the knocker upper

The knocker upper man (although it was not always a man) was a well known figure in Industrial Lancashire. Armed with a long pole he would walk the streets in the early morning and, for a small fee, bang the pole against the front upstairs window of the property to waken up the residents in time for work. Here a stylised video of a knocker upper in action in Burnley, from the NW film archives. This of course became the focus of a number of folk songs and not a few bawdry jokes ('he could do seven streets on a good night') and, on a more serious note, a ballad about cotton in industrial Rossendale by Mike Harding. With quite substantial fines for lateness and the mills starting at 6am, the knocker upper played a vital role in the pre-alarm clock days. It is said that the last knocker upper retired in Bolton in 1973.


However to the best of my knowledge knocker uppers were adults. I was surprised therefore to see in the 1871 census entry for Cloughfold:

getter up 600

A nine year old getter up?

A bit of detective work by @Dave_Lifelines 'Lifelines Research' indicated that she was indeed not a 'knocker upper' or even a 'getter upper' but a 'gaiter upper'. This quote from the 1927 Dictionary of Occupational Terms explains:

gaiter up 640

He was even kind enough to find me an example from a family approx 4 miles away in 1871:

gaiter up Haslingden 640

However @CuriousDigger says he was aware of someone 3 miles or so in the other direction whose job as a child was to go to the pub (presumably in the morning!) to get the men up for work!

Now I know one of the perennial questions is 'who knocked up the knocker upper man?' (akin to 'how does the snow plough driver get to work?'). But that's for another day.

(with thanks to all who joined in the discussion).