Bill Carey (with his wife Mrs Ida Carey), was born in 1899. He was interviewed on 19 November 1982 when he lived temporarily at 28 Bramston Green,Witham, before going to 77 Church Street.
They also appear on tape 60.
For more information about them, see Carey, Bill and Ida, in the People category.
The original recording of this interview is held at the Essex Sound and Video Archive. To listen to the recording, please contact them at email@example.com or 033301 32500.
[???] shows words that are not clear enough to interpret and so have had to be omitted.
[?] after a word shows that its interpretation is not certain.
Later explanatory additions by JG or the transcriber are in square brackets [e.g. explaining locations etc.]
Q: I mean used to be able to park up there, in the old days. Its quite new really.
Mr C: In the old days, course, Chipping Hill was in the olden days, Chipping Hill was Chipping Hill like and Witham was Witham. You was a stranger up here. [laugh]
Q: You were from Witham were you ?
[chat about tape recorder, not noted]
Q: So you weren’t a Chipping Hill person?
Mr C: After we were married we came to Chipping Hill, lived in Chipping Hill, Church Street of course.
Q: So were you born in Witham?
Mr C: No, I was born at Wethersfield. My grandfather kept a butcher’s shop and I was born there. But they tell me the butcher’s shop has gone now so I don’t know. Yes, I was born there. My father was a Londoner.
Q: So how long were you in Wethersfield ?
Mr C: Oh, a very short time, very short time. Just when I was young. Of course the point was that my father died when he was very young. Well, I suppose he was very young, I dunno, but he died before I was born. (Q: Oh I see.). He was a Londoner. I think they lived at Ilford I think.
Q: So your mother had gone. Your mother was from Wethersfield ?
Mr C: Oh yes, she was from Wethersfield. Of course I can’t remember much about it. The funny thing was that my old grandmother, my father’s mother like, of course she lost him and I suppose she sort of took to me somehow. So I used to go to London, very often in the olden days when I was, well small, small kid like. She used to like to get me up there and I used to go to … I was thinking about that yesterday.
Q: It must have been a bit different then ? (Mr C: London?) Yes.
Mr C: Oh dear, old horse trams, horse buses.
Q: Yes. So when did you come to Witham then ? (Mr C: Oh, when did I come to Witham, oh dear.) Well it doesn’t matter exactly, were you a little boy or bigger ?
Mr C: No, I came to Witham when I was about fourteen I think.
Q: Did you have brothers and sisters ?
Mr C: Well step-brothers and sisters. (Q: I see.) My mother married again some time after I was born of course. But then we lived at Braintree.
Q: Moved about a fair bit then ?
Mr C: Yes, oh yes, I have done all my life really. Here, there, I don’t know whether that’s good or bad for sure. But its nice to see about.
Q: It is really, because people that I’ve talked to that were born in Witham, often they never went out of Witham at all whereas you’ve seen a bit haven’t you ?
Mr C: Oh, yes definitely. I mean I knew London, in the early days very, because as a kid like I spent a lot of time in London and the old grandparents they were Londoners of course (Q: Mmm.) I used to go up, I used to go from Braintree, we lived at Braintree then. I used to go up in charge of the guard on the train. (Q: Oh really?) At that time of day there was one through train went from Braintree to London, you know one through, without changing (Q: Really?) and my parents used to put me on the train at Braintree in charge of the guard and I was in charge of him up to Liverpool Street. Old Granny used to meet me there.
Q: She lived in that part of London, no, she came from Ilford.
Mr C: No, no that Granny they lived at Clapham at that time of day. The time has been so long, like, and so much has happened and everybody’s moved about so much that’s a job to remember properly. Well I loved London, always did, as a kid. And my old grandfather he was a good old age and used to take me places I should never have gone otherwise in London but that was at the time of the old trams, you know horse trams and horse buses of course.
Q: What did your stepfather used to do for a living ?
Mr C: Stepfather, my stepfather was a stonemason (Q: Oh.). Yes, he was a stonemason. When you think of these things that opens up … yes he was a stonemason, well there was a family of stonemasons. Of course he was Braintree man, he was. And his father, do you know Braintree at all? (Q: A bit, yes.) D’you know the fountain? (Q: Yes). Well, I think, I don’t like to tell a lie or anything, but I think his father had a mason’s yard and the old chap, him and another brother, there was two brothers, anyway they were both masons, come to the finish, one story leads to another, (Q: Carry on.). Yes, I asked you about the fountain at Braintree, is it still there? I haven’t been to Braintree for years.
Q: I think so, I don’t go to Braintree very often now.
Mr C: In the market place, you know. (Q: I think so. I’ll have to look.) there’s steps up to it and there’s a horse trough round the side.
Q: I don’t go very often now. At one time my father-in-law lived there.
Mr C: But that was presented to Braintree I think by one of the Courtaulds. They did a lot for Braintree. And the interesting thing is that it was presented by the Courtaulds from what I can remember now. Well the old chap, my stepfather’s father as I say he had this yard in Braintree of monumental masons and I think he made that fountain (Q: Really?). I believe, I wouldn’t be too sure.
Q: Quite likely. Was his name Carey or was that …
Mr C: Oh no, no, that leads to more stories. Oh dear oh dear. No his name was Dunlop.
Q: I see, yes. He was quite a big man then in …?
