Pat Moffat talks about how her husband’s uncle used to work on the railway

Resource Type: Audio | Posted on 12th September 2011 by Liam Physick

Pat Moffat talks in detail about her husband’s uncle, Billy Shone, and his work on the railway. He started work at the age of 12, and had the job of cleaning out the steam locomotives’ fires, at the cost of having burns all over his hands as he did not wear gloves. On a lighter note, he would use the fire to cook his breakfast!

Interviewee: Pat Moffat

Interviewee Gender: Female

Interview Transcript

Pat: Uncle Billy Shone, he was the first person into St. Dunstan’s School, and he lived in the cottages, off Spekeland Road . . .

Jenny: Spekeland Road, the railway . . .

Pat: . . . cos all the family, again, it was this clannish thing, if you got a key, you passed it to . . .

Jenny: Yeah, yeah.

Pat: . . . a member of the family, and when the cottages came down, we went to live in Dove Street, but, he, he worked right up until he retired, they bought him a clock . . .

Jenny: Aw!

Pat: . . . this brown clock, that used to put pride of place on the mantelpiece . . .

Jenny: Yeah.

Pat: . . . he didn’t need the clocks, he didn’t have to get up early (Jenny laughs), he, he used to be, like, the first man up, used to get the engines warmed up, and they, they’d have them waiting . . .

Jenny: Yeah.

Pat: . . . with the steam coming off them . . .

Jenny: Yeah.

Pat: . . . and everything.

Jenny: Yeah . . .

Pat: Yeah.

Jenny: . . . cos they used to heat the carriages here . . .

Pat: Carriages, yeah, yeah.

Jenny: . . . to go to Lime Street.

Pat: Yeah, that’s right, yeah.

Jenny: Amazing!

Pat: I think Uncle Billy . . . it was dead on retirement day he finished here, and he didn’t last much longer because he had no work to do . . .

Jenny: Nothing to do.

Pat: . . . if they’d have left him doing his job, he was fine, he wasn’t in ill health or nothing, but, I think because, he, he didn’t have a job to go to, he just, he just, kind of, went into himself. You’d just see him going for the, the Express of a morning, and the Echo of a night and . . . the sisters, his sisters used to run round after him . . .

Jenny: Yeah.

Pat: . . . cos he never, ever married.

Jenny: Yeah, it was such a job for life, then, wasn’t it . . . ?

Pat: Yeah, yeah.

Jenny: . . . you know, you’d work in the same job for your . . . ?

Pat: Well, he started on the railway when he was 12.

Jenny: 12?

Pat: Yeah.

Jenny: Do you, do you know what he was doing?

Pat: Being trained up to be this, this man who, who used to clean all of the, the, the fires out. He had burns all over his hands . . .

Jenny: Really?

Pat: . . . you know, off, off, like, the, the hot metal and that, and . . . I, I, I can remember when I first started going out with Steven, coming down, and I thought he had a white, this, this little white shovel in his hand – it was white off the heat, he’d had it in the fire . . .

Jenny: (sounds repulsed) Oh!

Pat: . . . and he had no glove on, he must have had, he had this, like, dark brown skin on the palms of his hands, must have been off the heat all the years (Jenny sounds horrified), and he just had hold of it, you know, the way you’d hold, I don’t know, a dustpan and brush and . . . it was white with the heat . . .

Jenny: (can barely speak for shock) That’s . . . insane!

Pat: . . . and I thought . . . but he used to cook his breakfast on his little bar thing they used to have with, where, the door would open, and the fire had been there, and they’d have a bar . . .

Jenny: Oh, yeah!

Pat: . . . and they used to cook bacon and eggs for the engine drivers (Jenny laughs) coming in . . .

Jenny: Wow!

Pat: . . . and he, he’d have the, the, a can, with the cup on the top, like, like a billy can, I think you call them, with the tea made in it for them! I mean, they never drank coffee, then, unless you bought a bottle of camp coffee . . .

Jenny: Oh, yeah!

Pat: . . . I mean, they used to have a bottle of camp coffee, but that was only for special people . . .

Jenny: Yeah.

Pat: . . . you know, but . . .

Jenny: Tea . . .

Pat: Yeah, tea . . .

Jenny: . . . all the time.

Pat: . . . always tea, and it wasn’t tea bags, it was loose tea . . .

Jenny: Oh, yeah, yeah.

Pat: . . . but then they used to throw that on the back of the fire, everything got . . .

Jenny: Yeah, burnt up.

Pat: . . . got burned, but it was the same in the houses, all of the potato peelings would go to bank the fires up . . .

Jenny: Oh, right!

Pat: . . . so they done their own bit of recycling . . .

Jenny: Yeah, yeah.

Pat: . . . I think it was only when it hit the 70s and 80s, when the fires, sort of, stopped, and, and the central heating was coming in and . . .

Jenny: Yeah, the coal . . .

Pat: Yeah.

Jenny: . . . sort of . . .

Pat: Stopped . . .

Jenny: . . . stopped, didn’t it?

Pat: . . . but everything got . . .

Jenny: Burnt.

Pat: . . . got burned, yeah.

Jenny: The smells must have been . . . (laughs)

Pat: Oh, God!

Tagged under: steam locomotives, railway workers, coaches, carriages, liverpool lime street station, railway cottages, spekeland road, cleaning out the fires, brown clock, dove street

Categorised under: Work & Industry

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