Margaret Cropper remembers her work as a telephonist at Lime Street station

Resource Type: Audio | Posted on 20th February 2012 by Liam Physick

Margaret Cropper remembers how she began working as a telephonist at Lime Street station at the age of 17, having moved to Liverpool from her native Yorkshire two years earlier, and stayed in the role for five years. She worked with three other women, Vera Scout, Irene Kinder and Doreen Barrett, and would begin working early in the morning: sometimes they would flick the switches off because they could not cope with the volume of calls! Initially, they worked on a two-position switchboard at the front of the station, but then switched to a four-position one on platform one. Margaret next refers to her supervisor, Gladys Coke, and how she and her colleagues would annoy the Enquiry Office by constantly ringing up! They had direct lines through to Edge Hill and Exchange

Interviewee: Margaret Cropper

Interviewee Gender: Female

Date of Interview: 24th November 2011

Interview Transcript

Jenny: Whereabouts were you born, Margaret?

Margaret: I was born in Yorkshire, in a place called Bramall.

Jenny: And when did you move to Liverpool?

Margaret: When I was about 15.

Jenny: Yeah. And, and when did you start working for the railway?

Margaret: When I was 17

Jenny: 17. And what was that role?

Margaret: Telephonist, at Lime Street station.

Jenny: Yeah. And how long did you work as a telephonist?

Margaret: About five years.

Jenny: Five years?

Margaret: Yes.

Jenny: And what was your name, at that time?

Margaret: Margaret Slight. S-L-I-G-H-T.

Jenny: Yeah. Back then, what was the, kind of, working conditions like?

Margaret: Well, I don’t think they would have accepted them today, but we used to have to go into the front of Lime Street station, where there was a door, and then we’d go up a spiral staircase into a little room, no bigger than this, I don’t even know if it had windows now, I can’t remember, but we had a two-position switchboard, and later on, they brought in a single one, so there was three then, and there was . . . shall I tell you about the people that were there?

Jenny: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Margaret: OK. There were . . . four of us, myself, Vera Scout, Irene Kinder and Doreen Barrett, and we used to work shiftwork, two til 10, six til two or nine til five, and it used to be, after the day girl went, we would be on the switchboard on our own, so on a Sunday morning especially, when it was six o’clock in the morning, the telegraph people who manned it in night, they would stay on and give us an extra couple of hours in bed, so we wouldn’t come in until about eight o’clock (Jenny laughs), they were very good with us, and also, if we were on our own on this two-positioned one which we were for quite a while, if it got busy we’d flick all the switches off, so that everybody ringing through would, it would be engaged for them, it wasn’t engaged but we couldn’t cope with the, the amount of calls that were coming through so we’d switch these switches off, and we’d be able to control it ourselves, and as I say later on they brought in this single one, that’s when, you know, three of them were manned, and eventually, later on, they moved us to the side of platform one in, on the first floor, and we had a beautiful big room and it was a four-position switchboard, but it was never as good as where we were before because we just did our own thing and nobody came near us apart from a supervisor, now she used to come in not very often, and she used to be based in Garston Dock, and her name was Gladys Coke . . .

Jenny: Yeah.

Margaret: . . . and she was a Miss, I don’t know whether she’s ever come up in interviews . . .

Jenny: Yeah.

Margaret: . . . and we used to have to say, when she same or when we knew she was coming, we’d have to revert from, I’d say, Lime Street, Lime Street, you know, for all the calls coming through, but when she came in, used to be “Lime Street station, at your service”, but by the time you said, “Lime Street station, at your service”, you could have taken a few more calls, you know (Jenny laughs), but that’s how we had to present ourselves. The people that we most used to get annoyed with, or they’d get annoyed with us (laughs) because we’d just keep our finger on the key and keep ringing forever, and that was the Enquiry Office, and I think I can remember one of the girls’ names there, she was probably in charge, was named Agnes, and we used to have some rows with her because she used to “Stop”, say, you know, “Stop ringing”, you know, because we’d just keep ringing and ringing until they answered, but, obviously they had people down there as well, so, that was more or less how it went and, the, at the time Mr. Byron was the head of all the railways, and course when his light went up, which in those days were the, there were lights that went on the switchboards, you had to go for him right away, no matter who else was on the board, at 14 and 16 was, I said, this parcel office, we had a direct line to Edge Hill, and a direct line to Exchange, and I can remember the others but we had a few direct lines right through rather than dialling, and that’s when Eric Coffey was the station master at Edge Hill.

Tagged under: edge hill station, railway workers, liverpool lime street station, switchboards, liverpool exchange station, garston dock, station masters, telephonists, enquiry office

Categorised under: Work & Industry

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