Lesson 1: Let's Meet the Mill Workers!

This lesson looks at some jobs which we no longer do, as well as some of the jobs that the mill workers did in the production of linen. Pupils will have an opportunity to identify the health and safety issues of working in the mill, ask the mill owner William Ewart questions and write a persuasive letter to him to suggest how the working conditions could be improved.

Main Areas of Curricular Focus

Lesson Plan

 

Learning Intentions

Learning Intentions

Pupils will:

  • understand some jobs carried out by people in the mills;
  • identify the poor working conditions and health and safety risks for some of the mill workers; and
  • suggest how working conditions could be improved in the mills.
  • the Knocker-upper
  • the Lamplighter
  • the Hackler
  • the Spinner
  • the Doffer

Starter

Starter

Ask the pupils to think of as many jobs as they can and write them on ‘Post-its’ around the classroom in the following groups:

  1. Jobs involving inside work; and
  2. Jobs working outside.

Give pupils about five minutes for this and then take feedback. Ask pupils if they know any jobs that people would have done 150 years ago that are not carried out today. You may wish to talk about the two examples below:

1. The Knocker-upper

Ask pupils what they think he did. He was used by factories to get workers up in the morning. You may also wish to show pupils this video.

In Belfast, one of the knocker-uppers was an old one-armed sailor who went from house to house knocking on doors with his stick. The people inside the house had to shout back at him to let him know that they were awake. The factory horn sounded at 5.30 am and workers had to be inside the gates by 6 am or they were locked out. This meant that they were fined for lateness and their names were recorded in a late book called a complaints ledger.

Display Resource 4.1: The Knocker-up Poem (IWB). Ask pupils to read this poem and practice saying it at speed.

2. The Lamplighters

Lamplighters used long poles to light, extinguish and refuel street lamps – until electric lamps were introduced. Display Resource 4.2: The Lamplighter (IWB).

  • the Knocker-upper
  • the Lamplighter
  • the Hackler
  • the Spinner
  • the Doffer

Resources

Resource 4.1: The Knocker-up Poem (IWB)

Resource 4.2: The Lamplighter (IWB)

Main Lesson

Main Lesson

Working in a spinning mill in Belfast was very different to working at home in the country. Most of the workers were women and children, although women only earned half the amount paid to men despite doing the same job. At the beginning of the twentieth century, a mill worker typically spent 72 hours a week in the mill.

You may wish to show the following videos:

  • Anne Rowntree, who was born in Belfast in 1928, describes what her mother told her about the working conditions for those who worked in the mill.
  • George Hindes, who was born in Belfast in 1933, recalls working in the mill.

Having shared this information with pupils you may now wish to explore the jobs of some mill workers.

Distribute Resource 4.3: The Mill Workers (Cards) with the jobs and their descriptions. In groups, pupils should identify the health and safety risks for each job and report these back to the class. They may use the Mind Maps: Active Learning and Teaching Methods for Key Stages 1&2, pages 48 and 49, to record the health and safety risks associated with each job.

Pupil Activity

You should set up the role play strategy Conscience Alley: Active Learning and Teaching Methods for Key Stages 1&2, page 16, to provide pupils with an opportunity to discuss the health and safety risks associated with each job.

How it works: One pupil is the mill owner William Ewart and the remaining pupils will form two parallel lines, taking on the role of the mill workers. Pupils will make statements about their working conditions as the mill owner passes by. This can be carried out again but this time the pupils will ask relevant questions about the health and safety risks in the mills such as: 'How do you plan to ensure that the workers don't suffer from the effects of wet feet?' or 'How can you reduce risks for the workers who are using machinery?' The mill owner will respond to the questions.

Plenary

Plenary

Pupils should have an opportunity to vote for their top three pressing health and safety issues and justify why they chose those issues.

  • the Knocker-upper
  • the Lamplighter
  • the Hackler
  • the Spinner
  • the Doffer

Assessment Opportunity

Assessment Opportunity

If you wish to assess pupils’ responses to this lesson, see the suggestion below.