Mr C: Well, no, he was and he wasn’t like I mean at that time of day big businesses weren’t like they are today, of course, you know but he had several men working for him. But the point was of course, that he was a good tradesman, a good monumental mason, they were called at that time of day you know. Of course, you’d call him a stone mason I suppose. But he was also captain of the fire brigade (Q: Oh, was he?) As a matter of fact I’ve got an old photo in the drawer I believe that was taken at about that time at Braintree. He was captain, well they used to call them captains at that time of day and he was also master of the band I believe, Braintree Town Band, I think, wouldn’t be too certain.
Q: He was busy then, yes. Did you go to school in Braintree ?
Mr C: Yes, yes I did. [laughter] Yes, I did well at school I think. (Q: How was that?) I dunno, I just suppose I learned (Q: What school was it?) Oh they tell me that’s gone now, it was the Church School, ordinary National Church School.
Q: I just ask because my mother-in-law went to Manor Street (Mr C: Er ah, who?) My mother-in-law, Ropers they were, Ethel Roper. She’s not alive now but she would have been about your age I think. There was a Frank Roper as well, her brother.
Mr C: Did they live down towards the station?
Q: That’s right! – is it Railway Street ? [Talk over] (Mr V: I haven’t thought of that place for a hundred years or so!) She always used have a tale that when she was about two she went off down the street and they caught her on the railway, you know she’d gone off down the railway. I think that street is still there as well, the row of houses by the station.
Mr C: Well, as I remember, that wasn’t a, that was just a, the road went down to the station but this road I think sort of went, you know instead of turning round there, it went straight down the hill. There weren’t many houses in the road. (Q: No, just sort of one side isn’t it?) Oh, dear oh dear.
Q: Well then I think they went to Ipswich, or she did and then we just moved back here later on by chance, for we were in London for a long time. That’s strange isn’t it? (Mr C: Mm.) Because Ann Chinnery was from Braintree as well wasn’t she? On the corner down there. She was from Braintree wasn’t she. She lives down on the corner of Chalks Road now, Ann Chinnery.
Mr C: I often hear about her but, you know.
Q: Was it Manor Street that you went to ?
Mr C: No, I went to the Church School. Mr Mayland was the headmaster. Oh a proper gentleman he was.
Q: Was he very strict ?
Mr C: No, no I wouldn’t say that. No. He was you know firm. I shouldn’t have said he was strict. I always liked him so he must have been a decent sort of chap [laugh].
[Chat, not noted]
Mr C: So you are from Braintree.
Q: Well, my mother-in-law anyway. I came from Peterborough my self, but my husband’s mother was from Braintree.
Mr C: Mr Dunlop, that I was talking about, the mason, you know, he lived in Manor Street. (Q: Oh did he?). I’m just trying to think where they had the yard. I believe they had the yard in South Street, I think. (Q: mmm.)
Q: So how did your mother meet him?
Mr C: How did she meet him? (Q: Mmm.) Well, oh dear oh dear. I don’t know. No, that was in my young days, I can remember, no I don’t know.
Q: I just wondered if you were in London a lot … I just wondered because you seemed to have moved around a lot. As I say that was a bit unusual in those days but she managed to get about. If she started off in Wethersfield.
Mr C: Yes. That was an out of the way place really to start with. It is now I suppose. We were there recently. A few months back a chap took us for a ride and we touched to Wethersfield. But I think the family fortunes since that time, I think have sort of dwindled rather a lot [laugh].
Q: What, the Wethersfield family you mean ?
Mr C: Yes, I think at that time they did. Mother was pretty well to do. Well her relations were anyhow. I know her sister married well and went down into Worcestershire. As a matter of fact I went later on in years (Q: Mmm.)
Q: And her people were butchers you say was it ?
Mr C: Yes, at that time they were, butchers and landlords of pubs.
Q: What was their name, in case I come across it ?
Mr C: Well, the butchers were Wendons.
Q: So your mother was a Wendon. (Mr C: Yes, she was a Wendon.) Did you stay at school? What age were you when you left ?
Mr C: Oh, just about fourteen. Didn’t have any special education or anything, no. Of course mother had a tidy family at that time. I mean yes, I think there was well five of us. (Q: And after you left school?) Oh I left school in London, that’s right. Yes I left school in London and I think that was when I first came to Witham I believe (Q: Really?) And as I say we lived here and there and backwards and forwards. (Q: Quite.). I don’t know whether its of any interest but at one time we, the people you know lived in Dunmow (Q: Really?). Of course I was, sort of, well I suppose I was sort of odd one out really, you see I was one, all the others were my step brothers or step sisters. And I used to, I started at Witham, I mean I was all on my own at Crittall’s. I think we lived at Dunmow then, I believe, almost certain, course I do know that, that was 1920. I started at Crittall’s at Witham that was at the new factory. Crittall’s I mean they were big people at Braintree weren’t they? Do you know ?
Q: They started there, didn’t they. How did you get the job at Witham then ?
Mr C: Well that was, a new factory, they built the factory, you see. Well, I can’t go into details but what I think, I don’t know where I was living then, but somebody wrote me and sort give me a tip that Crittall’s were starting and it would be an idea to apply for a job (Q: I see.), which I did and which I got. I worked the first press in that factory. My number was 200, W200, that was the start. Yes.
