A Dictionary of Occupational Terms Based on the Classification of Occupations used in the Census of Population, 1921.
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Sub-order 1.—Builders, Bricklayers, Stone and Slate Workers; Contractors

581.—Contractors' Labourers; Navvies

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aerial rope signalman
signals to men controlling aerial rope, to warn them to raise, lower, or despatch loads.
asphalter's labourer
conveys asphalt in pails or barrows to asphalter (579) (q.v.) and shoots it on surface to be laid with asphalt; sometimes also stokes asphalt boiler and stirs boiling asphalt.
ballast crusher
shovels ballast into revolving pan of ballast crushing machine; controls, by means of lever, power-drive of machine; watches ballast in pan to see that it is crushed to required fineness; empties pan, with a shovel, upon completion of crushing.
ballast crushing labourer
assists ballast crusher (q.v.) in filling and emptying pan of ballast crushing machine; wheels away crushed ballast to spot where it is being used, etc.
bank ranger (canal) ; banksman, bank tender
carries out necessary repairs, concreting, timbering, etc., to banks of canals or rivers, or to waterworks supply channels or filter beds, under instructions from bank walker (561) (q.v.).
banksman (canal)
see bank ranger.
banksman (public works) ; skipper
releases and tips over contents of "skip" or tub, which tips to each side, used for transporting sand, stones, etc.
banksman, sinker's
removes earth or rock excavated by mine or well sinker, by shovelling into trucks or wheelbarrow from stage on which earth is thrown by sinker, or by emptying into trucks, buckets or tubs brought up by winding apparatus at top of shaft.
bank tender
see bank ranger (canal).
barrow runner
see wheeler.
boogie man
see segment corker.
canal bank labourer ; canal worker
mixes concrete for repair of cement canal banks, and wheels it where required, or, drives small piles into bottom and erects timber supports for canal bank, where made of timber; or, clears out and dredges canal as directed; does any other labouring work connected with maintenance of canal banks or channel or other canal works.
canal bank repairer
repairs earth-slips or other defects in canal banks as indicated by bank ranger (q.v.).
canal worker
see canal bank labourer.
cauldron man
see pot man.
cement gun operator
holds in position cement gun, worked by air pressure, which squirts liquid cement into cracks in brickwork or masonry, or sprays it against surface of building previously coated with metal lathes, or against brickwork surface, clay burner (building); a labourer who digs clay sub-soil from building foundations and burns clay for use in garden paths and for general ballast purposes; mixes crushed coal or breeze and, spreading clay and breeze in layers, sets fire to whole; trims fire according to prevailing winds and adds fresh clay and breeze at intervals throughout day; cf. clay burner (railway) (577).
concrete machinist
tends and feeds with dry mixed ingredients, a power driven concrete mixing machine; cf. concrete mixer (579).
crusher feeder
shovels stone, bricks, ballast, etc., into pan of crushing machine ; as for ballast crusher.
cylinder sinker (bridge building)
a miner (q.v.) who excavates earth inside cylinder or caisson, so sinking if for bridge foundations; usually works in compressed air chamber.
deep sinking labourer
navvy or miner (q.v.) engaged in sinking deep holes or shafts.
drain layer ; pipe layer, sanitary pipe layer, service layer
lays drain pipes in trench dug by navvies (q.v.), taking care that pipes are laid at an even gradient, and either straight or, if required, at proper angle; tests gradient by erecting "blocks," of one or two bricks, at intervals and placing spirit level thereon; uses line and cord attached to pegs, which he drives into ground, to get proper alignment; sometimes also does work of pipe jointer (q.v.).
drain pipe fitter
see pipe jointer (drainage).
electric cable laying labourer
assists cable and service layer (578) (q.v.).
a navvy (q.v.) who digs foundations of buildings, trenches for drains, gas mams, etc., and who assists in any blasting operations that may be necessary.
filler (public works)
shovels excavated soil or other material into barrows, tubs, wagons, etc., for removal; sometimes also wheels barrows or pushes tubs, which run on a light railway, to place where material is to be dumped, empties them, and brings them back.
fire pot boy ; gang bog
tends fire in brazier for use of gang of ballastmen or platelayers, and boils water for tea-making; keeps men supplied with drinking water.
flagger's labourer
assists flagger or street mason (579) (q.v.) by mixing mortar or cement with shovel; lifting stones into position; ramming stones into bed; minding tools, etc.
gang boy
see fire pot boy.
granolithic labourer
assists in making of granolithic stone, an artificial stone made of crushed granite and cement; tends mixing machine, pours mixture into moulds; removes set slabs from moulds, etc.
