Hurdy Gurdy Days


Coventry life in 20th century


Hurdy Gurdy Days




Before Dr. Kenneth Richardson wrote his book Twentieth Century Coventry published in 1972, he collected oral evidence of the growth of the city as part of his research. The tapes were donated to Coventry University by his widow. Hurdy Gurdy Days by Beatrice Callow was amongst these tapes.

When I first heard the tape I was immediately impressed by its simplicity and honesty. I was incensed by the indignity that poverty brings, the insensitivity of the medical profession and how important the role of the woman was in the family. Throughout this account, the evidence shows that although men have the power, it is the women who have the strength. They are the ones that hold the family together, help their neighbours when they are in trouble and supplement family income when their husbands squander their meagre earnings in the public house. We also see what happens when the woman is weak or totally oppressed; the family falls into degradation and loses hope.

I knew I had to find out more about this period of Coventry’s history and Beatrice Callow, the author of Hurdy Gurdy Days. First of all, however, I would like to present her story, slightly edited for easier reading, and attempt to address the many questions that arise afterwards. Instead of writing her memoir in the first person she used the device of writing as though she was the younger sister, whereas she was the elder of the two and the story is her own.