A tale of socialism and political awakening, Tressell’s book tells the story of a group of painters and decorators who are exploited by their unscrupulous bosses.


A moving fable in which hope triumphs over experience. It follows a year in the lives of a band of builders, decorators and occasional undertakers. Ragged trousered, poor, and ironically named philanthropists because they donate their labour for a barely living wage in order to contribute to the wealth of their ‘betters’.

A shock is in store for the workmen as their boss singles out one of the group.

Jack Linden is struggling to keep his family out of the workhouse. Easton, under pressure to provide for his family and keep his job, turns to drink. Ruth is left at home with the baby and the new lodger, with shocking consequences.

Ruth is deserted once again as Easton goes out with his workmates. Things take a dramatic turn when Ruth goes missing. Meanwhile the workers are united in tragedy, and an unexpected revelation could change Frank’s life forever.