In 1918, Bristol began registering its dockers. Each worker was issued with a black book, in which shifts were recorded. If no work was available, this would be marked with a stamp that meant he was eligible for a small allowance.


Clutching their black books, the dockers would go to the call stand on Prince Street every morning and hope they would be given work. Known as 'The Pen' because it was like a cattle market, the stand was noisy and full. There, the representatives for the local stevedoring companies would pick the workers they thought were best suited to that day's job. But unless you were one of the 'blue-eyed boys', getting a day's work wasn't easy. Listen to the dockers explain how they got work, and the efforts they made to be picked.


The Pen was in the low building on the right of the photo, at 59 Prince Street. Image: 2018.