Another View of Wigan to Compare With Orwell’s

An ordinary woman living in extraordinary times.

Heard of ‘The Road TO Wigan Pier’ by George Orwell, a social study of the north west town of Wigan? Now you can read ‘The Road FROM Wigan Pier’; a true story of one woman’s life in that same town.

It’s misleading to believe this town was alone in its hardship and squalor, the Great Depression of the 1930s affected most, if not all of them.

Elizabeth Alker was eighteen in 1936, the year of Orwell’s study. While he concentrated on the filth and deprivation he found in that working-class industrial town, Elizabeth’s story shows the closeness and love evident in her extended family circle. Read her true story and marvel at her courage and resilience during those tough times.

At the time of Orwell’s study, various illness had taken most of her close family. Only her mother was left and she had serious lung problems owing to her work in the cotton mill. Knowing she was dying, her mother’s greatest wish was that her only child, Elizabeth, would be married and settled before she died.

Fortunately, Elizabeth already had a young man from Liverpool who was keen to fulfil her mother’s wishes. They married that same year, a few months after Elizabeth turned eighteen. Just a couple of weeks after her twentieth birthday in 1938, her mother, the last of Elizabeth’s close family, died. She had a baby by then and felt the loss of her mother keenly.

Even worse, the following year, when WW2 was declared, her husband, as a territorial reserve, was among the first to be called up. Now, Elizabeth, alone with a toddler, had no close family to turn to, Yet, even in the uncertainty and fear of the following war years, she coped and found humour.


About caroleparkes

My husband calls me a butterfly because I flit from one hobby to another. Apart from being a wife for 52 years, a mother of three sons, and a grandmother, I'm also an author, genealogist, amateur artist, a lover of most needlecrafts, and occasional poet. Of the above, my most enduring interest has been writing and I hope to be doing it well into old age.
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7 Responses to Another View of Wigan to Compare With Orwell’s

  1. tidalscribe says:

    That does sound interesting. My grandfather was delighted I married someone with a secure job. Granddad was a civil servant, commuting up to London from their comfortable suburban house, having lived through a depression he knew how vital it was to have a secure job. Looking back now, though there was poverty in London and elsewhere of course, I wonder how much they knew about conditions up north.


    • caroleparkes says:

      Indeed, poverty can still be found everywhere in Britain. It is a fact of life. My mum’s paternal family were farmers, so comfortably off I should say, but her maternal family were miners. Consequently, her dad’s family looked down on her mum and thought the marriage a bad match, especially as she was a barmaid, eighteen years younger than him. Despite that, their marriage was a happy one and my mum remembers being really close to her extended maternal family. Only one of her dad’s seven brothers and two sisters had anything to do with them. This brother gained a BSc degree and became a biochemist. He went to work in Buenos Aires. During the war, he sent my mother an allowance as she had no close relatives to support her and she was alone in Liverpool with a young baby. I have some letters he wrote to my mum asking what her husband did for a living and informing her she should let him know of any difficulties she was having. He also paid for her father’s funeral as I have the receipts. My mum spoke very highly of her Uncle Sam and no wonder.

      Liked by 1 person

    • caroleparkes says:

      I looked at your website and a few posts. Loved your sunshine theme. I tried to share a post ‘At the beach, no-one hears you scream’ on Facebook, but it said that was still in development mode.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Kazzmoss says:

    Reblogged this on The Magic of Stories and commented:
    This is such an interesting true story that needs sharing. We think we have things bad now, but life before and during the war was probably worse. How they coped, I don’t know. This story tells us, and author Carole Parkes shares it.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Kazzmoss says:

    Lovely story. I will share it on my blog.


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