Harry Whitehead

Harry recalls his feelings when he was in charge on the footplate for the first time.


Railway voices at the NRM

Audio will load below – it may take a little while.

Harry Whitehead interviewed 27 November 2000

Ref no 2000-95

This is an edited version of a transcript to match the content on the audio extract.

NARRATOR: Harry describes how, from the age of ten, he had to earn money to help support the family.

HARRY: And at the time, I do have to say, that young boys had to work. And you weren’t supposed to start work until you was eleven and you had to get permission off the Education Committee to do so and you carried a card to say that you were -- but Harry started work a year before that. In fact my life has been one year in front for a long while but I’ll tell you as we go along. And so I started work taking papers out when I was ten years of age. And I used to go to work at five o’clock in the morning, as a boy, and I used to meet the tram that came from the town centre to Latchford swing bridge via the Manchester Ship Canal and the tram terminus used to go there at half past five and pick the papers up off the first tram that came down. And then we would sort the papers out and get your rounds. And my round, I have to say, in order to get a little bit more money, were quite lengthy rounds, big rounds, and so I used to go out with three bags of papers. You wouldn’t do it today but I used to walk across the swing bridge and I used to leave two bags on the corner of Green Bank Road and go with one bag and deliver as far as possible and then come back with an empty bag and pick the other one up and leave the other one and I used to finish me round at Green Bank Road and then go. But I never ever finished before about quarter to nine because of course the amount of papers I used to take. And so I was always running to school and eating me toast as I went along. I also had another job – the lady that lived next door to us, she used to work her server in the chip shop and this chip shop was in Dulwall Lane it was the Maskells Chip Shop – he had a grocery shop as well and at the back of the chip shop. And Harry used to go there, at night, after taking me night papers out, I would go about half past six, and I would peel the spuds for the chip shop. They had a a peeler which was a drum and you used to put the potatoes in the drum and the drum would half -- partly in the water of the tub and you’d turn the handle and it took the tops -- the -- of the lea -- the skins of the potatoes but then, as a boy, you had to sit and you had to eye them. And I used -- you used to have to do three washtubs full each night and people ate a lot of chips in those days – it was the staple diet of everybody and so you ate a lot of chips. And I used to have to do these three tubs and then of course, on the Saturday I used to go at dinnertime and I used to do them in the aft -- Saturday afternoons. Now I used to get for taking the papers out three and six, which I -- and I used to get three shillings for doing the potatoes so I was taking a quite -- a reasonable amount of money into my house, wasn’t I?

NARRATOR: Harry left school aged 14 and describes how he found work.

HARRY: And so I I finished up leaving school at 14. I had then, of course, to look for a job and -- not like it is today, you write a CV today and write in and try to find a job that way – but in my days you had to visit the factories so you had to get up early and you had to go to the factory door and knock on the door and wait to see the Chief Clerk or whoever it was and you might see the manager, you know. Well I eventually got myself a job quite quickly actual -- in actual fact – at the weaving sheds, which were at Cockedge at -- in Warrington – today it’s a big shopping precinct but it was a cotton mill. Right outside Central Station. And I got myself a job as a an apprentice overlooker, which entailed of course, an overlooker job entailed feeding the weaver -- the weavers with the looms, setting up the looms for the weavers. And it was a very well-paid job. But the apprentice to it, like all apprentices really before the war, it was eight and six a week. And so, by the time your National Insurance was taken off you, I went home with my first wages and my mother said, “What -- you could have made more peeling potatoes and taking papers out,” and this, you see. ‘Cos I used to get extra money for taking papers on a Saturday night, taking the footballs out and shouting the football, you know, selling them on the street. And so, that job wasn’t good enough for me, I wasn’t bringing enough money in you see, and I thought I’d done a marvellous job getting meself an apprenticeship, which of course is something that – you know? And so I had to go and see the boss and his name was…Wood -- Woodcraft -- Woodcock -- Woodcock. And so I knocked on his door this particular morning and -- after me mother had been on to me all weekend to look for a different job and said to him that I wanted a rise as me mother was insisting, you see. So he gave me one – the Irishman’s rise – I got the sack. So, that particular day, I’ll remember it for a long long while, I came out of that factory at about half past seven in the morning, sacked, after starting at seven, and I walked round the town and – I was frightened of going home how to tell them I’d been sacked. At least I had the job before, now I had no job – and jobs were difficult to get. I walked round the town, as I say, and eventually I I went home and of course me father and mother were there ‘cos they didn’t work and they were ___ me father was out of work. And so I went out the following morning and I got meself a job at Fletchwood Russels, which was a a -- made gas stoves – very big industry is making shirts and gas stoves – very big prominent factories here – one at Richmonds and one was Fletchwood Russels. And I got to work in Fletchwood Russels in the fitting shop. And and so now I was on a wage of fourteen shillings a week, which was quite something, you know