Q: What was the press? I don’t know a lot about Crittall’s, what they did inside there. What did you do on the press? You said you worked the first press?
Mr C: [???] Well it was only a simple press. I made the slots or could have been holes in the bars for the windows [look at window in his house]. (Q: You’ve got some there, have you?) There’s a bit there that sticks, of course you can’t see it because it’s inside the bar. That’s how they were put together and there was the slot. There’s a piece, I don’t know whether you can [???] it. (Q: You can see a bit of a dent there.). We just made one whole lot and then another one and so forth. There was nothing really complicated there. It was all simple, you know, there was slots and holes and of course they all had a different name.
Q: Was it hard work ? Did you find it hard work?
Mr C: Well, the point was you was piece work. So I mean that meant if you wanted …Well, of course, you’d got to do a day’s work anyhow but I mean piece work, the more you worked the better it was for you. (Q: Yes.)
Q: So you liked that did you ?
Mr C: Did I like it? Looking back I can’t really tell you. Although when I looking back now, I think how lucky I was to be in work there. 1920 till 1965. I was very lucky. I don’t think I was ever stood off. There was short time working and all that in the thirties. Times were very bad then but I was never actually stood off.
Q: How did they manage in the thirties? Do you remember anything about it?
Mr C: Well, I know myself, I remember everybody was very apprehensive about what was going to happen. I can’t say it was like it is today but that was very bad for a long time. Oh yes. There was a lot of unemployment about. Not on the scale that it is today of course, but …
Q: Crittall’s kept going all the time did they?
Mr C: Oh yes, oh yes definitely. They kept going and as I say, was doing pretty well.
Q: Did any of your friends get laid off or anything ?
Mr C: Yes, yes, yes, yes. Well, lots of people did, things were very bad. As a matter of fact like myself, I was lucky and never got stood off.
Q: Were you on piece work for a long time?
Mr C: Oh yes. Well piece work right through until, all the time. (Q: Its always been like that?) Oh, I was. (Q: Even when you left you mean?) Yes, I think I was on piece work when I packed up. (Q: Really?)
Q: Did the wages change a lot?
Mr C: Oh yes, definitely. Well, although I can’t remember the, but I know the highest wages I ever took was I think it was three pound sixteen. And that was a good week that was. [laughter] That will give you a little idea of what wages were. Well they were, Well, I always consider, you know people talk, and they moan and groan and all that sort of business, but, all the time I was a work, well, it seems to me now that the wages were pretty good and fair.
Q: So when you started off it wouldn’t be as much as that I suppose ?
Mr C: Oh dear, no, no no, no. I can’t remember what the wages were. You talk about the beginning, course at fourteen, when I left school like of course there was a great difference there again. I don’t think the wages were thirty bob. I won’t say too much as I can’t remember.
Q: Did you get much work before you were at Crittall’s in all these different places you were in? (Mr C: No idea, no idea.) Probably you’ve done so many different things you can’t remember.
Mr C: Oh I think I did all the various jobs that were on the go but I used to, in Witham for instance, I had a job with a, is there a nursery down at Witham now ? (Q: Where was it?) Down Bridge Street.
Q: Oh, I think that’s where they have the Sports Centre now.
Mr C: Just over the bridge.
[chat from Mrs C about laundry, not noted]
Q: [to Mrs C] Do you remember that nursery where the Sports Centre was it? Down Bridge Street at all ?
Mr C: [to Mrs C] Just over the bridge and there was a brick wall there. Where old Robinson’s nursery used to be?
Mrs C: Oh I remember the greenhouses and the [???] being there yes.
Q: I’m sure that’s where they have got the Sports Centre now (Mrs C: Yes it is.) and the swimming pool and all that. (Mr C: I’m lost.) But I remember people talking about Sprunt’s nursery or something?
Mr C: Sprunt’s, Oh you remember the Sprunts. There was at one time, I worked there for some years and there was a Mr Robinson. He was the governor there then. Quite a good business. There was half-a-dozen greenhouses I should think (Q: Really?) and there was all that land you know. The only thing is, the river used to come up, well, once every year and flood the whole place. (Q: Oh dear.) But he had a very flourishing business there, Mr Robinson. Oh he had a little pony and he made a little van and got this little pony, and made he made this little van with compartments and all that you know for the greengrocery, and I used to go over and out and took this. Oh I used to do a rare trade all round Witham.
Q: You sold them to the shops or to the people direct?
Mr C: Oh no, no, to the population you know. Well, I worked up a round. Of course he used to grow a lot of stuff there you see. There was plenty there to make a big business of it.
Q: That was quite an interesting job. (Mr C: I was a bit of a business executive) What you were or he was.
Mr C: Well, I was, I worked the round up for them you know.
Q: Did you get more if you sold more (Mr C: No.) or he got it? [Laugh]
Mr C: No, he wasn’t clever enough to do that. No, that time of day, I did, what I remember of it I worked up a good round so that I went round several times a week .(Q: Yes.)
Q: That was nice for people, wasn’t it? Did you go out in the villages as well or just Witham?
Mr C: He used to go out round about in the villages yes, but I used to, I think my main course was just in Witham like. (Q: Did you live in Witham at that time?) Oh yes. (Q: Whereabouts did you live then? What part of Witham did you live in?) Oh, in, … (Q: It doesn’t matter if you can’t remember.) I think I lived at home at one time, I’ve lodged in Witham with different people.
