Wool willies and boob dealers?

30 April 2015

Fruit. A common word in the English language. Fairly regularly written and spoken, even if not eaten in enough volume by some of us. So, I wonder how the following efforts were made possible…. Thomas Willey, a 36-year-old ‘twit salesman’, Charles Oakham, a 74-year-old ‘hawker twit’ and Charles Ernest Cole, a 30-year-old ‘twit cartman’ for the Hartlepool Co-op Society. I am sure that not one of these fine gentlemen was a ‘twit’. In fact, I am almost certain that they actually worked in the fruit trade.

Gertrude Unsworth had an interesting profession and another one that I had not been aware of before this week – ‘telephone and office wink’. Does that mean she had to wink when the telephone rang or when someone walked into the office? I wonder what became of her later in life…. and Charles Funnell and his son, Frederick, were transcribed as ‘panel and wink maker’ for a motor works in Brighton.

Yes, some occupations make for very interesting transcriptions but some – as I have observed over the last two posts – are real! Wool willy for example….

James Fredrick Asher was a wool willy. This is not a transcription error, spelling mistake or anything else. A willy (or sometimes twilly) was a machine used in the textile industry. It was a revolving hollow cylinder or cone with spikes inside it, which opened and cleaned wool or cotton. William Clarke, a 16-year-old of Pudsey was referred to as a ‘mill hand willy’ in 1911 …. and astonishingly, he and James were the only willies.

In contrast, Reginald Ambler was a ‘boob dealer’s assistant’ …. who knew that these items were being ‘dealt’ in Ripon in 1911? In Birmingham though, Joseph Harrison was a ‘boob maker’. Goodness me, I am learning so much about social history in the early 1900’s…..

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