Skegness Barrow Boys

The Railway Children

SKEGNESS Railway Station just before mid-day on a Saturday in 1975.

Long queues of holidaymakers are waiting for the train home. And when it comes in there will be hundreds more getting off, laden with cases and bags and often uncertain how to reach their holiday destination.
A lot will go outside to the buses or the taxi rank. But some will prefer to walk and pay boys like these to carry the luggage for them.

In the picture above, the boy on the right is 11-year-old Paul Parker, of 34 Richmond Drive, who has been doing this for two years. He uses an old push-chair bought second-hand and adapted. The carpet covering it is a thoughtful touch to make sure the cases don’t get scratched in transit.
He reckons to make between £30 and £40 a season, which is an average sort of figure for the luggagers. Most people want to go to the Richmond Carapark and pay about 50p.
But sometimes they want the North Shore Holiday Centre or further still, Butlin’s at Ingoldmells. For that three-mile journey they usually pay between £1.50 and £2.
Paul said he approached passengers and offered his services rather than wait to be asked. But the luggagers always tell their customers: “You pay what you like.”
Why not fix a fee according to distance? “I don’t like charging,” said Paul. “I f eel afraid to ask. I’d rather leave it to them.”
It has been known for him to get stuck on a hill and then they help to push.
There’s usually a bit of conversation as they go along. “They ask us questions and we try to answer them,” he said. So it looks as though payment covers an information service as well!
On the left — with Graham Hazard (nine), of 6 Beresford Crescent sitting on his barrow — is 10-year-old Mark Pellow, of 3 Beresford Crescent. This is his first year and he uses the chassis of the pram he used to ride in as a baby.
His dad knocked it together for him and provided the “Skegness” sign. He too, has carpeting. The board in the front is an added refinement. He explained: “When you stop they fall out of the front.” Could be very embarrassing.
He works until 2 pm on Saturdays either at the railway station or coach park and finds that sometimes people do come up and ask. Sometimes he will pick up outgoing holidaymakers at the Richmond Carapark. Twenty pence from there to the coach park is a normal payment.
The weight varies quite a bit. “Sometimes they’re heavy and take a bit of pushing,” he said.

Julie carries it in style

THERE are five girls among the luggagers. One of them is 12-year-old Julie Epton, (left), of 14 Graham Road, seen here bound for Lumley Road with a couple of customers at the coach park.
Note the stylish three-wheeled model she is driving. It’s the only one with a tricycle undercarriage.
“It makes it easier for getting up kerbs,” expained Julie. “It used to swivel, but my dad mended it. Dad made the whole thing. I strap the luggage on with rubber bands which hook on the front. People help to push when they’re heavy.”
Julie has been in the business for four years, the first year of which was spent with her elder sister, learning the trade.
Now she gets between £30 and £40 a season. Most of it is spent on clothes but she also puts 50p a week in her money box for Christmas.
The most she has ever had in one day is £5.

Paul set for 8-mile push

PAUL Bird (above) waits for customers at the Lawns coach park, where there are no taxis to provide competition. Aged 12, Paul, of 16 Graham Road, has been operating for four years.
His cart, mounted on pram wheels, is an exclusive design made by his grandad. Light blue, it has a taped bar for pushing instead of handles, tall boards front and rear to hold the luggage and a special compartment behind the back one in which he carries sandwiches, an apple and something to drink.
But he had taken off the carpeting because it got wet in the winter.
Paul puts the heaviest cases close to the handle to help tip it up to mount kerbs.
He estimates that he walks an average of eight miles every Saturday, during the summer. Getting through the crowds can be difficult and he keeps banging up against the kerbs.
The furthest he has had to go is the North Shore Holiday Centre and the most he had ever had for a journey is £1. He got that three years ago and again this season for a trip to Tagg’s Caravan Site on. Wainfleet Road.
The lowest? A penny from a woman of about 60 whose luggage he took to the YMCA in Grosvenor Road, last year. “I felt disappointed,” said Paul. “I didn’t think it was worth going.”
The weight of the luggage does not seem to influence people when deciding how much to pay.
Paul believes in asking people if they want help, but would rather let them fix the payment.
Sometimes he will wander round the streets between 9 and 10 am, on a Saturday to see if there is anyone needing his services.
He earns about £40 a season and puts most of it in the bank. But last year was better than usual and he ended up with around £60. On his best day he netted £5.60.
Paul is becoming quite an accomplished guide to the town.

“They ask if it’s been good weather, where the beach is, who is on at different shows and where everything is. I know the answer to most of their questions”, he added.

One family whose luggage he carried in 1975 said; “See you again next year”, and thought the odds against this were quite high, he actually did! He didn’t remember them at first but the man recognised him. “He said it again but I haven’t seen him yet this year,” said Paul.


