The Grand Old Man Of The Sea

I have never really understood it, but in bygone years people carried on working until they literally dropped dead. I am not a historian so I have no idea if this was because they had no pension and so had to work on through necessity, or just because there was nothing better to do. I am talking about the days before the internet, before affordable television and when the average family didn’t have any personal transport. What was there to stay at home for, if you did retire?

My grandfather on my dad’s side of the family suffered with a bad chest for all the years that I knew him. All he ever seemed to do was get up in the morning – after my grandmother had lit the coal fire to warm the place up – and then sit in a chair all day. The highlight of his day seemed to be walking the dog because there was nothing else that he ever did. Though I think he was the exception, everyone else seemed to work until they were either physically incapable of working any longer or died.

They were made of stronger stuff in those days!

The Cutting
Hoylake and West Kirby Advertiser cutting.

The other day I was looking at a few websites featuring old photographs of Merseyside when I came across an old newspaper cutting which was from the Hoylake and West Kirby Advertiser. This was published between 1914 and 1985 when it became part of the Wirral News Group of papers and was swallowed up by the Birkenhead News. The cutting I found, as best as I can estimate from the dates provided, was from 1949 and features an old sea dog by the name of Joseph Jones.

Mr Jones was born at the Plasterers Arms, Hoylake in early 1856, was married at the age of sixteen and went on to have thirteen children, 36 grandchildren, 24 great grandchildren and two great-great grandchildren. The cutting reports that his eldest son, aged 76, calls to see him every morning. If this were today, Mr Jones would be in a nursing home but back in those days following a life at sea on the fishing trawlers this guy was still working mending nets for the local fishermen.

The cutting declares that Mr Jones was still an able man at nearly 94. His sight was perfect, his hearing reasonably good and that he is still a most intelligent conversationalist with a good memory of his life and a lively sense of humour.

Joseph Jones
Joseph Jones fixing nets

The story just made me think how in this day and age with every labour saving device we have, living in houses with central heating and more than enough food to eat we end up old before our time on medication for just about every ailment you can imagine. Yet this old man had spent a hard life at sea on trawlers in all weathers probably with very little money in a cold and drafty barn of a house and yet he is still able to work at the age of 93.

They really do not make them like that anymore.

I love the way the story ends, not like a newspaper story at all; more like a novel. “Our congratulations and good wishes are offered to this grand old man who knows how to catch the sunlight that is shed on life’s eventide.”

Author: Dave Oxton

According to my parents, I was born in Birkenhead, Merseyside at a very early age, sometime in 1960. I have no recollection of these events, so I have always had to take their word for it.

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