NARRATOR: Harry recalls the effects of the depression on people in Warrington.

HARRY: Oh yes, there was a lot of unemployment and I had to tell you in the ‘30s here was a disgrace. People used -- you’d go and there would be, oh, 20 -- 30 people -- men on the corner here, with patch trousers and clogs and all out of work, and despondent, no --no money, nothing at all. And one of the amazing things was there weren’t as many burglaries as there was now. But they just had nothing. And I had to tell you that all the corners of the streets when I was a boy there was always gangs of men that were unemployed. And so how difficult it was to get a job as a young boy. And of course, once you come out of your apprenticeship, you see, you got sacked as well. When you were 21 you got the sack. They didn’t -- they they employed another apprentice, hadn’t they? So you got the sack, then you had to look for a job. In actual fact, that used to happen on the railway, with fitters. When a fitter came out of his apprenticeship he was sacked, unless there was vacancy – he was lucky if there was a vacancy – so he had to look for another job.

NARRATOR: In 1938, to get a £5.00 enlistment payment, Harry lied about his age and joined the Territorial Army. On 26th August 1939 before he went to work he got a telegram to report to the Territorial Army Base in Bath Street Warrington and ignored it – with severe consequences!

HARRY: So I just threw the telegram on the fire and I went to work. And I went to work as I normally did and there I was in the fitting shop and ten o’clock in the morning, suddenly, at the end of the the fitting shop, which was quite a a big fitting shop – one had to understand it was about -- you’re talking about a a fitting shop about a hundred yards long. And – added up to three hundred men working in this fitting shop. And at the end of the fitting shop, suddenly, people started to shout, you know, “Look at that!” And at the end of the shop was a Sergeant Major, a Captain, the boss of the firm with a pot on, who we very hardly ever saw, and a policeman. Well, they just stood at the end of the shop and, eventually they started to walk down the passageway between the machines, and arrived at the place where I was on me hands and knees and with an oven door, I think. The policeman tapped me on the shoulder and he said, “Your name Whitehead?” So I said, “Yes, of course.” By now the shop had gone completely silent and everybody of course was looking where they were. And the -- he said, “And you live at so and so.?” So I said, “Yes, I live at 30 Miledon [ph] Avenue.” He said, “They Captain wants a word with you.” So this Captain then said, “Did you get a telegram this morning, before you came to work?” So I said, “Yes.” Well he said, “Why haven’t you carried out what it said in that telegram? Do you know what it said?” So I said, “Yes. It told me to report [laughing] Territorial Barracks,” you know, “at eight o’clock.” But I said, “I have to be at work by seven, seven thirty, because,” I said, “my mother and fat -- my mother wants my wages.” You know, because I was only a boy, wasn’t I really, when you think about it. I was only fifteen! Anyway, he said, “Right.” And the Sergeant Major said, “Right, son, come along with us.” And off went Harry under arrest. I got outside and the Captain said to me, “Right, get in that car.” Now that was the first car I had ever been in and it was an open top army car. “Get in that car. Where do you live?” Told him. “Right. Direct us to your house, please.” So off we went. And we got home to my mother’s home and he said, “Right, go inside and put your uniform on and come out. And I’ll take you then to the Territorial Barracks. Remember of course that you’re under arrest. At the present time you’re under arrest [laugh] ‘cos you haven’t reported.” So I went in and I found me uniform that I’d got when I went to the camp and I put it on and I heard, “I don’t suppose you’ve ever put putties [ph] on but in them days they didn’t have gators they had these putties that you had to wound round your leg and they had to be half an inch between as -- the pleats was half an inch. I have to say it -- after three quarters of an hour of trying to get them on properly I gave up but nevertheless I got them round and eventually went out. Now you can imagine there were all the people that were in living in the avenue had never seen an army car, had they? And the people that weren’t working they were all outside, all all looking at this army car, what was happening. And so, Harry came out with his uniform – couldn’t find me cap. Anyway, got in and off to the barracks we went. And when we got to the barracks the Sergeant Major stood me to attention and gave me a lecture then about army -- about the army and the fact that I was now a regular soldier – I was being called up as a regular soldier. Well there wa -- you know, there was a war im -- im im im -- there was a war almost on us.