grave digger
digs with pick, spade and shovel graves in cemetery or churchyard; fixes retaining walls of wooden boards and struts; lowers coffin by ropes into grave; refills grave with earth after burial ceremony.
highway labourer, highwayman, highways department labourer
see road labourer.
lamp post fixer
excavates and makes concrete foundation; erects and beds down lamp posts in road construction, etc., ready for gas fitter to fit lamp and for service layer to connect with main; usually works under supervision of service layer.
see stone layer.
leading man, leading labourer
leading hand of a gang of men, working under a ganger, and replacing him when he is absent; usually named according to the work done, e.g. leading ballast loader, leading roadman.
macadamer, macadamiser
spreads macadam, i.e., broken granite with a surface dressing of powdered granite, with shovel or fork; during steam rolling operations, sweeps water and exuded mud over surface of road metal.
mine sinker's labourer
does unskilled work, e.g., excavating, holding tools, in mine sinking operations.
does excavating under ground usually with hydraulic tools and blasting apparatus, in construction of tunnels for railways, roads, sewers, canals, etc., or foundations of bridges, buildings, etc.; shores up sides and places sections of steel linings; sometimes specifically designated, e.g., canal miner, land miner, public works miner, railway miner, sanitary miner, sewer miner, tunnel miner.
excavates soil for building foundations, railway tracks, roads, docks, canals, drains, etc., using pick and shovel; often does concreting and timbering work; sometimes specifically designated, e.g., canal navvy, excavator, road maker, trench digger.
navvy, slurry pond
works at pond or pit in which cement is mixed for use in road making; tips in cement from bags; controls flow of water from taps; mixes water and cement with long handled rake.
pavior's labourer ; street mason's labourer
assists pavior (579) (q.v.) by mixing cement, moving stones, etc.
permanent way labourer ; railway labourer
assists platelayers and packers on railroad construction and repair work by doing unskilled and heavy jobs such as shovelling, wheeling, and lifting of material.
picker ; sizer
labourer who sorts stones or setts by hand according to size.
pier works labourer
does unskilled jobs such as digging and carrying soil or rock, lifting piles with help of derrick, and placing them in position, or assisting carpenters or masons, metal or other workers, in pier construction work.
pile driver
operates pile driving machine which releases a weight, raised by hand or mechanical power, and so hammers the pile home.
pile layer
guides piles, which are slung by means of cranes, into prearranged position ready for pile driver (q.v.), using ropes attached to piles to guide them.
pipe jointer (drainage) ; drain pipefitter
fits plain end of one pipe into socket of another; caulks joint with cement; passes special form of mop into pipe to remove any cement which may have found its way through joint into pipe.
pipe labourer (for contractor or undefined)
see pipe track labourer.
pipe layer
see drain layer.
pipe track labourer ; pipe labourer
breaks up surface, if necessary, with sledge hammer and wedges, "cold chisels," or with pneumatic hammer; excavates trench for pipe track, with pick and shovel, removes excavated soil in barrows, etc.
pitch boiler
see pot man.
pitcher, stone pitcher
a labourer who shoots stones from cart in heaps on road ready for spreader.
pond maker
a navvy (q.v.) who digs out ponds, and lines the sides and bottom with concrete to make them waterproof.
pot man ; cauldron man, pitch boiler, tar boiler
boils and ladles out pitch or tar used in road making; attends to fire under pot or cauldron; breaks up and replenishes cauldron with solid pitch; stirs cauldron with long iron rod.
potman, asphalt
a pot man (q.v.) heating and distributing asphalt.
powder roaster man
stokes fire which heats asphalt powder in preparation for laying, and stirs powder to distribute heat; sometimes also fills pails, etc., with roasted powder and takes it to asphalt layers (579) (q.v.).
public works labourer
does unskilled work in construction of roads, bridges, railways, canals, etc.
pug mill feeder (public works)
feeds and tends pug mill, in which stone, brick, rubble, etc., is ground and mixed for manufacture of mortar, concrete, etc.
railway labourer
see permanent way labourer.
fills in and rams down earth, clay, etc., on drainage excavations, etc.; usually done by navvy, as part of excavation or trench digging work.
river labourer (water works''
does any labouring work connected with maintenance or repair of banks or channel of river supplying waterworks; cf. canal bank labourer.
road cleaner
sweeps and cleans up road before tar spraying, and after road making or mending is completed; cf. road cleaner (970).
road contractor (not employer)
contracts with a local authority to keep in repair a certain length of road with materials supplied by them.
