Transcripts: Extract from Pearce's memoirs

William Edward Pearce was born on the 10th of March 1853 of poor parents in a village named Poulshot in the neighbourhood of Devizes Wiltshire and is the eldest of 6 sons that being so the education received was but slight as at the age of 7 years and 9 months he was obliged to turn out to work at what is commonly called "bird keeping" for the small sum of one shilling and six pence per week from sunrise till sunset that I continued for two or three years rising in pay to half [crown] per week, at different intervals during the year I used to fill up my time as shepherd boy at the age of 9 years I became ploughboy for a farmer in the village (viz) Moses Moore. I soon got on from that to the situation of groom etc, and continued so till the month of January 1877 which to the best of my recollection was a very severe winter. I [then] in taking my masters horse to the farriers to be shod

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and in so doing met with a severe accident through the horse taking fright and started with me going at a terrible pace but being a very good rider I stuck to it till in turning a corner the horse fell heavily my leg being under it thereby causing the bone of left leg to be bruised and ankle to be slightly dislocated, but independent of that I was compelled to follow my employment for several days in agony (in those days I might say farmers had no feeling for boys but hunted them about like dogs) after walking as long as I could I was at last obliged to remain in bed & the Dr sent for who came as he stated just in time to save life as inflammation was in an advanced state of mortification but through good advice & nursing I recovered after being confined to bed for four months, but "by the bye" whilst ill with the [bag] leg I contracted the scarlet fever and for some time was not expected to recover but through providence subsequently

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returned to my work but of course was not quite so strong as previous to my illness, therefore my master deducted 1/- per week at the same time telling me I was not worth so much through being compelled to walk lame, an action which was considered very cruel by all who know it but on going home my parents wished me to give notice to leave in consequence which I did on the following week after having been in his service 5 years (viz) from 9 till 14 working frequently in the summer months from 18 to 20 hours per day as although I was supposed to be groom I was boy of all trades my master was a "Wesleyan" preacher and frequently I had to wait till 12 at night for this horse notwithstanding that I was compelled to walk home the distance being a little over a mile, and return to work by three am (viz) milking as the necessary farm work had to be finished by 6 am which was considered to be our breakfast time so as to get out harvesting

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by 7 am but as the [matlin] says every one has a change once in their lifetime & I think that accident already mentioned was the cause of a change in my life, as from that time henceforth I have been gradually rising higher & higher in regards situations in this world.

After leaving the situation already referred to, I went to work with my father harvesting during the summer of 1867, and from that to pit sawing which is in my belief one of the hardest occupations in existence. I continued with my father in that occupation till April 1871. he used to pay me first of all 5/- per week and my food & lodging but gradually I rose to 8/- per week that being 1/-[sic] per year. I then began to think I ought to be doing something better than remaining in a solitary country village all my life time in ignorance. I might say of almost every thing but my work, and as I had another brother big enough to take my place I resolved upon trying

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the Metropolitan Police and at once I went and saw the "curate" of the village who was only too pleased to intercede on my behalf and in the course of a fortnight everything was ready and I was sent for to come to London on the 25th of April 1871 having done so I passed the Doctor and my examination and commenced drill on the 26th the following morning.

I of course then had to associate with about 60 others all strangers to me and I might say some from all counties including Ireland, Scotland & Wales, and all trades but there was very few, if any as young as myself. and being a raw countryman I was subjected to a good deal of rough jeering from some who considered they knew all and I nothing. now a word about my lodgings that we was sent to from Scotland Yard the first night on arriving in London I slept at a distant relatives in the neighbourhood of Kings Cross but after passing the usual examination already stated we was

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William Edward Pearce 1853-1883 William Edward Pearce 1853-1883