NARRATOR: Harry’s regiment was the Prince of Wales Volunteers and he describes what happened in Warrington on 3rd September 1939 – the day war was declared.

HARRY: And I slept in that barracks until the 3rd of September, when war was declared. And at eleven o’clock on that particular day. We were set up as sentries in the streets - barricades were put across the streets by the by the by the barracks, and there was a policeman and there was the key party all in full uniform, rifle, bayonet, tin hat, gas mask at the front and all your big pack - everything on. You’d have thought you was going to France straight away. And stood on guard whilst the rest of the regiment were called up. And as they came through -- and you can imagine what it was like because the wives were coming and the kids were coming and of course we had to keep them all behind the barrier and -- whilst they went in and they signed up and that. And, and a -- as they signed, so the the were set up in their companies, you know, platoons and companies and that – until all the regiment were called up by about two o’clock in the afternoon. And then buses were sent for – well, buses came. And we were taken from Warrington to a very big large place called Burscough just outside Ormskirk – you’ve probably heard of it – which was a an army base. And so Harry was now in the army and I was going to be in the army from that day on until June 1946.

NARRATOR: Demobbed in 1946 Harry recalls how he got his first job on the railways at Dallam Locomotive Shed in Warrington.

HARRY: And I went down the shed and I knocked on the bosses door, I asked where it was and then I knocked on the door and his name was Everson – Mr Everson – he was a Shed Master and he called everybody “laddie”. And I heard this – I knocked on the door and this chap he shouts, “Come in laddie.” So laddie went in and I asked him if he’d got a job. “Where have you come from and -- “ So I told him and I had a very good character from the army of course which was quite good and he said “Yes.” He said he could employ me as a labourer really in the shed. ‘Cos I’d no qualifications of any description. And so he said, “Get a reference off your vicar or something like that and your paybook, for you know, the army.” He said, “And you can start on Monday.”

INTERVIEWER: What job did you start in, by the way?

HARRY: Just labouring in the in the shed.

INTERVIEWER: Not as an engine cleaner?

HARRY: Oh no. Not then. Not the first week. Now, in the first week, as I say, I was talking to these people and then the boss was -- Mr Everson was out a couple of days after I’d started and he said to me, “Now, laddie, how would you like to be a Fireman?” So I said, “Oh yes,” – ‘cos my two colleagues who I knew were firemen, weren’t they? And I says, “Oh yes,” but I didn’t think I was -- I thought I was too old, you see? “No,” he said, “you’re not too old. The age limit is 23.” So he said, “You’re okay.” So, right, the following week I became a Cleaner. And, within a month, I was a Passed Cleaner.

NARRATOR: Harry describes his introduction to becoming a fireman.

