JOHN BARNSLEY was born in Sheffield in 1813. He is my Great Great Grandfather and was by profession a scissor grinder. It was a highly skilled job which necessitated him serving an apprenticeship. From the dawn of the Industrial Revolution in Britain, Sheffield was THE place for manufacturing steel products. Products ranged from scientific instruments to arm thick cables for anchoring ships. The children of the steel workers were educated by John’s wife Charlotte, a school teacher according to the 1841 national census. In 1851 they
lived in Attercliffe-cum-Darnall. The household shows the family, one servant and an apprentice who lived in. His youngest daughter, Elizabeth married James, my Great grandfather, who was a compositor, another journey apprentice. John’s skill was now being passed on to a younger generation – He was a journeyman, able to support his large Victorian family. An apprenticeship was a passport to security, a job for life in an ordered society.
Now sadly the factories have gone, replaced by Meadowhall a large faceless shopping centre. [Mall for my american readers].
I remember when the train journey between the two cities of Sheffield and Rotherham was akin to travelling passed the very gates of hell, with the heat, smoke and fumes that belched from the huge factory chimney’s. Every knife in Britain was proudly stamped “Made in Sheffield” Today our cutlery comes from India or China a sign of the times I suppose; this morning I bought vegetables from the supermarket. I have Onions from New Zealand, Carrots and garlic from Spain, rice from Uruguay and a Vietnamese fish.
[I continue to refuse to buy peppers and herbs from the state of Israel and would like to see the UN protect Palestinian arabs with the same zeal they show for Libyans].
Apprenticeships are sadly a thing of the past destroyed in the 1980’s by Thatcherite government with the collusion of the trade unions. Today over a million 18 – 25 year olds have no job thanks to right-wing economics. People here complain about skilled Europeans ‘flooding’ our job market – Why? Is it any wonder that we have a generation of unskilled motive less people who expect the nanny state to “do something”? Getting off their arses and searching for gainful employment or god forbid, seeking a trade apprenticeship, is not an option unless they emigrate to Asia and work in the dozens of call centre’s opening up there.