Oldham Historical Research Group


This memory is from Norma Eaton and is about her father in law, CHARLES (Charlie) EATON. Charlie was born in 1899, in Motherwell in Scotland, although his father, Charles had been born locally and his mother, Annie, in Rochdale. They had spent the first few years of married life in Oldham and then moved to Scotland, where there was work, for 2 or 3 years. They returned to Ashton for a few years and finally back to Oldham about 1909. Charles senior died at the early age of 43, in 1916.

Charlie would enlist in the Great War and later marry Mary Ellen Oliver, in 1923.

"Charlie's story is, of course, mainly set in the years from 1900 to 1919 . Over 100 years ago. The last five years of that period saw Britain involved in a War said to be "fhe War to end all Wars". ln this current year we are now well aware that the war of 1914 to 1918 was certainly not to going to end all wars.

Whilst we carry the same surname. live in the same area, and have some similar experiences of unemployment and poverty, with the changes in the last 100 years, it is difficult to imagine now the living conditions at the time of these stories. The very depths ofthe poverty Charlie and his family lived alongside, the widespread sickness and ill-health plus over all, the constant threat to Britain from an enemy across the sea.


Born in Glasgow, Partick, Scotland. Charlie was the sixth child ofthe Eaton family. Broad shouldered and sturdily built and, like his Father, Charlie's head was full of tight curls. These curls stayed with him until his death some 80 years later. During his twenties Charlie also found that he had, in addition, inherited the family tendency to a 'bald patch' on the crown of his head.

Charlie's Father, also named Charles, was, like his own Father, a Stone Mason. Whilst Charles senior was bom in the Oldham area, he, Annie his wife and their growing family moved around the country, following whatever masonry work was available. Soon after Charlie`s birth in Motherwell Scotland, the family moved back to Oldham, his parents' home area.

ln order for the family to travel from Scotland, it was necessary to use the cheapest form of transport available. Whilst in the early 1900's the railways were well established, the cost involved for a family of six to travel by train was beyond the means of the Eaton family. It was necessary therefore to find what other means of transport were available.

Within the busy Port of Glasgow. ships docked from around the world. Some of the trans-Atlantic ships made Glasgow their first port of call then sailed down the coast of Britain to either Liverpool or Manchester. The Eaton family found themselves a cheap fare on a trans-Atlantic cargo boat which carried, amongst other things, a hold full of Bananas. ln later years Charlie Eaton used this as an excuse for his poor standard of literacy, "l was too poor to go to school, so poor that l had to come from Scotland on a Banana Boat"!!!

The Eaton family with their family now extended to ten children, all lived in a four roomed house on Honeywell Lane, Oldham. Charlie and his ever increasing number of brothers and sisters attended the local St. Paul's Parish Church School on Ashton Road, Oldham.

From Charlie's reminiscences, school was tolerated rather than enjoyed and like many others as he neared the school leaving age of 14. he was allowed to work 'halftime'. He attended school in the mornings and worked in the Cotton Mill in the aftemoons. Some months later he pemanently left school and got a full time job in the Cotton Mill.

Charlie, his mate Jimmy Clancy and two other lads joined a Boxing Club that had opened in the area. Charlie and Jimmy also formed a football team. Unfortunately Charlie had no boots to play in, so taking advantage of his Father's afternoon 'siesta', he borrowed his Father`s precious, one and only pair of work boots.

The ground was waterlogged, and ankle deep in mud. At the end of the football match the boots were in exactly the same state as the ground. ln a desperate attempt to dry out the boots, Charlie took them home and put them in the big bread oven in the kitchen, at the side ofthe fireplace. He promptly forgot all about them. Taking them out of the oven an hour later, Charlie thought of the large belt his Father occasionally used to punish misbehaviour in the family. ln a desperate attempt to cover up the damage done to his Fathers boots by the intense heat. Charlie painted them with a solution of 'Black Lead', a paint made with liquid lead, normally used for cleaning the fireplace.

The moming afterwards, Charlie's Father complained bitterly how stiff his boots were when he put them on for work. No one could explain why!!"
by Norma Eaton

Charlie Eaton about 1914

Charlie Eaton about 1914

Charlie Eaton & his best friend, Jimmy Clancy.

Charlie Eaton & his best
friend, Jimmy Clancy.

Story and photos contributed by Norma and Brian Eaton.

See also:

Charlie Eaton - the war years

Charlie Eaton in 'Servicemen We Know'

Memories & Family History Stories

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