Q: So you weren’t married when you did this greengrocery ?
Mr C: Oh no, no, no. I was only a youngster. (Q: I see.) It was before I went in the army, I believe. I was about sixteen or something like that. I thought I ought to give myself a pat on the shoulder, I was such a young chap, and worked up this business like. (Q: Quite.)
Q: How did you get the business, how did you build up the business then?
Mr C: Well by taking stuff round and asking people if they wanted anything you know what I mean. (Q: Knock on the doors?) Oh yes. Of course they don’t do things like that now do they ? My ear is blocked up.
Q: That’s the cold wind. No they don’t do that now do they to get trade ?
Mr C: No, no. It’s only now and again you think of these things. And then you can’t understand.
Q: So you went in the army ?
Mr C: Yes, I went in the army when I was eighteen, I had three years I believe. But I was always, I wasn’t fit, of course my eyes. I was what they called B1. They used categories you know. A1, category A was fit for anything. Mine was B1. I was just the second category that was only because of my eyes you know. I was fit enough. Anyhow they put me in the band. (Q: Really?) After a while you know.
Q: So where did you go ?
Mr C: Ireland, yes I had a year or two over in the Emerald Isle. (Q: Uhuh. Was that when you were in the band you mean?) Yes, oh yes. (Q: What did you play?) Well it was only an ordinary drum. It was more or less a drum and fife band I suppose you’d call it. But I was a tenor drummer. You know the side drum side big drum with drum sticks, you know, big on a big drum. Used to swing, you know, swing them.
Q: Had you done anything of that before you went in the Army ? (Mr C: No.) Did you keep it up afterwards?
Mr C: No, well there was nothing to it really. No, I often wish I had. Lot of young chaps did, they went in the Army like and perhaps went in the band. They learnt to play an instrument. (Q: Yes.) But it’s about the only things they taught me.
Q: So it would be not long after you came out of that, after you come out of the Army, it wasn’t long before you went to Crittall’s then really was it ? (Mr C: No, er.) Were you married when you started at Crittall’s or did you … ?
Mr C: No, I don’t remember being long out of the Army when I went to Crittalls. I think that was one sort of point, I was ex-Service like, that I got the job. I believe.
Q: How did they keep an eye on what you were doing at Crittall’s ? Did they have a lot of foremen and …?
Mr C: Oh yes, foremen. It’s a funny thing you talking about that, there’s a chap come round here this morning and one of the foremen he left, of course he retired from Crittall’s, one of the old-timers and I can’t explain how it happened but he’d got an autograph album. I don’t know if that was presented to him or whatever it was, but this chap told me a lot about himself, but I’ve seen this album and we had a look at all the various autographs. Oh dear oh dear of course the chaps, they’re all there, and I knew them all of course. (Q: Interesting.) He was a Mr English.
Q: He was a foreman you say ?
Mr C: He was a foreman. Oh yes you had a foreman or a charge hand of course. I expect they do today don’t they ?
Q: Did they make people up from doing the work ?
Mr C: Oh yes, they worked people up. If you, of course they always reckoned if you could do a bit of ‘creep’ that sort of helped you along. [Laugh] That’s the same everywhere isn’t it? (Q: Yes.)
Q: What did people feel about it then, the people who didn’t get made up to foreman, were they a bit sort of …?
Mr C: Well, I don’t think you troubled, you didn’t exactly want to be made foreman, as a matter of fact that was a sort of onerous sort of job being a foreman.
Q: I see. You reckon they didn’t really want it much.
Mr C: Well, some people are made that way like, and want to get on and all that sort of business and others don’t. I never had a lot of ambition myself. [laugh]. So I never got far.
Q: Well, as you say, you were probably doing something important weren’t you really, in a different sort of way. Who kept an eye on the foremen then, who was above him. (Mr C: The manager.) It was up to the manager after that was it. Did you see much of him ? Thought of something else have you ?
Mr C: Oh dear, it opens up vast, (Q: You were going to tell me something else?) Oh well I don’t know what would be of interest to you and what wouldn’t. I mean, talk about this autograph book. Of course to me that brings things right close to you. This autograph book. He’d got one there, he said, ‘Did you know this bloke, Small ?’ He was a man that was made manager, at Witham, but his brother was, I don’t know what he was, I believe, I don’t know whether he was managing director or whether he was general manager of the whole works, the whole combine, Braintree and Witham and everywhere else. They were Scotsmen. Oh, they were terrors they were, they were two brothers and this bloke this Andrew Small, his name was in this album and, as I say, that brought, everybody detested him. [aside to Mrs C] That’s right isn’t it? Smally, I’m talking about the Smallies. (Mrs C: Oh I only knew the one that was the manager.) Well you heard people talk same as I did. They weren’t liked were they? (Mrs C: No.) No, no. Well, that time of day of course when things were bad .. (Mrs C: Well you couldn’t say anything to ‘em, could you. I mean you was glad of your job and that was that.)
Q: So you never said much, never spoke out of turn to them ?
Mr C: No, well they were, one was the manager of Crittall’s but the other one, I don’t know if he was general manager of the whole caboodle.
