Collecting and delivering sacks of coke by Judith McMeekin

piece of coke fuel Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation LicenseJudith developed her own business at the age of 12. She grew up in Millom in Cumbria. She used an old pram or her mother’s cart to collect coke in sacks from the local gas works. The gas works were open from 9 o’clock to 12 o’clock. It worked out as follows:-

20 bags of coke cost her 10/-.  She had to pay her sister 4 /- to watch the 20 bags as she loaded each of them up into the pram to deliver them. She sold the 20 bags for 20 /- or 1/- each usually getting an old bag back. If the bag didn’t come back she had to pay 1 /- to get a new bag. She had an established client list.

20 bags = 10 /-        20 bags sold for 20/- = net profit of 6 /-  (if no bags needed replacing) 
sister      =  4 /-
Total cost 14 /-        Judith always had 6 fresh bags in hand if needed.

Judith Meakin (left) and Jesse Stuart (middle) at Tomnabat

Judith Meakin (left) and Jesse Stuart (middle)

She used the money towards buying new clothes. She also had a bank account with the Midland Bank. There was a money box which was a book or a drum. The Bank held the key and they opened it when you took it and put it in your bank account.

She described being brought up by “Uncle Nab” which was the National Assistance Board (NAB). She was one of ten children. Her Father was a marine merchant and scrap dealer. He had a scrapyard. He left the home early in her life.  Her mother was crippled at this point. Her mother had a general store called Mrs Mac based in Millom. She had a small staff of people helping her. The business was on Wellington street and Lord Street. Above the shop was a 6 bedroom house and a single toilet out in the backyard. The shop was open long hours from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. at night. One of her brothers helped to deliver newspapers. The children suffered with a variety of illnesses including a submadibular absess and boils. They also had malnutrition at some points in their young lives. Most of them went into business in later life.

Memory contributed by Jesse Meakin from Tomintoul

Additional information

National Archives Information about the National Assistance BoardThe story behind the National Assistance Act of 1948 and its attempt to help the poor whose national insurance benefits were inadequate due to inflation after the Second World War.


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