You may wish to assess the persuasive letter responses which pupils have written to the mill owners. (See Other Activities) Refer to the Levels of Progression for Writing when planning to assess and when giving feedback to the pupils. As part of this assessment, you may wish to use the Communication Assessment Task: Writing to Persuade (Levels 3-5).

  • the Knocker-upper
  • the Lamplighter
  • the Hackler
  • the Spinner
  • the Doffer

Resources

Levels of Progression in Communication (Levels 1-5)

Communication Assessment Task: Writing to Persuade (Levels 3-5)

Other Activities

Additional Pupil Activity

1. Writing a Persuasive Letter

Once pupils have given their feedback to the class, explore with them how to write a persuasive letter. You may wish to use a downloaded example from the CCEA Exemplification Library, such as Letter to Mine Owner.

Using the information from Resource 4.3: The Mill Workers (Cards), pupils should write a letter to the mill owner William Ewart to tell him about the working conditions and suggest how they could be improved. Pupils should focus on the use of persuasive techniques.

2. Kissing the Shuttle (A play by Dan Gordon)

'About Kissing the Shuttle…for 13 year olds Katy, Marie, Sadie & Hetty it’s their first day as full-timers in the mill. Woken at half past five by the Rapper-up, they make it past the Timekeeper and the new Foreman before meeting their Doffing Mistress, Lizzie Longley. As they take new doffer, Agnes Roberts, under their wing we get a fascinating insight into the lives of the 90,000 men and women who worked in the Mills of Ulster.’

Provide pupils with an opportunity to read this play as a shared class text and explore the songs which are within it. You should also explore the Ulster-Scots language within the play using the glossary on pages 23 and 24 to help with this. Once pupils are familiar with the storyline you may consider dramatising the play, either as a whole class or group activity. Have a listen to extracts of the play and interviews by both pupils and the Principal of Derryboy Primary School on ‘A Kist o Words’.

  • the Knocker-upper
  • the Lamplighter
  • the Hackler
  • the Spinner
  • the Doffer

Resources

Resource 4.3: The Mill Workers (Cards)

CCEA Exemplification Library: Letter to Mine Owner

Links to Curriculum

Cross-Curricular Skills

Cross-Curricular Skills: Communication

Children should be given opportunities to engage with and demonstrate the skill of communication and to transfer their knowledge about communication concepts and skills to real-life meaningful contexts across the curriculum. (Language and Literacy)

Talking and Listening
  • Participate in group discussion about the jobs that the mill workers did; and
  • Share, respond to and evaluate ideas, arguments and points of view and use evidence or reasons to justify opinions, actions or proposals to the mill owner.
Reading
  • Justify their response logically, by inference, deduction and/or evidence within the text when using Resource 4.3: The Mill Workers (Cards).
Writing
  • Write for a variety of purposes and audiences, selecting, planning and using appropriate style and form, i.e. when writing a persuasive letter.

TS&PC

Thinking Skills and Personal Capabilities

  • Working with Others (Discussion using Resource 4.3: The Mill Workers (Cards))
  • Managing Information (Evaluate information on the Resource 4.3: The Mill Workers (Cards))

WAU: History

The World Around Us: History

Change Over Time
  • Some of the characteristics of past societies and distinctive features of life, including changes in jobs and health and safety due to industrialisation.

Resources

The Mill Workers

PD&MU

Personal Development & Mutual Understanding

Strand 1 (Personal Understanding and Health)
  • Health, Growth and Change and Keeping Safe (Pupils have an opportunity to explore health and safety in the mills in the past.)

Active Learning and Teaching Methods

Active Learning and Teaching Methods for Key Stages 1 & 2

These active teaching and learning approaches encourage active participation from pupils, making the learning a more relevant and enjoyable experience.

Using Resource 4.3: The Mill Workers (Cards), pupils should identify and record the health and safety risks for each job using a mind map and report findings back to their class.

When discussing health and safety aspects associated with the mill workers’ jobs, pupils use a Conscience Alley role play strategy.

Suggested Websites & Resources

doffers had a song about them, 'you'll easie know a doffer she’ll always hae a man?'

In partnership with  Ulster Scots Agency