Blessed are the cheesemakers

Went on a guided tour of the Working Class Movement Library recently – it’s close enough to home for me to be able to go even with the Condition, and without the encumberance of bottles of water, maps, books and various other safety behaviours.

It’s a fascinating place – if you live in Manchester or Salford and have an interest in the British labour movement I would recommend signing up for a tour or even, if you’re of means, making a donation. They have collections of radical material going back to the early 1800s and loads of stuff from Thom Paine.

Stuff I remember from the tour:

1) Many radical books were, like those of Dickens, serialised and sold in packets. What especially tickled me was that the packets would end, not just in mid-chapter, but actually in mid-sentence. So episode 1 of, say, William Tait’s memoirs would end ‘So I journeyed out into the’ – and you would have to wait until next week or month to read the rest of the sentence.

2) There was a guy called Samuel Bamford who was involved in the Peterloo massacre. A kind of Flashman of the left, he had got bored and was on his way to the pub when the battle actually started. Nevertheless, he was jailed for a year and developed a great reputation based on his limited part in the events at St Peter’s Field.

3) Another participant in the battle was speared in the chest by a police bayonet. Astonishingly, the attack did not kill him because the bayonet pushed into his jacket only to hit, not a Bible, but a piece of hard cheese.

So the moral of the story is: there’s no need to carry a Bible if you’ve got a piece of cheese.


‘It’s a general reference to anyone working in the dairy industry’


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