HARRY: Before you got a donkey jacket and a and a shiny cap and a and overalls, you had to do 365 turn -- 364 turns, which was a year’s firing, you see? That al -- that eventually altered but that’s how it was then in 1946 and - and so, as I say, within a month I’d -- I’d passed he -- oh, he gave me -- when he -- he took me back in the office and, of course, he wrote something up about me going into the footplate grade and then he gave me a a book on the engine, and he gave me a rulebook. And he said to me, “Now, you take them home and you study them because you’ll have to go with a footplate inspector, eventually, a fireman’s footplate inspector.” ‘Cos there was different footplate inspectors in them days – there was footplate inspectors that took firemen and there was footplate inspectors who took drivers. So, you went with this – I just forget his name now – did have it up here -- anyway, I went with him and I think I was treated with great respect because I was an adult, wasn’t I? And the fact that I’d had army career and all that. But I really thought that I did get a bit of preferential treatment from the fact that I wasn’t, you know, a a fourteen year old coming in to the job. But I did all sorts of jobs whilst in that month – I did steam rising, I was shown how to knock a fire out, I was then shown [laughs] how they coaled engines and what they did ash pans and all that sort of thing – all very dirty, dusty, filthy jobs.

NARRATOR: Harry joined ASLEF, the locomotive men's trade union, and recalls the differences and disagreements with the NUR members at Warrington.

HARRY: I was approached by the Foreman Cleaner who was an ex-Sergeant Major in my regiment and I knew him very well he was named -- man named Bill Knight. And he approached me and said that I ought to be a member of a trade union. And I realised that I wanted to be a member of a trade union because I was already a member of the Labour Party, having come out of the army as a socialist [laughs]. I’d already joined so it was obvious that I would want to join a trade union. I didn’t take any notice of him at the time because I knew that on the Friday the shed would have a number of union men who collected their dues. When people got paid there were always somebody there. During that first week I also found out from the man that used to dry the sand on the sander, he used to do the furnace on the sand, that…there was a very big contingent of members of the Communist Party at Warrington Dallam shed. And I had noticed quite a number of people with the Hammer and Sickle badge in their coats. Now, I don’t take anything away from them, that was their politics but I also found out that the NUR was -- branch at Dallam – who wouldn’t have anything to do with the NUR branch at Bank Quay, which was NUR Number 1. The NUR branch at Dallam was called NUR Number 3, and consisted entirely of Locomotive men, if you were another -- an ordinary worker, you went into the other branches. So they wanted to be separated anyway in their -- but I found out that it was the nucleus of the Warrington Communist Party. And so, I really didn’t want to have anything to do with them but if I had to join the NUR well that's fair enough – I would find my way through eventually anyway. But then on the Friday, when the collectors were there, I was introduced to this driver -- this man - I didn’t know he was a driver then, who was the branch secretary of ASLEF and he said to me, “If you’re joining -- if you’re going to go into the footplate grades, then you have an opportunity to join ASLEF.” So I said, “Well, I’ll have to give it some thought if I get -- if I do get in and if I do, you know, progress.” I think -- so I think I might have been about three weeks or so and I decided that I would join ASLEF. Primarily I joined it because it looked at the interests of the the grade I was joining – and you wouldn’t have a baker in a butcher’s union, would you? I mean you may – if there was a union set up for that particular din [ph], I thought that that was where I ought to be.I have to say that you went through a lot of hassle. Because there was complete and utter warfare between these people.

NARRATOR: Harry describes how he developed his education through correspondence courses with the TUC’s National Council of Labour Colleges.

HARRY: I got more interested from the point of view that I found out that I could educate myself a little bit more than I had been. I’d left school at fourteen, I didn’t know a lot, my my entire life had been army, hadn’t it? I I’d seen the world but I hadn’t, of course, progressed educationally. And here was an opportunity, through the WEA, and also, in particular, the TUC postal courses that were on from Tulcultry [ph] in Scotland. And so, from the very first branch meeting really, I think I got a a form and I wrote and I took postal courses on every subject you can think of. And and did the papers and finished them off properly and got the certificates back. And I have to say that without that I’d have still been, you know, because I I was educated by the TUC with the postal courses that they run and I took economics and all that lot but -- so joining ASLEF give me that opportunity.