road labourer ; road man, highway labourer, highwayman, highways department labourer
(i) employed by local authority in upkeep of roads e.g. sweeping, hedging and ditching, repairing holes in macadam surface, etc.;
(ii) see street labourer.
road maker
as for navvy.
road man
see road labourer.
rock breaker (road making)
(i) j breaks rock for road-making into small pieces with special hand hammer;
(ii) throws or shovels pieces of rock into pan of crushing machine and shovels out crushed rock, cf. ballast crusher.
rope runner (public works)
hoists loads of building material to scaffolding, with rope running over a pulley.
sanitary pipe layer
see drain layer.
attends to scarifying apparatus, i.e., apparatus for tearing up the worn surface of a road, on a steam roller; directs steam-roller driver and maintains teeth of scarifier at correct adjustment by hand with spanner or with manipulating bolts.
sea defence worker
maintains in repair sea walls, groynes, embankments, etc., with stone, rubble, or brickwork; usually a mason (572) or bricklayer (565) (q.v.).
sea groyne labourer; sea wall labourer
assists sea defence worker (q.v.) in building; maintenance of sea groynes, etc., by doing unskilled work, e.g., carrying or wheeling blocks of stone and timber, mixing cement, etc.
segment corker ; boogie man
fills in space between drain or pipe section and loose soil with a slurry of cement and sand.
service layer
see drain layer.
sett beater
a rammerman (q.v.) who rams down setts with a heavy hand-ram, a one or two handled beam of wood, into bed of slurry.
see picker.
see banksman.
(i) a dialect term for a labourer who constructs, by means of pick and shovel, ditches, drains or adits for draining a mine;
(ii) in Ireland, a general term for a ditcher.
steam roller labourer, steam roller sweeper
spreads tar, tar mixture, or other similar substance, with brush, over stone or clinker to be rolled.
stone breaker, stone cracker, stone knapper, stone napper
sits by roadside and breaks stones, usually flints, with hand hammer into sizes suitable for road mending; is usually an old man.
stone crusher (road making)
as for crusher feeder.
stone layer, stone spreader, stone strewer ; layer-on
spreads stones ' evenly on surface of road, with shovel or fork, prior to rolling.
street labourer ; road labourer
general labourer waiting on pavior (579) or road, maker (q.v.); does heavy unskilled work in street or road making.
street mason's labourer
see pavior's labourer.
surface labourer, surface man
maintains, by means of pick and shovel, level and alignment of road surfaces or of tramway permanent way beds, as shewn on pegs placed in position by surveyor; cf. surfaceman (railway) (577).
tar boiler (road spraying)
see potman.
tar man, tar mixer
a tar pavior's labourer (q.v.) who breaks up pitch or bitumen, by hand with hammer and iron spike, and mixes it with tar, in right proportion to be used on road surfaces; assists pot man (q.v.) and may sometimes stoke boiler; carries buckets of hot tar when and where required.
tar pavior's labourer
assists tar pavior (579) (q.v.); generally engaged in filling or barrows with tar paving mixture and wheeling of barrows to tar pavior; may assist in spreading mixture and help in rolling laid surface.
tar sprayer
(i) holds perforated rose of mechanical sprayer, which sprays tar over surface of road;
(ii) works handle of pump which forces tar through pipe or tube through tube to rose of sprayer.
puts up timber supports and crossbeams in trenches; does all timber work required on public works, etc.
trench digger
as for navvy.
trench labourer
does unskilled work in excavation and boarding up of trenches.
responsible for excavation of trenches for pipes, mains, drainage and other purposes.
underground labourer
(i) excavates soil or rock to make tunnels, sewers, etc., or removes soil or rock excavated by miner (q.v.) and assists miner generally;
(ii) a labourer employed underground in cleansing sewers and the like.
water track labourer
keeps water trenches on sewage works and sewage farms, and drainage ditches, clear and free from obstructions.
well borer's labourer, well driller's helper, well sinker's labourer
assists well sinker (580) (q.v.); hauls out excavated material with windlass, rope, and bucket; lowers timber, tools, etc., as required.
wheeler ; barrow runner
a navvy or labourer (q.v.) who wheels away and deposits soil.
works and ways department labourer
does unskilled work, such as trench digging, shovelling, wheeling material, loading and unloading supplies, tools, etc., in work of construction, road building, etc.

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From: A Dictionary of Occupational Terms Based on the Classification of Occupations used in the Census of Population, 1921,
Ministry of Labour, 1927. Digitised by Peter Christian, August, 2016.   This text is in the Public Domain.