their best qualities.  Co-operative advocates have talked to unionists in as heartless a way as political economists, and attempt to change their policy of action by holding it up to ridicule as financially foolish.  Education in independence which men pay for themselves, is a lesson those who learn it never forget, and is worth a good deal.


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Subject: RE: Origins/ADD: A Piecer's Tale
From: GUEST,henryp
Date: 23 Jun 22 - 06:53 PM

Notes by A. L. Lloyd and The Oldham Tinkers; Whilst A. L. Lloyd contributed to the notes on the album, he may not have contributed to the notes on every song.

Perhaps he contributed to the notes on some of the traditional songs, for example, The Four Loom Weaver; "The song, originally called The Poor Cotton Wayver, was published on a broadsheet during the depression years that followed the close of the Napoleonic Wars. It’s one of the striking documents of the Industrial Revolution. In a shortened and re-made form, it was popularised by Ewan MacColl some fifty years ago, in the earliest days of the folk song revival, and that is the form in which it is sung here."

Incidentally, I was at university in Manchester at the same time as Gerry Kearns. And my friend took exactly the same course and modules as Gerry and they attended the same lectures for three years.


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