NARRATOR: Harry recalls the difficulties of his early involvement in ASLEF branch meetings and the reactions of older drivers to young firemen.

HARRY: And going to the branch also -- and again I think it was because I was an older man, although I was only a cleaner and a young fireman in the shunting link, those aristocrat drivers – and they were aristocrats – one has to remember that ASLEF was an absolute aristocrat, bigoted in a way, union. Some drivers treated you like dirt. Pin stripes, black jackets, Anthony Eden hats and bowlers. Branch meeting on a Sunday morning you could guarantee they came in their black and their --you know. You you would have thought it was the the Orangemen from Ulster coming – the way they came to the branch meetings – all perfectly dressed and everything. So they were real aristocrats, in my view. But, they accepted me a a -- you know, and I never had any real opposition from any of them or -- even though, as I say, I was only a young fireman and that and I I got with them and I I started to…attend very regularly. And in 1947 I was even on the committee of the ASLEF branch. And in 1948 I was elected to the LDC. Now I’d only been working at the place since [laughs] since August ’46, or just after.

NARRATOR: Harry outlines the long distance train working arrangements and the railway hostel lodging arrangements at Carlisle and London.

HARRY: The barracks was underneath the coal chute. So you hardly got any sleep because they were always coaling engines at place called __ Carlisle. And you -- eventually they closed that barracks and they built another one, a brand new one on the hill – it’s now it’s now a motel, by the way.

INTERVIEWER: Tell me what the barracks were like from the point of view of somewhere to stay.

HARRY: Well, the barracks at Carlisle that was underneath a coal chute was terrible. In fact it was awful, it was filthy, it was -- there was no way you could get away from the dust and muck from the coal chute. And the noise – you can imagine engines being coaled every couple of minutes. So you didn’t --

INTERVIEWER: Did you sleep in dormitories or were there individual --

HARRY: Oh they were in individual – they were like individual bedrooms, you know, right. And, of course, when they moved into the new one, which was on the hill, that was -- there were 64 single bedrooms in that, and a nice canteen and a little billiard room etcetera where fellas can -- and reading room. So that was quite good. It were quite good as long as you took notice that you weren’t getting in somebody – who’d just left the bed, you know, the the fella in charge was saving the cleaner cleaning the bedroom out – that used to happen. Again, I once nearly got a fella paid up because he put me in a bed, see, and when you used to go in these bedrooms – you could tell whether the cleaner had been in because the blind would be up and the bed would be perfect. And what he’d done, with me, on this particular day, he’d sent me to number two bedroom, you know, and put it on the board, number two bedroom, and when I got there all the bed looked okay. But the blind was down, so that told me that somebody had been in that bedroom because the cleaner would never leave the blind down. And when I threw the bed back and put me hand on it it was warm.

Now I have to say that booking off in London was totally different than booking off at Carlisle. ‘Cos the barracks at London was quite something. It -- the barracks at London was on the Great North Road, near the -- not very far from the Walls sausage factory. And just outside Willesden shed. A lot of railway houses, the Fisherman’s Arms pub and then the hostel. And the hostel was an ex-Borstal – it had been a a Borstal in years gone by. And it was almost an impossibility to sleep because of the traffic, you know, on the road outside, it was terrible. And in the summer – in the summer when we finished we used to catch the train, go on the Underground, go into London, and I’ve slept many many many hours in Hyde Park. We’d go and we’d get a deck chair in Hyde Park and have a -- have a couple of pints and have a kip in Hyde Park.

NARRATOR: Harry recalls his feelings when he was in charge on the footplate for the first time.

