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Sunday, 31 August 2014

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Who are the Jam-eaters

FOR decades, there has been an ongoing feud between Whitehaven and Workington folk about who are the jam eaters. Now The Financial Times, no less, has entered the debate.

For a brief moment putting the global financial crisis to one side, the city newspaper ran a piece on famous feuds. And on the rivalry between the two towns, it said: “Legend has it that one town’s miners had jam on their sandwiches and the other did not, but no one agrees on which town it was or whether they did it because they were snobs or peasants.”
That prompted a letter from a Maryport reader who said he was neutral but believed the term referred to Whitehaven folk.
Both sides of the argument agree that the term goes back to mining days. The common view is that the term is insulting because it implies people could not afford to buy meat for their sandwiches, so they had to eat jam instead.
The insult has stuck over the years, and even now can cause offence to both sides.
Ray Devlin, local mining author, said: “In my opinion, the jam eaters were the ones from High Siders.
“When we worked in the pits, it was very warm. You couldn’t take much down there apart from bread and jam. Ventilation in the Whitehaven mines improved and because it was a bit cooler, we could take sandwiches with corned beef, Spam and other kinds of meat down there.
“When the mine at Clifton closed, some of the Workington lot came through to the Haig Pit and they were still eating jam sandwiches, when we had sandwiches with meat in them!”
Martin Brough, club secretary for Wath Brown Hornets disagrees. He said: “In my view the jam eaters are people from Moor Row. The term jam-eating comes from when people worked in the mines. If you look at old maps, the mines are mainly concentrated in the Moor Row area.
“Never mind about it being people from Workington or Whitehaven people, it’s the people from Moor Row.”
Robert Baxter, archivist at the Whitehaven Record Office said: “In terms of traditional evidence, we do not have any records of who the jam eaters are. It seems to be one of these informal terms of abuse or friendly banter that just seems to be in living and oral tradition.”

Who do you think are jam-eaters? Cast your vote - see panel on the right-hand side of this page.

Have your say

At a very young age,I was taught catagorically that men from Workington had to be termed "Jam eaters" and believe me it was not intended to be complimentary!

Posted by Ian Black on 5 October 2008 at 14:20

i was a good friend of the late ike douglas who was from whitehaven and worked the mines for over 50 years.This conversation came up many times and he even said it was the whitehaven miners who where jam eaters.

Posted by peter agnew on 5 October 2008 at 14:16

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