Video of Skegness Barrow Boys 1960


6 thoughts on “Skegness Barrow Boys

  1. Good evening

    Is there any way I could have access to the video on ‘barrow boys’? I am writing some essays about my childhood and I used to be one of these barrow boys in Clacton-on-Sea.

    I look forward to hearing from you.


  2. I just cant believe this I used to be a Skeggy barrow boy for one season in about 1971 or 1972 I was about 9 or 10 years old .
    I was telling my kids about it (Im 51 now ) and just said lets look on you tube to illustrate what I used to do you never know ..and low and behold a full explaination and a video !! I was stunned they were amazed and the world turns and I’m now looking back 40+ years happy days innocent ways ..would not be allowed to do it these days health and safety and kiddy fiddler scares everywhere these days …and poor old Skeggy not what it was in terms of visitors these days .

    • Winston Martin
      I was a barrow boy at Skegness in the 50’s…67 now.
      Wrote this poem about 3 or 4 years ago.
      Hope it is of interest.

      Luggahe on the Barrow Sir?

      I would be about eight or nine years old in the 1950’s when I got my barrow

      Briar Way, on waste ground opposite the Skegness Working men’s club

      A discarded pram previously a carriage for a proud mother’s cherub

      Concealed and clawed into the ground by overgrown grasses and twisted columbine

      The earth can wait today because I have laid claim and now and it will be mine

      I drag and pull away the invasive bitter vine with its white trumpet flowers

      Releasing it from the earths grasp where it had laid its final anchors

      Slowly revealing a magnificent but battered cream carriage embellished with tarnished chrome

      Once a mother’s statement with a newborn to walk out on a summer’s day, crowded streets proudly to roam

      The pungent bitter sweet mouldy smell of decomposing decaying upholstery

      Its dark blue hood ripped torn and rotting a statement of its final decree

      All I want is the frame together with its dirty white tyres and spoked wheels rusted with time

      I drag and twist, turn it upside down to reveal what is concealed, everything looks fine

      I get to work with bike spanners, bent screwdriver and a big hammer borrowed from my dad’s shed

      Must get them back before he comes home or I’ll be having another sore head

      Never mind, the time is now and after an hour or two the pram body breaks away

      A job well done and I am pushing the wheels down the sreet leaving what is left to decay

      Through our gate into the back yard my hard fought prize there for all to see

      Only, my mother didn’t! Arm full of washing trips over full length with a thud and a groan

      “Where have you got that scrap from, get rid of it, wait till your dad gets home”.

      Clean wet washing is all over the lawn me mum is laid there too

      Time to scarper I’m thinking before I feel the weight from the back of her shoe

      I give it half an hour till she’s had a woodbine or two and a cup of tea

      She’s calmed down now stuck in her chair rubbing her battered bruised knee

      “Better get rid of those wheels before your dad gets home”, she harrows

      So it’s off to Richmond Drive where I have been told the old man makes the barrows

      I knock on a front door, no answer then knock again. Perhaps it’s not the correct address?

      I am feeling uncomfortable and about to turn away then the door opens and the situation begins to progress

      A weathered old face appears, flat cap, round glasses, slippers on his feet, scruffy old jacket

      Cup of tea in his hand, smoker’s pipe stuck upside down like a periscope in his top pocket

      “What do you want boy?” he grunts a friendly smile. “You the man who makes barrows?” I ask

      He looks over my newly acquired wheels, “Those yours?” he takes me to task.

      I nod. He points with his cup “I’ll use them there, a pair for me and a pair for you”.

      “It’ll cost you three shillings and sixpence. Come and see me next weekend I’ll have them ready for view.”

      “My name is Winston” I say. He shuts the door I turn and leave my prize behind and walk away

      I am in a happy mood until the realisation hits home. Three and six. What a lot to pay?

      Well what I haven’t told you is that I need to have a barrow for a money making enterprising reason

      Not alone there ‘cause lots of other kids needed a barrow during the Skegness summer season

      Holidaymakers arriving by steam train and bus, carrying bags and cases the bigger the better

      “Luggage on the barrow sir?” our call for them to relieve their weighty burden we harass and pester

      Sunday soon became Friday and after school I was knocking on the old mans door.

      He looked me up and down and teased, smiling “What are you doing nosing about, what you looking for?”

      “Winston” he says with a wink, “Come with me” we walk to the back of his house where three or four barrows stood

      “That one is yours” he pointed with a look of achievement and pride, as with a good job done you would

      It was pretty big, about two feet wide and four long, a cavernous box painted bright Butlin blue

      Two long straight handles and my salvaged wheels one each side. He said, “It’ll be just right for you”.