HARRY: it was great because, first of all, it was an increase in pay. I mean, after all, that’s what you go to work for is is your wages isn’t it? And here, I mean, and the immediate increase was was tremendous. If you got a week’s driving or even two or three days driving it made a colossal difference to -- it was like working a Sunday. That was the difference between this. And the only thing about it and what people don’t don’t realise was, when I started on the railway, you went ten years before you come on your full rate as a fireman, ten years. And then you did ten years on different rates of pay before you came on your full rate driving. Now in the ‘50s, ASLEF got this reduced to five. And then eventually it’s disappeared – when you become a driver, you’re a driver and you get paid. But, in the first, in 1946 or ’47 when I joined, you went ten years before you got your top rate of pay.

NARRATOR: Harry tells how he dealt with a particularly arrogant Running Foreman.

HARRY: And he had a habit of coming to the mess room door and he’d go like this – and he’d flick his finger – wouldn’t name you, he’d just do this. And I was determined that I was going to stop him because I thought that was the -- terrible to do that to grown men. He could have come to the door and said, “Now, Arthur,” or Harry or whatever it was. No, he used to come to the door and flick his finger, as though you were an animal, you know, come to me. And I refused to go. And he came back. He did that to me and he came -- course the cabin was full of people and I as I was the LDC, man – see? And he did that -- probably four or five of us sat there but I knew who who he wanted he wanted me. And he -- so I didn’t go. And he came back and he did it again. And Harry didn’t go again either. So then he came and he said, “I want you.” I said, “Well you should have said that in the first place shouldn’t you, Tom? And then I would have come.” I said, “Let me tell you. Never ever never ever do that to me again. Because,” I said, “I won’t come. I’ve got a name, I respect you. I expect you to respect me.” And he never did. It made a different man of him with me we became quite friendly. But, you see -- and he’d done that for years. And that -- I’m -- it was, “I am your gaffer.” You know? So they had a lot of power there – RSFs had a lot of power.

NARRATOR: Harry pays tribute to the support he got from his wife and how s she helped him with his work as branch secretary of ASLEF.

HARRY: she took anything in her stride, she’d never ever oppose what I did, she always assisted if it was possible, throughout me career as a as a council and everything and as a Trade Unionist she assisted because, in 1955, I became the Branch Secretary. And the Branch Secretary’s job was quite a a difficult job really insofar as I was the LDC Secretary and I was the Branch Secretary. Also, at that that particular year I became the District Council Secretary of ASLEF call it – covering the North West District. They used to meet four times a year, twice in Liverpool and twice in Manchester and there was a delegate from every branch came. And I I became the Secretary of that District Council, and run those things. And it was a very difficult job as a branch secretary because you had to collect the money and you had to make sure the collector’s book came in and you checked their books and, of course, not only did you check their books, you had to do these returns which were huge pieces of paper in triplicate, with every man’s name on and his contribution. And if, of course, he was -- if he hadn’t paid his contribution in three months, he lost all his benefits. So -- but for the grace of Our Lord, that would be me in the dock – you had to do a bit of fraudulental book keeping, because if you were a regular good payer and I hadn’t seen you for three months, if I sent those returns up to Head Office without you paying something, you’d have been out of benefits. So if you’d have gone off sick, you wouldn’t have got any sick money, you wouldn’t have got anything – you wouldn’t have been legally covered or anything. So I used to have to put a shilling in. If I put one shilling in for you, you were okay because you’d paid a contribution in that three months. And so we used to sit at the table with these returns on, going through them, and many was the time we lost the sixpence because we’d made an ‘O’ look like an ‘O’ instead of it look like a sixpence, you know?

NARRATOR: Harry became District Secretary and he describes what he inherited, the changes he made and how the ASLEF Centenary was celebrated at Preston.