Q: And they came in from …
Q: What to sort of pep you up a bit you mean ?
Mr C: Yes, and I hear they do the same today don’t they ? (Q: Uhuh.) At that time of day, that was sort of, you know, because things were bad for you. Even if you were at work, I believe, times were hard and these two they, I think they were brought in specially for the job.
Q: Did they live locally when they were here do you think, I wonder ?
Mr C: Robert Small, who was the managing director, no, he would have lived at Braintree, of course, because he was as I say, over. Oh no, of course the other bloke little Small here, who was manager here, he lived at Silver End of course he did. And I don’t know whether the other Smallie did. That was when Silver End was first built, you know, early days. We had Mr Crittall, Mr V G Crittall. You’ll have heard about him of course ?
Q: What do you remember about him then ?
Mr C: Oh dear, well a very decent sort of man really. (Q: Mmm.) I did a little bit of canvassing for him now and again. [laugh] He lived at Wickham Bishops didn’t he ? He was our first Labour MP.
Q: That must have been a time. Do you remember when he got in or anything ? (Mr C: Yes.) What did people think about that ?
Mr C: Oh, pleased of course. [Laughter] Yes that was a wonderful thing for a Labour candidate in Witham, er not Witham, Maldon. Maldon he was in. Oh that was wonderful, almost unheard of, and of course at that time of day, the Labour Party was terrible. [laugh]
Q: Did you see much of him, Crittall himself ?
Mr C: Yes, Well of course he was at Braintree, of course that was where his work was I suppose. But I remember, I remember his old father as well. (Q: Really? Goodness. You used to see them about then?) Oh yes yes yes, we’d see them about and of course he was a busy man I suppose really. Especially after he got elected. I mean he’d got a job to do in London, and also I don’t know what he was in the company, but he was a big man in the company of course, in the window trade. Crittall’s were a big firm at that time of day. I don’t know whether they are now or not?
Q: I think so, you see lots of adverts and that.
Mr C: The world over like, you know.
Q: So you didn’t see him much in the factory or anything ?
Mr C: Well, no. Well not here, as I say he would have been at Braintree if he had anything to do at all. (???) I suppose he is dead.
Q: I think there probably is still some Crittall family.
Mr C: There was two at that time, Valentine and I forget what his brother’s name was>
Q: So did you do a lot with the Labour Party or was it election time mostly ?
Mr C: Who, myself ? (Q: Yes.) Oh I think I’ve put a lot of work into the Labour Party over the years. We had a Concert Party. (Q: Really?) I belonged to that. (Q: Mmm.) Crittall’s had a Concert Party, I belonged to that.
Q: Really – what did you used do with them – didn’t play your drum ? [laugh]
Mr C: No, sing, sing, comedian or supposed to be. (Q: Oh that was nice.) Yes, I was only saying to [???] I wonder if I’d have stuck to that if I’d have made good (Q: Made a fortune.) [laugh]. I was always in demand, although I say it myself, don’t think I’m big headed. Oh I used to go round to Colchester, Braintree, the old Institute at Braintree, many and many a time. (Q: Really.)
Q: That was in the evening time, weekends?
Mr C: Oh yes, evening times. Maldon, Chelmsford, Colchester. All round this locality like.
Q: Why did you take that up then ? (Mr C: Why?) How did you come to take that up, do you remember ?
Mr C: Well no. I liked the Music Hall. Always did like it, I used to see a lot of it in London. (Q: Of course, yes.) You know, as a kid.
Q: Did you make up all your stuff ?
Mr C: Well I did, my patter. But of course, the songs were always … I’ve got some about here now. (Q: Really?). Of course when we come here we moved out here I had to sort of get rid of old stuff and a lot of my songs went. Broke my heart really it did. (Q: I bet it did.) [???] I heard the other night there, oh dear there was three or four of my old songs, on the…
Q: Crittall’s had the, you did that for Crittall’s as well, did you ?
Mr C: Oh yes, at Crittall’s they had a party at Crittall’s and their hall there, there’s a stage and that there. Oh yes of course yes. (Q: Oh you were very gifted then.) I can’t remember any exceptional things that happened. But after you’re gone no doubt I shall ! (Q: Oh well, I’ll come back then.)
Q: I mean, I’m sure I can remember someone telling me that when they worked … (Mr C: Mm?) I think I remember, talking about Crittall’s, that somebody told we when they worked there they had to put the wages down at one time because things were so bad. Do you remember that at all ?
Mr C: I don’t remember them ever putting them down. [Laugh] There were lots of times when they ought to have been put up.
Q: Did anyone complain at all ? Were there any Unions ?
Mr C: Oh yes, well, you talk about that, well. There was always a Union at Crittall’s (Q: Was there?). Yes, Crittall’s were more or less a fair firm to work for. (Q: Mmm.) Well I should imagine anyhow. Dash it I used to be on the committee of the Union, dash it, over the years. I’m just remembering things now. Yes, I was on the Committee for a long time, course I was. (Q: You reckon they had that right from the early days do you?) They did. I think ever since I joined Crittall’s I think that went back so far (Q: Mmm.) It wasn’t so very long afterwards anyhow. I mean Crittall’s had been a Union firm all your life as you might say.
Q: So you didn’t get into any? What did the Small managers and them think about that do you think?
