THE LANCASHIRE WORKMAN’S DREAM.
Title:THE LANCASHIRE WORKMAN’S DREAM.
This poem by S. H. Bradbury was published poignantly just as the very worst winter hit one of the towns worst affected by the devastation of the Cotton Famine. By this point in the crisis half of the population of Preston was seeking food relief, and the winter of 1862-63 saw huge rises in infant mortality, and death and disease in the general population caused by poverty and malnutrition. The poem presents the normal situation of employment in the textile industry as a longed-for idyll, and contrasts this with the desolation of unemployment caused by ‘a country’s gory warfare’. Given pervading narratives relating to working conditions in Victorian industry it is sometimes overlooked that Lancashire workers, due to the success to the cotton trade, were some of the highest paid labouring classes in the world. It is also more than possible that the ‘Lancashire Workman’ had a wife who worked in the same mill, increasing their former income. The celebration of former employment here is not just comparative to the misery of unemployment, it is a recognition of a hard-won state of relative affluence for working people. – SR