Thursday, 7 April 2016

Week Fourteen: Rat Catcher

In order to better understand some of the history of England, I have come across some wonderful documentaries on YouTube.  A couple of the narrators that I like are Lucy Worsley and Tony Robinson.   The documentaries they have narrated cover a wide range of topics. 

The one that comes to mind today is one of Tony Robinson's:  The Worst Jobs in History. The episode in particular was The Worst Jobs in the Victorian Era.

In this particular episode Tony Robinson explores the jobs of building the railways and the canals, being a chimney sweep, a label sticker, a rat catcher, the many forms of scavenger and a tanner. 

Did any of our ancestors have any of these jobs?

I am always on the lookout for any strange occupation listed on the census form.  I have found plenty of farmers, agricultural labourers, railway employees, assorted clerks, canal workers, boatmen and even unemployed Palins in the census forms.

The biggest surprise of all (so far) was found not in the 1841 census or 1851 or any of the census that are available up to 1911, but I found this shocker in the 1939 Registry.

Main Road , Nantwich R.D., Cheshire
Thomas Palin   21 Sep 1886    Male    Rat Catcher & Labourer  Married    
Elsie A Palin    05 Feb 1887    Female House-Duties Married          
Henry  Palin    18 Aug 1910   Male    Metal Polisher Machinist Single        
Evelyn M Palin 15 Dec 1915  Female Parlour Maid  Single 

I understand that in the Victorian era that rat catcher was a job, but that it was still a job in 1939 is a surprise!

Thomas Palin was born in 1886 to John Palin and Sarah Jane Manley in Shavington cum Gresty.  In the 1891 census Thomas parents were living at the Shavington Hall Farm and his father’s occupation was farmer.  However Thomas was listed living with his grandparents Thomas Palin and Mary Morrey in Shavington on their farm.

In the 1901 census, young Thomas is still living with his grandparents and his occupation is given as cowboy ag. Cattle.  In 1907 Thomas marries Elsie Alice Leigh in Wybunbury.

In the 1911 census Thomas and his wife are living on Rope Lane in Shavington.  Thomas’s occupation listed is Railway Plate layer.   There are two children listed, Thomas age 3 and Henry age 7 months.

Thomas and Elsie had three more children.  Reginald James Palin was born in 1914, Evelyn May Palin was born in 1915 and John Stanley Palin was born in 1917 but died a year later in 1918.

I also found documentation that shows where Thomas had joined the National Union of Railwaymen in 1926.  His first born son, Thomas is also listed.

So sometime between 1926 and 1939 Thomas had a change of jobs.  I checked the newspapers and found nothing there.  In 1939 Thomas would have been 53 years of age and I would think that being a plate layer for the railway is a young man’s job.  We may never know why Thomas had a change of jobs, but the fact that he became a rat catcher to provide for his family is commendable!

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