Mr C: I, well , they couldn’t help theirselves. [laugh]. You know they never, it never entered anything, I mean the Union was there and there you are.
Q: Did they ever try and get more wages or anything like that that that you can remember ?
Mr C: Oh, yes, the wages. They used to go up, like, you know ?
Q: There weren’t any strikes or anything there that you remember ?
Mr C: I don’t think we ever had a strike at Witham, I don’t think, I don’t believe we did. No.
Q: Why were they so unpopular these managers do you think ?
Mr C: Oh well, they were the bosses, weren’t they. [Laugh] Oh yes.
Q: Did you see much of them yourself ?
Mr C: No, they were in their offices writing, and we was at work (Q: Yes – did they come round at all ever?) Yes, they come round, like you would see them around you might say (Q: Did they know much about your job for instance?) We didn’t used to think they did of course. [laugh] No.
Q: How was that then? In what way did you think they showed that they didn’t ?
Mr C: Oh well, they didn’t do what we wanted to of course. (Q: Oh really?). I mean that’s how it is all the time, I mean everybody wants something else.
Q: Yes, what sort of things would you have liked them to do that they didn’t ?
Mr C: Give us more money, but you’d call that being greedy I suppose.
Q: Oh no – but was there any way they could have made the job better do you think, like?
Mr C: Of course, there was so many sort of, I mean the managers they were at the top. I mean there were so many people underneath them before they got to the workmen. Yes.
Q: Was there any between the foremen and them ?
Mr C: Oh no, the foremen and the next people of course were the managers. But then there were only one in the factory as you might say.
Q: So, when you were working on your machine, did somebody come round often to see how you were getting on or was that just left to you ?
Mr C: Well, it all depends on what you call, by getting on, in what way ?
Q: Well, I mean did they, what did the foreman actually do during the day ?
Mr C: Well, he’d got his paperwork to do I suppose. (Q: Oh I see.) He’d got to work with his manager and also got to keep the people, the work people, on the go.
Q: So, what did he do to keep you on the go, anything special ?
Mr C: Oh no, no, only the sort of ordinary routine of working. As a rule I think people used to work with one another and you know.
Q: The foreman had a lot of paperwork you reckon as well ?
Mr C: Well, of course they did. They were the people to have the paperwork weren’t they really?.
Q: Presumably if you were on piece work they had to keep track of how much you had done and that. How did that happen.
Mr C: Oh yes, there was ways and means of doing that. I can’t remember the details now but if you was on piece work you kept a count, it was up to you to keep a count of what you did at the same time somebody else would keep account to the firm to make sure everything was right, (Q: Mmm.) [???] [???].
Q: But you’re not really sure now whether you enjoyed it there?
Mr C: Well, there ain’t many people do enjoy factory work. (Q: Right.) Well, there’s so many jobs …
Q: So would your friends be mostly people from Crittall’s.
Mr C: Oh, well, anybody, all sorts, all sorts, yes yes, according to what, yes. Might have outside interests like you know, hobbies and such like. I used to be very keen I was very interested in model railways but …
Q: Did you collect them ?
Mr C: Well I did to a certain extent but on the other hand, it was a dear sort of hobby like.
Q: You must have had a busy time then really with that and the Concert Parties.
Mr C: [laugh] Oh well, you are and that. I enjoyed myself like, enjoyed my life and you can’t always do what you want
Q: You were at Cressing Road you said at one time ?
Mr C: Yes, Cressing Road, Church Street, two or three places in Church Street. Mill Lane. (Q: Uhuh.)
Q: So when did you get married then ? (Mr C: Oh dear.) Or should I not ask you that in case you’ve forgotten, then she’ll get cross won’t she? [laughter]
Mr C: We was only talking about that yesterday I think it was.
Q: Anyway that would be while you were at Crittall’s presumably wouldn’t it?
Mr C: Oh yes definitely. My wife, she can put all the details together.
Q: Did she used to go to work ?
Mr C: She used to work at Crittall’s at one time. During the War I think that was.
Q: Did they do anything different at Crittall’s in the War, last War ?
Mr C: When was I there, was I there in the last War. Oh well at one time of day, of course during the First War that was before it was built, but during, I mean they did all sorts of things. Bridges, bailey bridges, they went in for them a lot. I don’t know which War that was, the Second probably. (Q: Probably, yes.) Building bailey bridges, various sorts of bridges.
Q: So were you in the army again ? I’ve lost count of how old you would be then?
Mr C: Was I in the Army again? Oh no, no. I went in the Home Guard. Yes, didn’t used to mind that either at all, I used to sort of like that. (Q: Uhuh. What did you have to do? Were you busy?) Oh drills, of course I knew all of it really. I’d gone through my training when I was in the Army of course. (Q: Yes.) I was a good shot, I was a first class shot, in spite of me eyes. In the First War I was a first class shot. I used to get sixpence a day extra.
Q: Really – that was in the First War? That was before you were in the Band then or …?
Mr C: Oh you always do your training first whatever you did afterwards. As I say I passed my course on the Curragh. Have you heard of the Curragh? (Q: Yes, I have.) That’s where I passed me rifle course.
Q: So they must have been glad of you in the Home Guard ?
Mr C: [laugh] Not sure they were. I don’t know whether we were much use [laugh].
Q: Was there a lot of bombing in Witham, in the Second War ?
