Leonard Ellisdon (1885-1968): Life & Labour – Writing Lives

Leonard Ellisdon (1885-1968): Life & Labour

Life and Labour

“After a long business career full of ups and downs I suffered a severe stroke”

As we know from previous post’s and research, after Ellisdon’s stroke, he was therefore unable to carry on with the work he loved and life as he once knew it. Ellisdon’s first job had been somewhat of an unwanted one, his headmaster had died therefore changing the school rules, forcing him to procure a job at the age of 14. Ellisdon got a job, as an office boy working for what he called a gentleman, showing there difference in class identity.  Ellisdon would Stand up all day writing the gentleman’s dictation without a single break or pause in the blistering heat. Ellisdon worked from 9.am to 1.pm; to a young boy this could be seen as exploitation, taking advantage of his young age. He took comfort from his father who also happened to work on the same street, Fleet Street. Ellisdon’s father had tried to consolidate him with tales of his own first day as an apprentice, illustrating not everyone’s first day at a new job is a walk in the park. Not surprisingly this “in short, Ellisdon’s first morning as a business man was a walk-over in comparison”, which maybe all adolescents, starting their first working day, think the world is against them, landing them with the hardest, most unfair job in history.


Many 14 year old boys may think they know everything, in which Ellisdon becomes no different. Obviously manners, to Leonard went a long way, so when somebody was rude no matter who they were he was going to have a problem.  He states “I would and will do anything in my power for anyone who asks me nicely, but if they don’t, I doubt if a mule could be more cussed”(pg.31).  So when a young man in a top hat told Ellisdon to “shut the window, boy”(pg.31) he replied he would of done so if he would of said please. Everyone knows that you do; even sometimes reluctantly, what your senior says even if in an impolite manner, or there will be trouble. This young man with his top hat for that reason smacked Ellisdon right across the face. To which Ellisdon then retaliated and knocked his hat off, resulting in a physical struggle for the next 30 minutes. The concluding resolution was a pointless one and to Ellisdon “the point is that I never shut that damned window and the subject was not again referred to, either by my top hatted friend or me.”(pg.31)

Ellisdon’s actual manager was an America, who he didn’t much care for. One day Ellisdon was given a rise in pay; which he later found out was possible because he didn’t pay for anything, and with a kind gesture for this promotion, Ellisdon bought his manager a pen to show his gratitude to which his manager threw on the floor and shouted “keep your bloody pen you damned idiot”(pg.32).  This was not a good employer, employee relationship by any means.

This first job ended quite abruptly when Ellisdon was told to take a long lunch hour and when he returned, if there were men outside to walked past, masquerading as another employee of a different firm. This happened for weeks until one day one of the two men ask him which firm he worked for. This ended badly with a few kicks to the sore spot and a few nasty words. However the two men were to succeed and took Ellisdon’s key which he attained to open the doors of his firm. He never saw that bad American again.



Like the first job, this second job was to last even shorter. With no real persuasion form his parent who consolidated Ellisdon when he lost his previous job with a mouth organ which would end up driving them mad, he soon after secured another job, via the Telegraph. This job entailed running errands. The Telegraph paid each boy to get a bus to their desired destination on time, nonetheless these smart young boys like Ellisdon ran to wherever they needed to be pocketing the money for bus fair. This was not how Ellisdon came to lose his job. The Telegraph joined up with another leading well-known daily newspaper and they day of one of the hottest heat wave one driver was stood beneath Ellisdon’s office window, dripping with sweat looking unbearably hot to which the two lads by their own accord dropped the full contents of a water bottle on his head and shirt. That was to be Leonard last day at the Telegraph.




Ellisdon’s third but not last job was working for a tea firm in Billiter Street, he had procured this job quickly within his notice period at the Telegraph to not disappoint his family again with a story that he had be sacked. Ellisdon stayed with this firm for a few months one packer called him a ‘b – y stuttering monkey’.(pg.38) Illustrating to us once more Ellisdon’s bad temper he started a row leading him to be fired again.

You would think to how Ellisdon procured each job so easily, especially after he had attained a stammer at school, and that after being fired and just put straight out of a job by his disappearing boss resulting in no possible references. Ellisdon came up with good excuses and with a clean appearance and excellent writing skills his new manager was pleased to engage him. Pride was an important trait for Ellisdon which you can tell by his appearance and they way he writes about his ability to write well, “which he regarded as an assest”(pg.40).  Ellisdon secured the job where he processed people’s résumé and picked the best 6 or 9 for the head clerk.  Ellisdon was at the age of 16 when he accepted the job and so young met a girl, who later became his wife. He stayed in this job for 17 years which was situated in New Bond Street eventually becoming cashier.  However with no surprise he had once more got himself into an argument with the Managing Director, consequently being told he was no longer required.




In August 1914 all men were required to work if they were fit and within the acceptable age limits and enlist into the army. Ellisdon was turned down due to being unfit for military service. Ellisdon became an auxiliary postman requested by the government. Auxiliary postman recieved a poor wage of 25/- a week, as a percentage of what they had earned was sent to the Prince of Wales fund. Ellisdon was a postman for three years working from 5a.m to 10a.m everyday. After this he continued his day at the West End Church choir where he was to earn a little extra money on the side.


Woman were soon after introduced into the post services as many woman replaced men’s job when they went off to fight in the war. ‘The government needed women on their side during the war. They needed women to encourage men to join the armed forces. They also needed women to take over the jobs that men left to go to war’.(Tony Hewitt.pg.115) Ellisdon lost his job in 1917, but found his place in his next job which he attained until his stroke.


Finally in 1917 Ellisdon wrote to the Telegraph applying for eleven jobs, he received offers back and chose the one in the suburbs. Fortunately for Ellisdon this job was one where he could move up the ladder which he never thought he would be able to do. Being ambitious he took full advantage and ‘seized it with both hands'(pg.75). This was the happiest Ellisdon had felt in a job, feeling wanted and appreciated which showed when his salary was doubled. However in they went in to voluntary liquidation. Another office was formed and Ellisdon became secretary. The company grew rapidly with 9 bookkeepers and 6 typists, forcing them to move to new premises on a well know West End street.  Ellisdon recieved much trouble working here and left as soon as he could despite thinking he could make something of himself at the firm.

A while after, late on in 1917, Ellisdon’s  heard his old enemy had been forced to resign and his position had opened up at his old firm. Ellisdon pushed his pride aside and rang the chairman telling him of his struggling situation. The chairman was pleased to hear from Ellisdon offering him job of Director and Secretary. The job was at a lower salary than before but the work was child play for Ellisdon and he was happier than he had ever been in the work place. This poition carried on for 30 years until in 1957 Ellisdon had a stroke.

Modern World History for AQA Specification B.: Foundation By Tony Hewitt, Jane Shuter 2001 pg.115

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