HARRY: And so, in the 1950s, as I say, ’55 I became the Branch Secretary, I was the District Secretary, I took over from a man named Jimmy Jones the District -- he lived at Northwich, he was a driver at Northwich, he came to my house and he handed me a page of the Manchester Guardian, with the minutes of the last meeting and half a crown. And that was the entire finance of the District Council. So I had it -- I deliberately took that by the scruff of the neck and I eventually got the delegates to pay into a fund, and 25 years afterwards – I had it for 25 years and that’s how we run the weekend schools, through the District Council, I handed over to the man that took over from me six hundred and odd pound – totally different from half a crown – and we ran the finest centenary party held by ASLEF, in this country, and you’s can -- have the one in London – it was nothing compared with ours. We sat seven hundred and odd people down in Preston Guild Hall for a hot meal in ASLEF centenary year, with a youth band playing and we had an exhibition of locomotive stuff in the library at Preston, on two floors, we borrowed from York Museum, under Doctor Coiley – do you remember Doctor Coiley -- we borrowed all this stuff and I had to insure it for a million pound – three lorry loads of stuff from York Museum to put in the Preston Museum to show it off, and it was there a fortnight, or maybe a bit longer, I don’t know, and that was the District Council’s Secretariatship that I had for 25 years.

NARRATOR: Harry outlines how he balanced his railway, trade union and local government work and explains the financial implications.

HARRY: it was a very complicated business of getting the contributions in and making them up, and my wife used to assist me in doing that and we spent hours on union work, just doing that sort of thing.

Well in 1960 I became a local Councillor as well as a Section Council member. Sectional Council work, British Rail gave you time for anyway. If we went to meetings they provided the necessary, were given the free passes to travel, and eventually we had a a pass given to us and we could – travel anywhere. But in those days you used to have to go and get a pass out the out the office, you know, and they would know you were going on a meeting because they would be a -- advised by the IRO that you was going. And so you went to the meeting and British Rail paid you for that. At -- that was in 1960. At the same time I became a Councillor on the Warrington Borough Council – the same year. And I do have to say that British Rail encouraged people to take part in the local politics. British Rail gave you all the possible assistance that was possible, for time. And whilst I swapped my turns – many many times swapped my turns, got mates to swap me in order to do Council business - not Sectional Council – Warrington Borough Council business. At the same time, British Rail would give you time off – unpaid, but give you time off. And one of the things - I know Councillors get paid now – over the odds so far as I’m concerned – but when I went on they did -- you didn’t get paid as a Councillor, it was a voluntary job, __. But what you could do was claim loss of earnings from the Borough Treasurer. You had to provide the necessary detail but they had a formula where they paid loss of earnings. Now I do have to say, the loss of earnings that you could claim for half a day or a day did not cover what I lost at work – the the amount didn’t cover what I lost at work. But I believe that if you’re given a local service and one thing or another, and you’ve been elected, and you’ve put yourself there anyway, then of course, as long as your family doesn’t suffer – I mean I wouldn’t want my family to suffer and they didn’t suffer, I put up with that little loss of say ten bob or whatever it was in the difference between that. Now British Rail would let me have time off and so I would say to the Borough Treasurer, you know, “I’ve had this --“ I’d have to have it in detail – and he would pay me the financial loss allowance, probably once a month or something like that – probably have three days or something because I’d put half -- see, a driver couldn’t go off for half a day. When you had a turn off, you had to have a turn off. Because there was no way -- if you was a clerk or a fire dropper or something like that you could go for half a day and go back again. But you couldn’t go and drive a train – it wasn’t there. So you more or less -- so what I used to try and do and -- a councillor once he was elected was allocated certain committees, and I tried to get committees where there’d be a committee in the afternoon and committee at night and therefore I could have that full day. So, I was claiming a full day loss of earnings from the Borough Treasurer, even though I I lost ten bob on the deal, I still got me -- and the other advantage of it was they weren’t taxable so financial loss, more or less, covered it. By the time you hadn’t took any tax out you were not very far behind so overall it was all right. But British Rail were marvellous insofar as they gave you the time off, without pay. Now, I was -- I was, as I say, elected to the Council in 1960, I became a JP in 1971/72 and the same thing applied.

