Margaret Cropper remembers the romances that developed over the Lime Street switchboards!

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

Margaret Cropper goes into more detail about her work on the Lime Street switchboards. All the calls they would receive were inquiries from the public, and there were six lines from the switchboards to the Enquiry Office. They would also have to send calls to the Parcel Office and the Complaints Department. She and her three colleagues, who all got on very well with each other, worked in isolation from the other railway employees apart from Gladys Coke, their supervisor: however, a number of romantic relationships with fellow workers developed from telephone conversations!

Interviewee: Margaret Cropper

Interviewee Gender: Female

Date of Interview: 24th November 2011

Interview Transcript

Jenny: So, what were the sort of calls that you used to get through?

Margaret: Oh, well, 100 per cent of them were inquiries, that’s why the inquiries would have about . . .

Jenny: (coughs) From the public?

Margaret: . . . six lines, from the public . . .

Jenny: Yeah.

Margaret: . . . well, they’d be coming through to find out about trains and things like that, so they were the most important calls, well, not the most important but the busiest was the inquiries, and there’s be six lines to the inquiry office, and, you know, they’d have to wait, you’d probably have them, two or three of them, waiting to go through and they’d be saying, you know, we’re saying, “We’re still busy, we’re still busy”, you know. The Parcel Office another, they were very busy, 14 and 16, that extension, and, I can’t think of any, well, it, it was a big call, really, for the two of us to cope with, the two-position board, complaints they’d come on, you know, for people in the Complaints Department. There was another gentleman and I can’t think what he was, his name was Mr. Illingworth, but he was a big boss on the railway, but not as good, not as big as, as Mr. Byron was, and of course, the two girls that were on the switchboard when I went, Irene Kinder and Doreen Barrett, at that stage, as you do, they, to, to me, cos I was only 17, were old (laughs), they weren’t really, they were probably late 20s or 30s, but they seemed old, because one of them had grey hair, so she seemed old, but they seemed to, sort of, show me everything, you know, what have you, and then when Vera came she was my, my age, so the two of us were great together, you know, but they, Irene and Doreen, were still there when I left, but, you know, they’re probably dead now, I’m sure.

Jenny: Did you ever meet Mr. Byron?

Margaret: No, but as I said, we were left up there, you know, nobody knew we were up there, it was like being in, in an attic somewhere (Jenny laughs), and it was very rare, mind you, the telegraph people would probably come up to see us, but nobody else came up, and I really don’t know who was in charge of us, nobody as far as I know (laughs), only Miss Gladys Coke that used to come, the supervisor, but she only came to see that we were answering the phone, probably (laughs), correctly, you know, and working it all right, but no, we didn’t have anybody come and tell us what to do, or check on our times, you know, in fact, I think, well, it, it is true that the, the person that came on a two o’clock, sometimes, she wouldn’t come on at two, so that would be when you’d put the lines up, so you controlled the two-position board yourself, and we, we’d just do as we wanted! (both laugh) And we still manned the board, you know! Yeah, it was good, it was really good on the railway then.

Jenny: And did you feel, like, part of, you know, the, did you mix with all the railway workers, like, other positions or was . . . ?

Margaret: Not really. You did on the phone, and that’s how you, from their voices, a lot of romances came up, you know . . .

Jenny: Yeah.

Margaret: . . . I don’t know whether I should go into this (both laugh) but Irene Kinder was going out with somebody from Crewe . . .

Jenny: Oh, yeah! (laughs)

Margaret: . . . and Doreen Barrett was going out with somebody from the telegraph office, so, you would chat with them but you would not actually see them, unless you made an appointment to see them, you know . . .

Jenny: Yeah.

Margaret: . . . a date or whatever, but, no, because you were on your own, it wasn’t like you were downstairs seeing the public coming in, you never saw the public, well, you heard from them, you know, but, no, it (laughs), I can’t believe the way worked up there in that little (laughs), I don’t know whether it’s still there or not (Jenny laughs), but honestly it was, it was, it wasn’t as big as this room . . .

Jenny: Yeah.

Margaret: . . . and, you know, we were quite happy there, and there was no problems between us, we got on very, very well, you know.

Tagged under: railway workers, liverpool lime street station, switchboards, telephonists, parcel office, complaints department, enquiries office

Categorised under: Work & Industry

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