victorian cotton spinner mule

Apprentice

Little Jinny Fallon ‘ad ‘er arm taken off in the mule. Blood spurting everywhere like water from the pump in the yard, spraying up the walls in bright blades of crimson against the dusty brown and black. And gore everywhere, the salty sweet stench fit to turn your stomach, and many tipped their guts over the cotton to be beaten by the overlooker for spoiling it.

Taken up to the big house she was. Looked after proper. No more toppin’ and tailin’ in bed with 2 others> No more stench from the piss pots in the corners and no more weeping, except her own maybe, from the newuns just in from the poor house to join our mismatched family.

I never seen her again. But I heard she become a lady’s maid. I always wondered how she did her mistresses hair with just one arm.

And tiny Petey Pocock was dead with his head smashed to pieces in the rolling, groaning, grinding machine that didn’t even stop to respect his poor dead body.

Right in front of Nell too; screamed fit to bring the mill down she did. She screamed and screamed, and they said you could hear her right across the valley.

She was carted off to St Mary’s bedlam after that and was never talked of again even when her Da came a’lookin for her.

I’m the only one left of the starters, all the others dead and gone. Today’s me 18th birthday and the day I make it out of here with me head held high to never look back. And I’ll just walk and I’ll never look back, nor stop and think about the screams, the voices in me head calling out to be saved from purgatory, the ever present never ceasing clatter of engine and machine, or the ghosts who haunt me.

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