      “Three and six”, He said. “Got no money, I can earn it if you let me have the barrow”, I pleaded.

      He knew he would get his money for the barrows were a source of income for us lads and sorely needed.

      “Off you go then”. He said “and don’t forget to bring me the money, three and six” he reminded.

      The barrow, MY BARROW handled like a dream, perfectly balanced and well grounded

      Saturday morning up bright and early, got me barrow, wheeling it along going to earn some money.

      Train Station first. I meet the other barrow boys bunched up near the coal offices at the station entrance.

      We are not allowed into the Station but are eagerly waiting for our quarry and the opportunity to take our chance

      I look around at the other boys, my barrow is the business, taxis overworked obvious by their absence

      Trains whistling, chugging, letting of steam. We waiting, holding back ready to make a few shillings and pence

      Suddenly there is a cry “They’re here” and the barrows all surge forward into the approaching mass

      “Luggage on the barrow sir, luggage on the barrow sir?” We repeat push and harass.

      The bigger lads are there first and loaded up before I get my opportunity to score

      Two large cases and a couple of bags, trilby hat, tie half undone, sweating like a porky pig

      He’ll do. “Firbeck Avenue, how much young ‘un?” the stressed punter asks lighting up a calming cig

      His wife’s red puckered lips spark into life “Give him a shilling. Don’t give him more than a shilling”.

      That’ll do, I agree, two cases and a couple of bags not to far to go I am ready and willing

      What a lovely morning my barrow is running as sweet as a good dream and we get there double quick

      Unloading the cases he puts his finger to his lips “shush” and he crosses my hand with a two bob bit

      “Pick us up next Saturday morning quarter past eight. Be sharp mind and there will be a shilling or two for you”.

      I pencilled the appointment carefully into my book and raced off back to the Station as fast as my feet would skidoo.

      A bloke calls me over “Butlins Holiday Camp?” “Catch a bus”, I says “too far for me” I impressed

      People disembarking, bewildered coming out of the dark Station into the bright sunlight luggage addressed

      Flowing in waves as the trains keep coming and going. “Half a crown Drummond Road” I was offered

      It was a bit of a balancing act to get it all on. Me barrow was at the limit “No way”. I proffered.

      My voice fell on deaf ears, five cases, a couple of bags 2 blokes and their women in tow

      Precariously loaded, I was earning my money, halfway down Sandbeck I was beginning to blow

      “Give us it here lad, I’ll give it a push” said my punter the taller of the two, “It just needs a man not a runt like you”.

      We got there alright, arrived in one piece. I got my half crown and a few coppers too

      Another one in the book for next Saturday, the money was piling up well and true

      Back to the station, got one more job then returned to find that trade had started to tail away.

      “The coaches will be coming in soon lets get down to the Lawn.” The snotty nosed kid turned and was off on his way.

      The three or four of us that remained turned and followed his direction for the next episode to begin

      Lumley road, Beresford Avenue, the entrance to Lawn car park where coaches were already snaking in.

      The coaches were directed and parked in gleaming rows of red, green, blue, other colours and two tone too

      We took our place with the dozen or more barrows holding back waiting for our moment to push through

      It wasn’t the day trippers or the ones who were on tour that we were looking for

      it was those with cases and packed bags travelling here for the duration of a week or more.

      We watch for passengers who are drawn to the boot at the rear of coaches where luggage is stored

      A mass gathered around at the back of a blue and white the lid is lifted and suddenly we are a racing hoard

      “Luggage on the barrow sir? Luggage on the barrow sir? We all shout and jostle in fevered discord.

      “Half a crown to Seaview Road!” A long wearing hike, the cases are heavy but I’m up for the hit

      The jobs keep coming until 2-o-clock passes, opportunities dry up its time to pack in and flit

      I sit on a bench and count up. One pound nineteen shillings and seven pence is the final score.

      I put half a crown down me sock (for keepers) and then I’m on my way home and through our front door.

      Me mum Monica watches me empty my pockets onto the table. She doesn’t miss a thing.

      “Hurry up! Get it out lets see what you have got,” she says. I know what’s coming next. It’s the sting!

      She leaves me enough out to cover the cost of my barrow, and then shoves me a shilling back for being a good lad.

      The rest goes in her purse for a packet of Woodbines and to add to that earned by my dad.

      Talking of my dad, at that moment he just walks in “Right, who’s been at my tools in the shed.

      They were there last week (he looks at me) and if I find out who has had them they are going to get a sore head.”

  3. That brings back lovely memories for me,I was a barrow boy in the 60’s,I did go from station to bustling once for five bob lol

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s