Page last updated at 14:15 GMT, Friday, 24 October 2008 15:15 UK

Your stories

Bread queue
A bread queue in New York during the Great Depression of 1929
The crash at the New York stock exchange in 1929 had worldwide repercussions.

Between 29 October and 13 November 1929 more than $30bn disappeared from the US economy.

The knock-on effect meant people around the world faced economic hardships such as job losses and food shortages.

Now 79 years later, as many feel the pinch of the current economic downturn, BBC News website readers share their families' stories of riding out the years after the 1929 financial storm.


My father grew up in Dundee and, in the 1920's, he started an apprenticeship as a millwright in a jute mill. He finished his apprenticeship in 1931 and received his Masters papers and his cards on the same day - the firm couldn't sack him while he was apprenticed.

It was impossible to find another job locally so, like many other men, he worked his way south. He worked as a hotel porter for a time in the Lake District and eventually made his way to London and started to look for work.

This was quite hard at a time when millions were unemployed and I recall my father telling the story that he heard that Ford at Dagenham were hiring.

Left to right: John Marshall, Isabella Marshall, Alex Marshall; Bella Marshall; Thomas Marshall;  front: youngest brother Stanley Marshall
John Marshall with wife and children in South Shields, in the 1930s

He spent his last couple of shillings on the fare to Dagenham, the other side of London, only to see a huge crowd of men.

A man from Personnel announced to the crowd that those with telegrams should come forward followed by those with letters. After a while, the Personnel officer re-emerged and invited in a few men at the front of the crowd for some labouring jobs. Very disappointed, my father started the long walk home to Southall, many miles away.

However, not long afterwards, through a friend of a friend he found a job as a millwright at London Transport at their main Chiswick works and he was to stay there for over 30 years.

They were hard times for many and it is sometimes difficult for us nowadays, protected by social benefits, to appreciate that a severe economic downturn can seriously dislocate society.


During the depression in the 1930's my grandmother who lived in Hull had to pawn her wedding ring to buy food for her two children - my mum and her brother. It's a story that's been handed down through the family.

Lilian Fox, 1918
Lilian Fox pawned her wedding ring to feed her family during the 1930s.

The story goes that the pawned ring was firstly replaced by a curtain ring and then much later - when my grandmother had saved up enough money - by a cheap wedding ring. She never got the original one back.

My father who was at school during the depression used to tell us that he remembered children in school without shoes because things were so bad, they were very, very poor. My dad had boots but other children had nothing.

It's something I tell my grown up children to help them keep things in context, it was really bad back then.


My late father, Ronald Blair, who came from South Shields, went through the Great Depression of the Thirties. In later life he sometimes spoke about the sheer desperation and hopelessness born of long term unemployment.

Because there was no work at all up there, after leaving school at 14 he came south, to London, which had not been very badly affected compared with the Northern industrial cities.

Ronald and Betty Blair, 1947
Ronald and Betty Blair on their wedding day in 1947

He ended up getting a job as a "bell hop" at the Dorchester Hotel. It was a good job as although the pay was very low he had free accommodation and meals, and earned quite a bit of extra cash in tips, much of which was sent back to his family.

He also got to see George VI's coronation procession in 1937. He stayed in that job until the war started, when he joined the RAF.

Large numbers of unemployed men joined the Armed Forces to escape the dole queues and I have read accounts of troopships laden with them heading out to the far flung corners of the empire.

Most of the troops had only the vaguest idea of what these places were like and what was there.

It must have been very exciting but rather scary for them.


I'm 67 years old and I'm still affected by it. I wasn't born until 1941 but I remember my father's and grandfather's stories.

My family had only enough money to send one of two sons to university. The one sent wasn't my father; he was the one who went out working, doing whatever he could wherever he could.

My father and grandfather were tile setters and travelled all over Canada working in the newly-constructed hotels.

John Wren, Ontario, Canada
John Wren's father lost out on going to university because of the depression.

I think my dad was the most ravaged by the Great Depression because he didn't get to go to university. He wanted to be an architect - I think he was always bitter about it.

Who knows how my life would have unfolded if he had had the chance his brother did.

The depression may have been the source of some of his quirks like saving everything that might be even vaguely useful.

To the end of his life he would never eat margarine because it brought back too many bad memories.

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