Sunday, 17 July 2011

15: The Testimony of Patience Kershaw

This song was written in 1969 by Frank Higgins, a blues singer and guitarist who lived in Birkenhead and frequented the Liverpool folk clubs (I don't know much more than that about him, if anyone who comes by here knows him or has information about him I'd be interested to find out more). The words are based on real testimony given to the Royal Commission into the Employment of Children at the Mines by Patience Kershaw of Halifax, aged 17 (by which time she had been working in the mines for more than 6 years).

This is Patience Kershaw's account in her own words: "All my sisters have been hurriers, but three went to the mill, Alice went because her legs swelled from hurrying in cold water when she was hot. I never went to day-school; I go to Sunday school, but I cannot read or write; I go to pit at 5 o'clock in the morning; I get my breakfast of porridge and milk first; I take my dinner with me, a cake, and eat it as I go; I do not stop or rest any time for the purpose; I get nothing else until I get home, and then have potatoes and meat, not every day meat. I hurry in the clothes I have now got on, trousers and ragged jacket; the bald place upon my head is made by thrusting the corves; my legs have never swelled, but sisters' did when they went to mill; I hurry the corves a mile and more under ground and back; they weigh 300 cwt; I hurry 11 a-day; I wear a belt and chain at the workings to get the corves out; the getters that I work for are naked except their caps; they pull off all their clothes; I see them at work when I go up; sometimes they beat me, if I am not quick enough, with their hands; they strike me upon my back; the boys take liberties with me sometimes, they pull me about; I am the only girl in the pit; there are about 20 boys and 15 men; all the men are naked; I would rather work in mill than in coal-pit."


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  2. Very nice version! Have you posted this on YouTube?
    I would like to download it for my collection of coal mining songs. Or can you e-mail me a mp3 of your version? My e-mail address is Thanks!