Henry's Songbook

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The Testament Of Patience Kershaw

  • (Frank Higgins)

    It's kind of you to ask me sir
    To tell you how I spend my day
    Down in a coal black tunnel sir
    I hurry corves to earn my pay
    The corves they're full of coal kind sir
    And I push them with my hands and head
    It isn't ladylike but sir
    You've got to earn your daily bread

    I push them with my hands and head
    And so my hair gets worn away
    And you see this balding patch I've got
    It shames me sir and I just can't say
    For a lady's hands are lily-white
    But mine they're full of cuts and segs
    And since I'm pushing all the time
    I've great big muscles on my legs

    But I try to be respectable
    But sir the shame God save my soul
    For I work with naked sweating men
    Who curse and swear and hew the coal
    And the sight the smell the sound kind sir
    Not even God could sense my shame
    I say my prayers but what's the use
    For tomorrow will be just the same

    And all the lads they laugh at me
    And sir my mirror tells me why
    Pale and dirty can't look nice
    And it doesn't matter how I try
    Great big muscles on my legs
    And a balding patch upon my head
    A lady sir oh no not me
    I should have been a boy instead

    But thank you for your deep concern
    For I love your kind and your gentle heart
    But this is eighteen forty-two
    And you and I are miles apart
    And a hundred years or more will pass
    Before we're walking side by side
    But please accept my grateful thanks
    God bless you sir at least you tried

    (as sung by Cilla Fisher & Artie Trezise)

Susannes Folksong-Notizen

  • [1842:] A pit girl from Halifax, P. Kershaw, aged 17: "My father has been dead about a year; my mother is living and has ten children, five lads and five lasses; the oldest is about 30, the youngest is four; three lasses go to the mill; all the lads are colliers, two getters and three hurriers; one lives at home and does nothing; mother does nought but look after home.

    Name Age Occupation Wages
      £ s d
    William (Kershaw) 22 Getter 0 16 0
    Thomas (married) c.30 - - - -
    James 18 Hurrier 0 8 6
    Bethel 13 Ditto 0 5 0
    Solomon 11 Ditto 0 3 6
    Patience 17 Ditto 0 8 6
    Sarah 24 Weaver 0 9 0
    Hannah 21 Ditto 0 9 0
    Sybil (married) 26 - - - -
    Caroline (at home) 4 - - - -
    Alice (at home, sick) 15 - - - -
    total 2 19 6

    All my sisters have been hurriers, but three went to the mill, Alice went because her legs swelled from hurrying in cold water when she was hot. I never went to day-school; I go to Sunday school, but I cannot read or write; I go to pit at 5 o'clock in the morning; I get my breakfast of porridge and milk first; I take my dinner with me, a cake, and eat it as I go; I do not stop or rest any time for the purpose; I get nothing else until I get home, and then have potatoes and meat, not every day meat. I hurry in the clothes I have now got on, trousers and ragged jacket; the bald place upon my head is made by thrusting the corves; my legs have never swelled, but sisters' did when they went to mill; I hurry the corves a mile and more under ground and back; they weigh 300 cwt [hundredweight]; I hurry 11 a-day; I wear a belt and chain at the workings to get the corves out; the getters that I work for are naked except their caps; they pull off all their clothes; I see them at work when I go up; sometimes they beat me, if I am not quick enough, with their hands; they strike me upon my back; the boys take liberties with me sometimes, they pull me about; I am the only girl in the pit; there are about 20 boys and 15 men; all the men are naked; I would rather work in mill than in coal-pit."

    This girl is an ignorant, filthy, ragged, and deplorable-looking object, and such an [sic!] one as the uncivilized natives of the prairies would be shocked to look upon. (First report of the commission on the employment of children, quoted in Palmer, Poverty 43)

  • [1972:] Although written fairly recently by Frank Higgins of Liverpool this moving song is based very literally on the actual evidence given by the young Patience Kershaw before the Government Commission of Enquiry into Child Labour in 1842. As a result of the enquiry in that same year an Act of Parliament prohibited the underground employment in the mines of women and boys under ten years old. (Notes Ian Campbell Folk Group, 'Something To Sing About')

  • [1979:] Bei der Kohle hatte durch die zunehmende Verstädterung zwar schon eine Nachfragesteigerung eingesetzt (und noch 1842 gingen zwei Drittel der gesamten britischen Kohleförderung buchstäblich durch den Kamin), doch war die Art und Weise des Abbaus noch recht primitiv [...]. Für den Bergbau bedeutete das die Notwendigkeit, neue Arbeitskräfte zu finden. Dies aber war vor der allgemeinen Mobilität der unteren Schichten und vor allem wegen der nur geringen Anziehungskraft der britischen Kohlenregionen gegenüber den Ballungszentren - trotz relativ besserer Verdienstmöglichkeiten - meist nur durch Ausnutzen der lokalen Arbeitsreserven möglich. Frauen- und Kinderarbeit war an der Tagesordnung [...].

    Mit der zunehmenden Verschlechterung der Lebensbedingungen stieg die Anzahl der in den Bergwerken arbeitenden Frauen und Mädchen (mit Ausnahme von Durham und Northumberland, wo die Frauenarbeit schon 1790 verboten wurde). Die Hitze in den Stollen zwang zu leichter Bekleidung und oft wurde gänzlich nackt gearbeitet. Obwohl uns wegen der äußerst schweren Arbeit kaum vorstellbar, wird von einem großen Ausmaß von Unzucht untertage berichtet und Engels spricht von einer signifikant höheren Zahl unehelicher Kinder in diesen Regionen. Wie man sich vorstellen kann, waren den Grubenbesitzern diese Folgen wohl kaum unwillkommen. Erst die moralische Empörung der viktorianischen Gesellschaft erreichte ein Verbot der Frauenarbeit; die Kinderarbeit wurde im Gegensatz zu den anderen Industrien nicht verboten. (Hans-Günter Vogel, Folk Magazin 1, 12f)


Quelle: England

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aktualisiert am 03.05.2002