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Brian the Aberdonian
Wakes Weeks

The Bold Type is my record of the Original Post; the Italic Type in {  } new notes I have added to make some sense after the passage of many years.

{I recall why I posted this item: A gentleman of Scottish decent, resident in Durban, South Africa, Posted about his previous visit to Scotland}.

Having taken a ‘Sleeper Train’ from London to Glasgow.

{Whilst the Preston Bound Sleeper cars were being detached from the Glasgow Sleeper-train to be shunted into a siding at Preston Station. The travellers to be wakened and served breakfast before leaving the sleeper at 8am}.

{The post stated} I wandered into the Preston Station barbers-shop for a shave and hair cut; missing the Glasgow sleeper train.

{His ticket was re-booked for the following nights Preston to Glasgow night-sleeper. With a day to fill in},

A ticket inspector, advised me to join a train on the next platform, for a day at the sea-side in Blackpool, and to return to Preston {on a service train from Blackpool to Preston} in time to catch the Glasgow sleeper.

{the train from Preston to Blackpool was taking Cotton Mill Workers for a seven day holiday Called a Wakes Week whilst their towns Cotton-mills underwent their annual maintenance}

{The Posted Question ended with} “Can anyone tell me what a Wakes Week is”?.

Having taken a ‘Sleeper Train’ from London to Glasgow.
I wandered into the Preston Station barbers-shop for a shave and hair cut; missing the Glasgow sleeper train.
A ticket inspector, advised me to join a train on the next platform, for a day at the sea-side in Blackpool, and to return to Preston. in time to catch the Glasgow sleeper. “Can anyone tell me what a Wakes Week is”?.

Kind regards Brian

I can recall many items from the period immediately before the 2nd world-war, facts which may come as a surprise to many people.

Workers in the cotton Spinning and Weaving mills, located in various Lancashire towns where able to anticipate a six day Summer Holiday to (which was added the following Sunday, the normal day-of-rest).

This holiday, known as their “Wakes Week” had to be taken at the same time as all the other mill-workers within that town, as the towns Wakes Week covered the period when all the mills in that town where closed for maintenance of their machinery and installation of new equipment.

The Wakes Weeks were spread over the Four weeks of the School Summer Holidays, (fixed by Lancashire County Council); And workers could be sure that their towns Wakes week would always fall into the same first, second third or fourth week of the towns School Summer Holidays.

The mill workers and their families travelled by special trains to the seaside, for example Blackpool, Morecambe or Fleetwood, for Seven days (six nights) in a ‘Boarding House’.

The resorts of Southport and Lytham St Anne’s being seen as being ‘Middle-Class, and so too far ‘upmarket’ for mere millworkers.

Boarding Houses:

What was a holiday seaside ‘Boarding House’ like for the Holiday visitor? The deal was often, dinner bed & breakfast with no mid day meals, after a cooked breakfast (often with Kippers), the family had to get out of the ‘Boarding House’ until dinner time, whatever the weather.

On a fine day Donkey rides on the sands, ‘punch and judy show’, swimming or paddling in an open air swimming pool, a short boat trip, a walk on the pier.

There was always Sweets, Chocolate, Candy-floss, Pop (carbonated drinks), Sticks of Rock produced in walk-in show-rooms to buy.

On a wet day, amusement arcades, or just sitting huddled in a bus or tram shelter.

For lunch if eaten in a Café, Chip Shop or Pub, often fish & chips or meat & potato pie and chips, with tea and bread & butter.

If lunch was Purchased to ‘take-out, to be eaten sitting on the sand in fine weather, or sitting in a shelter on the promenade if raining. The fish & chips or meat & potato pie and chips would be sprinkled with salt and vinegar and wrapped in newspaper. The tea in a paper cup, or thermos-flask (filled by the boarding house for a fee).

Tea on Tap:

Old hands came prepared with a thermos flask, a tin of sweetened condensed milk, and a ¼ pound packet of tea and a nail.

It worked this way. After dinner on the first day, then listening to the radio news in the lounge, and maybe played board games: drafts, ludo, halma, snakes and ladders or card games: snap, happy families, or whist. Until it was time to go to bed.

In the bedroom, the tin of sweetened condensed milk was placed on the floor. The nail was used, to punch two holes, one each side of the can lid. (the nail was driven with the heel of a shoe), about a teaspoon of the sweetened condensed milk was dripped into the thermos flask and a teaspoon of tea was then added. The holes in the can lid were sealed with sticking plaster, borrowed from the Cotton mill’s first aid box. In the morning, after breakfast, the landlady would be asked to fill the thermos flask with boiling water, at the end of the week there would be tupence (2 pence) added to the bill and often a Hapenny (1/2 a penny) for the use of the cruet (salt & pepper pots).

Why did a Mill town hold a Wakes Week?

With the workers on holiday, the cotton mills were closed for maintenance of Boilers Water-wheels, drive belts, also the Looms and Spinning frames, Millwrights moved in to undertake this work, moving on to another town when the workers there left for their Wakes Weeks.

Why Four Weeks School Summer Holidays?

Schools closed for FOUR WEEKS. The children had four weeks holiday, not so the teachers, only one week holiday, for they had to work for the remaining three weeks!!!. Although they might spend just a few days attending a teachers training course.

Before the schools ‘broke-up’ for the holidays, each teacher was given the Syllabus that the County Education Authority required them to teach their pupils during the following academic year. Each teacher, was required to draw up their own time-tables for the coming year, setting out exactly what they would teach for each week in every term, day by day, period by period, this completed, their draft timetable had to be submitted to the Headmaster for his agreement, so that he could incorporate their class timetable into the school’s programme.

This preparation was vital, as, unlike today, a County School Inspector would ‘drop - in’ at the School without giving prior notice. He would knock on any classroom door, walk in, the children would stand, he would shake hands with the teacher ask her to tell the children to sit.

He then introduced himself to the Class Telling the pupils to address him as “Sir”,

He would sit at the back of the classroom making notes. During the break he would speak to the Teacher, and when the children returned to the classroom he would stand beside the teacher and question individual children on things he expected them to have learned in the previous lesson, one or two children would be asked to read a paragraph and he often asked them to take down a short passage that he dictated. He might ask the teacher to put a couple of Sums on the blackboard for the children to copy and calculate the answers He would collect their efforts, and about 10 days later the Headmaster would receive the Inspectors report.

This was less of a shock to the teacher than one might anticipate, as a School Governor was in a similar position to an Inspector as he would spend a few minutes with the Headmaster, check over the time-table and be accompanied to the selected class-room.

Footnote: at age seven my greatest thrill was to sit on a cushion  on a high stool in dads Counting-house, totaling Pounds, Shillings, Pence, Half pennies and farthings, in a ledger (summing in the reverse order) smallest value coins first. and receiving one penny if the totals I obtained matched the covered ledger totals.

Eighty years later, last week a Graduate Worker in a Mail-order website was taking my order for two items for £7.99 each inclusive of vat &  (post free). I said "that is £15.98". "we cant be sure of that she replied". we will not know the true cost until I have entered, the price of each of the items, vat & postage,  into my computer, then I will tell you if your guess is correct.  Finlay she said "I can now prove your guess was not wrong".


Regards Brian the Aberdonian.

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