William George Hale was born on the 5th March 1860, to Stephen and Bethia Hale. Stephen was an agricultural worker at Worton, near Devizes in Wiltshire, and William was one of nine children.
The following year, William and one of his brothers - presumably Henry, who up to that point had been an agricultural worker like his father - walked the twenty-two miles to Swindon to get jobs on the railway.
William was indentured, at the age of twelve and three-quarters, as an apprentice boilermaker.
Having completed his apprenticeship in Swindon, somehow William ended up living in South London, married at twenty (in 1880) to a woman eight years his senior. Before long, however, he was back in Swindon, as the 1901 census shows:
But by 1911, he was a 'plateworker' in the Swindon works, while his father, by now aged fifty-one, and with only another eleven years to live, was working as a frame builder in the wagon department. I guess boilermaking is a young man's game.
George, meanwhile, carried on working for GWR and in or around 1915 (family legend has it) was on a works trip to Jersey when he met one Irma LeLuan, a woman of his own not very tender age of thirty. Undeterred by the fact that she spoke no English, but only Jersey French, they married in 1916 and settled in Swindon, where she lived until her death in 1985 at the age of 99. That's my Grandma, and the only one of the characters in this story so far that I met.
Hence my interest in the boilermaking shop at the museum. Although both William and George may have spent much - even most - of their working lives in other jobs at the GWR Swindon Works, it seems pretty clear that they were both, at one time or another, boilermakers - a dirty, dangerous, high-pressured (no pun intended), highly-skilled and above all, deafening, job - and that's something I'm quite proud of.
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