Oral History

Cheips Wi' Old Stockiners' was first published by the Hinckley Times in the 1890s

'Cheips wi' Old Stockiners' is the name of a series of five articles. 'Cheips Wi' Old Stockiners' was first published by the Hinckley Times in the 1890s. This is a fine example of an oral history transcript of this period, by an interviewer who signs himself 'T'. It gives an insight into the cottage industry and the sort of lives people lived.

Article 4 - Bill Higgins's Fust Vote

Bill 'Iggins were a slim little chap as wukked alongside o' me i' the trimshop. 'E were a honest 'ard-wukkin chap enew, but ed ter much slobber; that were th' ony fort about 'im - chelp; and what made it moor wusser wor, 'e were gor olt o' politics for a text, and went at it neck and crop. Us chaps ed no peace, 'e were dingin us rights and us wrongs inter us 'cads tell we 'ardly knowed whether we was trimmers or the gaffers o' the factory. Bill said there nivver oughtnt to a bin no gaffers, nor no rich men, nor poor men, nor chaps a sweatin in trimshops nor nothink o' thattun. 'E said as if ivverybody ed their rights ivverybody wunt ay nowt ter do but sit i' their shirt-sleeves i' the 'lotments wi' a clee pipe i' their chops and a sup o' lounce by their sides.

All the same when Bill's uncle died as kep a pub up Castle End and left 'in tuthree little 'ousen down Stockel-ed-ill, Bill nivver said nowt about sharing up, tho some on us axed 'im if 'e wornt ashamed of issen for mekkin poor folks pee rent ter live in 'is 'ousen. But yit 'e went on a rantin an ravin about geein us chaps us rights, and we ed used ter larf at 'im getting 'is rag out, and ommerin awee wi' 'is fist into a dozen o' mens', and abusin the gaffers and swearin at us chaps for puttin up wi' this and the tother.

Well arter a bit Bill's soft sorder persuaded a few trimmers and warns chaps to jinc in wi im; they got a flag and 'eld meetins and called theirselves the “Blood-er-freedomites', and chelped and went on outrageous.Yer know Bill 'Iggins wife were one o' Matt Bentley's gels, Ria 'er name wor, and she were no foal I can tell yer; shay knowed which sooted er the best, jist getting the vittles ready' and then gooin t'ay a gossup wi' er mother, or aying tor stick at um doin seamin; Bill 'd insulted folks tell ed gor is name up, and folks said they reckoned 'e'd soon be evin the sack at the trim-shop, and Ria dint mean ter wuk while Bill could, and she often said Why doont yer goo about yer wuk and shut yer chops, what pollertics gorrer do wi' yo?'

Well arter a bit election time come round, and Bill were that chuff cos e'd got a vote, as nobdy couldnt 'old him nor nothink, and im and is pals planned t'ev a percession to tek im to the 'ustins to vote, wi' flags and ribbins, and t'ev a meetin artreds. Ria eerd all about these ere gooins on, but nivver said nothink, and then when election dee come she got up early i' the mornin afore Bill wok, and marched all 'is blessed clothes off across t'is 'er mother's. When 'e gor up and found all uz duds were gone 'e got all of a moither and gor downstairs in 'is shirt swearin and doin, but 'e were soon back agen, for th 'ouse were full 'o women and neighbours as made sich game of 'is bare legs as nivver was. 'E ooted what e'd do at Ria if she dint gee 'ha 'is clothes, but the women ollered “longshanks' and one thing or another at 'im and 'e were in a pretty fix. About dinner time some o' the Blood-or-freedomites come round to say wheer Bill wor, but tho women run 'em up th'entry wi' wet mops and buckets o' swill, and gen 'em sich a doin as nivver was, so they ooked it all of a ruck.

Well they put Bill's grub on the stairs, and it went on all artnoon, and it begun to be time 'e went to gee in 'is vote, if 'e meant to goo at all; but 'ow wor 'e to goo in his shirt? When it got dusk Bill ed a great idea and jumped at it. 'E collars olt o' Ria's Sunday frock and pops it on tho 'e ommost busted issen to may th'uke meet, puts one of 'er shawls oer 'is head, gets out o' the winder, slithers down the spout inter the yard, and pops up th'entry wi'out nobdy seeing 'im.

'I 'm done 'em arter all' 'e says, and droring the shawl round 'ha guz helter-skelter to the Market Place wheer thu'stins was. As 'e pushed through the crowd some on 'em sez “Missis who're yer shuvvin?” but Bill wriggled among 'em tell 'e got cluss up to th'ustings, tho 'is stock.in feet'd got a bit trompled a gooin.When 'e guz up the steps a bloke sez “Stand down my good woman,” “Good woman be d----d” sez Bill “I'm come vote. 'Yen mun send yer 'usband missis” sez the chap, and then Bill opens is shawl and sez “I eent a woman my name's William 'Iggins and I'm come to vote.” Strewth 'ow they larfed, and then some o' the crowd tumbled to it, and one oots 'Well strike me lucky if ere eent Bill 'Iggins in Ria's petticut,' and then they all tuk it up.Th' outcome on it wor as Bill's vote were allowed arter a good deal o' moagin and gammon, and 'e gen it in just afore time were called. The chaps gen 'im sich a dooin a tekkin 'im up 'urn as you nivver see i' yer life. When 'e went in th'ouse yer c'd a knocked Ria down wi a feather, but she gen 'im is togs and 'e ony stopped to put 'em on and then went off t'ev a tot on the strength of it.

Nobdy eerd nothink more o' the Blood-or-freedomites, but it were monny a long 'ear afore we gen aer moagin Bill oer 'is fust vote.

I nivvor eerd whether Bill gen Ria 'er welting arter all.