Child Labour

One of my maternal great grandfathers started work in a woollen mill at the age of 9 years. He was lucky in that he was able to attend school 2 hours a day, which for him proved really important. But he also had to put in a daily10 hour shift in the mill 5 days a week with a slightly shorter shift on Saturdays. 

His family were members of a Methodist church. He was an exceptional scholar and the local Methodist minister encouraged him to work hard at his studies. He did so well he was able to leave the mill-work and become a 'pupil teacher' at 13 years old. This role gave him access to further part-time study. At 18 he took the Queen's Scholarship examination. (It was Queen Victoria then.) He passed at 1st Class level which meant he could study full time at Westminster College (a Methodist teacher-training college) in London with all his fees and board paid for. After college he returned to Yorkshire to teach in a local school and within a few years became a headmaster. His two younger brothers followed a similar route - also becoming headteachers, but by they time they were school age, full-time elementary school was compulsory and they were not allowed to work in the mill. I think it must have been easier for them.

He found a way out of working in bad conditions for the rest of his life. Unlike many of his contemporaries he lived to old age. If like me you live in a country with strongly enforced laws against child-labour it's easy to think that young children having to work for a living is a thing of the past. But around the world it is common and one of the main reasons why children miss out on education. Do you know who made the things you buy or use?

The Christian Aid 'Count Your Blessings' calendar tells me today that
"Almost half of all children aged 5-14 in Cambodia have to work." 
It suggest giving 20p if you started work when you were over the age of 16. I was - so that's 20p.


  1. Wow! It's really impressive that he managed to study at all after 58 hours work. We who have it so much easier probably just use a fraction of our abilities!!

    1. I suppose this was an example of the 'Protestant Work Ethic' at work. I find it dreadful that there are still children in many parts of the world who either get no schooling because of having to work - (sometimes unpaid) or who get the barest minimum of primary education.


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