Mr C: No, I don’t think. Well, we had as much as we wanted no doubt. (Q: Yes.) But I don’t think actual bombing I don’t think. You had the alarms wherever you were, like all over the country. (Q: Yes.)
Q: So, in the Home Guard, you’d go out every night would you or …?
Mr C: I don’t know whether we sort of, I forget now whether we used to, whether we was always on parade or always on duty. Talking about air raids, the shelters were down here in bottom of the back, well, what is now our garden. We were only talking about that yesterday. I don’t know where they were, somewhere along there (Q: Mmm – that was big ones, were they?) To tell you the truth I don’t really remember what they were like. I don’t ever remember going down the shelters. Because at one time of day we had shelters in the houses didn’t we, you know the tables and …the big tables.
Q: So were you up here then in Church Street when you were in the Home Guard, do you remember ?
Mr C: Yes, I suppose, yes, must have been. We were in Church Street. When you try to think about things, it is a job to think of specific days or …
Q: Well, you’ve done such a lot haven’t you? It doesn’t matter about specific days. (Mr C: I’ve filled my time in.] It’s very interesting. I suppose you knew more people in Witham ?
Mr C: I always reckoned, [???] I shall get excited, but I always reckoned at one time of day I knew everybody in Witham and everybody knew me. As a matter of fact I was, went to call on a couple, where are they, oh they live over there. One day last week I went to give them a look, well, as a matter of fact I was coming away at dinner time, and I was coming out and there was a chap at the door trying to find out something, wanting to know, but anyhow I went to go out the door and he looked and he said ‘Bill Carey?’ I said ‘Yes’. He said ‘How are you?’ Ther’s a chap I …His father used keep the Crotchet. Oh dear, I don’t know how many years ago. I suppose this bloke was [???] he was retired. He told me his name like you know, one of the old timers, that was Champ. I thought how nice it was. (Q: That he knew you, yes.) He looked at me and said ‘Bill Carey?’ I said ‘Yes’. He said Stan Champ. Because I didn’t quite catch who he was at the start. But after he said … His old hand went out. Like I say years ago like I reckon I knew everybody in Witham. All round. No matter where I look. Look next door here. I knew that person, forty to fifty years ago and remember where she lived, or if I go along there. Next door, of course that’s Mrs White, but next door but one to them is another chap I knew donkeys years ago. (Q: Really?) And next door to him, no I don’t think I knew them. But that’s how I go on. (Q: It’s lovely isn’t it?) I hope you don’t think I’m exaggerating, but years ago (Q: No no, I’m sure you’re right really.) years ago people did …
Q: But if you went about a lot did all these things then you’d be quite well known wouldn’t you ? (Q: Yes. Especially on the stage.)
Mr C: Oh yes, I was well known. I believe I don’t know, I suppose I’m entitled to take credit for that. (Q: I’m sure you are, yes.) I’m not one to throw my weight about but, of course. It was a pastime and I liked it, and enjoyed it, always did and I do now if I can … Umpteen times there’s someone sings a song on there and I can join in.
Q: That’s lovely, yes. Did they have many shows like that at Witham or were they mostly out in these other places ?
Mr C: Well, no, not, years ago, you didn’t get anything like, anything high-class, did you, not in a place like Witham, you know. It’s only since television and that, I mean ….
Q: So when you were doing your shows did you do any at Witham, I mean at Crittall’s ?
Mr C: Oh yes, at Crittall’s in that hall there. (Q: What about the Public Hall, did they have anything on there?) Oh, yes, Public Hall, yes, I was there as well, oh yes Public Hall, I’ve been there hundreds of time. You know what I mean. But oh yes, as regards knowing people, I often wish I could go down as far as the town. (Q: You’d see plenty people there probably, wouldn’t you?) Still there.
Q: Still you’ve got a good lot round there and, as you say, that’s nice really, isn’t it.
[chat about dinner etc., and moving to this house temporarily while Bramston Green being rebuilt etc. not noted]
Q: We were talking about factory work. Did your daughter say you were worked at the Glove factory ?
Mrs C: Yes, I worked for one week (Q: Oh really?) [laugh] Earned half-a-crown at the end of it so I didn’t go any more. (Q: Really?) So I went to Hoffmann’s then and I went there when I was fourteen and I stayed there till I married – ten years. (Q: Really, you got more there did you?) Oh yes. I had to bike from Hatfield to Chelmsford every day, morning and night, all weathers, rain, hail, snow, blow we had to do it. (Q: Goodness.) They wouldn’t do it now would they? [laugh]
Q: So, was it the wages that you didn’t like at the glove factory or the …?
Mrs C: Well, we only had half-a-crown. (Mr C: Half a crown a week.) And there was nowhere for you to sit when you had your lunch. We had to stand up in the cloakroom and have ‘em. (Q: Really?)
Mr C: That was the recognised place that was at that time of day for …
Mrs C: My mum said when I took the wage packet home, she said ‘What’s this?’. I said that’s my week’s wages. ‘Your not going there any more’, she said so she took me to Hoffmann’s the next week and I got [???] on and I stayed there until we married – ten years. (Q: That was your first job?) That was the only job I had apart from the one week at the glove factory. [laugh]
Q: What did you do at Hoffman’s?
