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Join date: Jun 11, 2022


Pilbey Street was bad but Saltbank Row was worse. Here it was the stench that got him. The dry middens at the back of the Row, dry being a mere courtesy title, seeped away under the stone floors of the two-roomed cottages, and the dirt in front of the cottages was always wet to the feet. In winter the stench was bad enough but in summer it was unbearable. Why the Town Corporation did not condemn the place he didn’t know. Vested interests he supposed; in any case anything was good enough for the Irish immigrants, and they didn’t seem to mind, for as it was well known they had been used to sleeping among the pigs and the chickens in their tiny hovel huts over in Ireland

Yet there were Irish in the town among Palmer’s men whom he had heard were buying their own houses. That had come from old Kean himself, and the old boy didn’t like it.

His own father had worked in Palmer’s for years, but there was no sign of him being able to buy his own house. Likely because he didn’t want to; his father spent as he went, he ate well and drank as much as he could hold almost every day in the week, because his body was so dried up with the heat from the furnaces.

Drinking was one thing he didn’t blame his father for, but he did blame him for his carry-on with her . . . Lizzie. He supposed it was by way of compensation that he’d had him sent to the penny school but he didn’t thank him for that either, for he hadn’t attended long enough to take in much beyond reading, writing and reckoning up. When funds were low the last thing to be considered was the penny fee. And he wouldn’t go to school without it. Nor would his father have his name put down on the parish list so that he could send him free—not him.

Anyway, his reading and writing had enabled him finally to become a rent collector with a wage of fifteen shillings a week. He was told from all quarters that he was damned lucky to be in such a job. Fifteen shillings for neither bending his back nor soiling his hands. And his employer, more than others, emphasized this statement.


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