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A Shout From The Attic: At The Mill With Slaves

Ronnie Bray leaves school and goes to work in a local mill.

For more of Ronnie's life story please click on A Shout From The Attic in the menu on this page.

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Eyeless in Gaza, at the mill with slaves
Samson Agonistes - John Milton


Schoolchildren left school, started work, toiled until retirement, and then died off. It was a fact of life that jobs were for life. A career, once begun, was to be maintained at whatever cost. When I left school, I imagined that the employment I secured would last forever. That was the culture and expectation of the times and it seemed as if nothing would ever happen to alter it.

In my later school years I entertained a desire to become a merchant seaman. I had become increasingly aware of the many peoples and cultures in the world, and wished to see them, taste the differences, and try to understand why they were so different from that with which I was familiar. The merchant marine was the only way I knew to achieve that ambition.

When we left school, Pete West and I went along to the Employment Exchange together. A man who interviewed us cautioned us against ‘holding each others’ hands’ through life. Neither of us intended to do that We just shared a common idea. Peter said he would like to join the merchant navy also, and so did I.

The truth about my desire for a seafaring life was that it was just an idea. I had not the kind of drive that impels men to follow a dream until its completion. I was a drifter: a passive spectator at what life did to me. Powerless, I went with the flow, and landed wherever it threw me up.

Peter and I both started work at Sykes and Tunnicliffe's Bankend Mills, Almondbury. I worked in the weaving shed and Peter worked in the finishing department. As places go it was a good place to work, and sported some interesting characters, among which was my mentor, Vincent.



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