NARRATOR: Harry recalls his wife's reaction when he was invited to become the Mayor of Warrington.

HARRY: “We’ve decided to offer you the -_” Mayorality read in the paper – “the Mayorality. Would you accept it?” So I said, “Well, I will if my wife accepts it ‘cos she doesn’t know anything about it.” So I I came home and of course at the time you were elected the Mayor, you were the Deputy Mayor the year afterwards – today it’s the opposite way about but then -- and of course, all the press is out wanting to know who’s going to be the next Mayor and normally it would have been known in January but here we were in the end of March, coming April, and nobody knew, simply because there’d been a row going on in the background with this fella demanding to be the Mayor. And I didn’t know that had been going on but I found out afterwards what had been going on and and of course I said, “Well, if my wife accepts it and my employer accepts it, yes.” So I came home, that was on a Sunday morning – came home, sat round the dinner table with two daughters and I said to my wife, “You’d better buy a couple of new hats.” - never wore a hat, see? I said, “I’ve been offered to be the Mayor.” “Oh, no way, no way.” She didn’t want to. Because she -- although she’d helped me to do everything, she wasn’t that way inclined and so -- but me two daughters were different, me two daughters said, “You’ve got to do it, you’ve got to have it.” So then, on the Monday, I went to the Management – Paul Watkinson was the name - and said, “I’ve been offered the Mayorality.” And, “Fair enough.” And they paid me for a year – I got a year’s -- I drew me wages every week just the same as anybody else and I did the job for a year --

NARRATOR: Harry compares the social and welfare activities in the past with the present .

HARRY: we used to run retirement functions, summer outings for the retired people – our retired people were looked after marvellously. And if there’s one thing that annoys me tremendously it is the apathy of people today towards doing anything for their retired personnel. Modernisation has taken away all the comradeship that was in the footplate fraternity. There is hardly any comradeship today. When I retired, the first year, my wife and I and a few more colleagues, we used to run hotpot suppers, black puddings, French bowls and everything out, we -- this kitchen, my wife cooked sides of beef, our wash-house outside was full of trifles, all over the floor and that, you know, we used to have 200 men come to the functions and we used to do all the catering ourselves. We had a kitchen in the club and we used to use it, we used to make our hotpots and one thing and another. And nothing has been done since the day I retired. None of the younger men have ever taken it up. And I – said to one who took the job on as a branch secretary after I gave up, and I said to him, “Wayne, why -- do they don’t do a, “ I said, “I don’t want to come to the inside man [ph], I want to come anyway.” Personnel wouldn’t come. But I said, “Don’t -_” “Oh,” he said, “the days have gone when you could collect like you collect.” And I said, “I could go round my mess room and in the shed,” and I said, “I could go up to drivers and say, ‘Give me a pound – give me a pound.’ They wouldn’t even ask me what I wanted it for. They give it me. And I used to then put a a list up of all the people who’d paid and those that hadn’t paid. They soon paid when their name went up, didn’t they? But that’s beside the point. And we used to run our functions off that sort of thing and the threpence a week that used to go into welfare fund.” There hasn’t been a retired men’s function at Warrington since I retired. And that is a scandal in my view. I mean that’s the comradeship that’s gone with the single manning and we didn’t go through any of that, there’s plenty in the ‘60s that we could talk about – single manning of locomotives and all that talk, where we sold our rights for nothing – we sold our rights for nothing. And it were all done in a good a good cause but nevertheless there was a lot of money, in my view, there to be had, if we’d have played our cards right. Instead of that we got peanuts out of it. But this business of the welfare side has gone and I I’m not saying just about me own depot, there are other depots exactly the same. And in fact if it wasn’t for some retired people still running it, some of those would have gone by the board. But, as I’ve told you before, I decided that that was my end. When I was 65, that was the end of my career.

End

Background: Class 87