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Saturday 8 August 2015

Real geography...

When geography was taught up until the 1980s onward; it was often referred to a 'Capes and Bays'. People gleaned information from actual places and 'social geography' was but a gleam in some mathematician's eye.

Nottingham was known for lace and for silk.
Yorkshire specialized in working with wool of all kinds including the finest.
Lancashire had 'King Cotton'.
The Derbyshire Peak District used cotton and in particular, calico.

One of my Antipodean friends has been delving into her family history on and off. Today, her searches had led her to Nottingham.

English, being the ever adaptable language that it is has been modified by users as need arose. My friend was in a pickle as they'd say in Northern England; she'd found one of her ancestors had an odd-sounding job. Not only did it seem odd, but rude in Australian English.

Jacking-off - the ancestor was a jacker-off.

When young lads began work in the lace industry, they were often employed as jackers-off. The term being peculiar to the lace industry in Nottinghamshire.

My friend's query set me off searching to find a better answer.

I came across the Sawley & District Historical Society. That particular Sawley is in Derbyshire and the page tells the story of one John Clifford, born in Sawley but moved to Beeston, Notts. to work in the lace industry.

"The Clifford family moved to Beeston when John was only four years old. At 11 years of age John started work as a jacker-off in the lace industry, splicing the cotton on the bobbins in order to maintain an unbroken thread."

According to the O.E.D. the definition is
Jacker-off (lace); takes off from bobbins, waste lengths of unused threads, and winds them on to large wooden bobbins, using a small winding machine.

 Now my friend has a different and not all all rude meaning for her ancestor's occupation in the 19th century. 

Earlier, I mentioned Sawley, this is where English place-name geography comes to the fore. I now know of two places called Sawley, one in the West Riding of Yorkshire and another in Nottinghamshire.

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