Mrs C: Ball bearings. It was a nice clean job and very well organised, apart from the journey backwards and forwards, that was all right. It had got a canteen where you could go and have a decent meal.
Mr C: Made a long way for me to go to meet her.
Mrs C: Oh well, you didn’t start in the beginning did you ? Only towards the end did you used to come and meet me. [laugh] We were courting four years.
Q: Really. You still lived at Hatfield before you were married?
Mrs C: Yes, we were married in Hatfield church weren’t we ? (Mr C: That’s right).
Q: How did you meet him then ?
Mrs C: One Sunday afternoon. One Sunday afternoon you and your mate were sitting on the side of the road, weren’t you, on the bank. (Mr C: That’s right, they used to do that at that time of day.) Well, my friend and I we used to walk from Hatfield into Witham Sunday afternoons just for something to do. You know, if there was nothing else to do. We used to call at Uncle Ellis’s and have an icecream. On our way back oh we used to pass you, oh, Sundays and Sundays we passed you. There used to be four or five of you, didn’t there. This one particular Sunday afternoon you two were on your own.(Q: Oh I see.) So we arranged to meet in the evening and we did and that continued from then on.
Mr C: That’s where we finished up you see. [laughter]
[Goodbyes etc., chat about memory, not noted.]
Mr C: If my memory was better I could write a book. (Q: Really?). Of course it’s too late now. And I always was good at composition at school. Oh I took a, there used to be a, oh you wouldn’t know the chemist at Braintree, Rowe. Chemist in Bank Street. That time of day there was a, he’d got a sister and she was a school governor I think, not to teach, on the Board of the school. And one year she gave a prize for the best, I can’t put it into official language now, but best bit of composition. (Q: Really?) and I won it. (Q: Oh?) Out of the whole school. I was in standard extra seven I think I was then. I was rather proud of that as a matter of fact (Q: I bet you were.) and I won this prize. It was a book, leather covered book. Of course that’s gone, by the board years ago. It used to hang about at home. I had a good imagination I reckon. (Q: Really?). Yes, that was Miss Rowe that was. I can’t remember properly.
Q: That was probably where you got the performing talent from as well. You didn’t write it down, you spoke it instead.
Mr C: But you know you do think about things. I often say I ought to be able to write a book as I love talking.
Q: I say that’s why, he was telling me about the Concert Parties, that’s probably why he was so good at that do you think ?
Mrs C: I didn’t used to think too much of it. One time was all right but when you began the family that was a different matter.
Mr C: Ah yes, well there you are you see, but I might have gone on you see I might have been a star by now (Q: Made your fortune. It’s difficult to find the time I suppose, to fit it all in.)
Mrs C: No, its all right at the time. (Mr C: Well it was all right as a hobby.) You done it because you enjoyed it.
Mr C: Yes, I do, I like singing now. It isn’t just a matter of going out and enjoying yourself and all that. Over the years you do, but, as I say I like music.
Q: Did you have a big family ?
Mrs C: Only two, Pam and my son.
Q: And you were up here then were you ?
Mrs C: No, we were in Cressing Road weren’t we ? (Q: Yes) We were in Cressing Road when Pam was born weren’t we ?
Mr C: Blowed if I know, can’t remember.
Mrs C: When Pam was born, because I went down to Nurse Roberts’s you know, in the nursing home.
Q: That was the bungalow was it ?
Mrs C: No, it was a house right down, used to be the last one down the bottom of Maldon Road. She was lovely.
Q: Was that a big place ?
Mrs C: Oh, no, it wasn’t a big place, she used to take in about two patients at a time but I was lucky I was the only one there. Then when me fortnight was up she said ‘Would you like to stay another week’, because we was only in two rooms in Cressing Road, I said yes I would but I’ll have to ask my husband because that was three guineas a week and that was a lot of money then. So anyway I asked him and he said yes if you’d like to stay, stay and I stayed another week. Three weeks, that was lovely. (Q: You liked it did you?) Didn’t want to come home. I was being made too much fuss of!
Q: Not everybody would be able to find that would they?
Mrs C: No, it was a lot of money. (Mr C: I should think it was, that was …) Still she looked after us both well didn’t she, because she used to look after you as well. When you came down there weekends, she used to put a little table beside me bed and you used to have your tea there.
Q: What would you have had to do if you hadn’t been there?
Mrs C: I would have had to go in the nursing home in Collingwood Road I suppose, what used to be there, didn’t there, used to be a nursing home. [46 Collingwood Road] (Mr C: Nurses home.) (Q: You didn’t have to pay so much for that?). I didn’t want to go down there. (Q: Why was that?) [laugh] I don’t know. I tell you the truth I wasn’t really looking forward to anything. (Q: No, quite.) But there you are, somebody recommended me down there and a friend of mine took me down and she said yes, she’d be pleased to have me. ‘Of course she’s expecting twins’ and she said ‘Oh lovely, she said, I’ve never had twins in my nursing home.’ and they were expecting twins for me but I disappointed them. I only had the one.
Q: I heard about the bungalow, but I’ve not heard about the Maldon Road one.
Mr C: No, that was a nurses’ home wasn’t it, that was a private one down the Maldon Road. That other one was the nurses’ home, wasn’t it?
Mrs C: It was where the nurses lived, yes.
Q: But they did have people in didn’t they, as well ?