Frances Selfe had her worst fears confirmed by this morning’s newspapers.
It was proving a national disgrace – fathers and sons were being sent off to the war with no proper provision for the children, wives and mothers (sometimes widowed) who depended on them for their daily crust of bread.
No farmer ever admitted he was rich, but several of the families whose members had gone to war were not, she presumed suffering financially. Of the list that had been put up in the church porch, surely the Neales and the Pennys were not in any want.
But those who were employed to work on the land in the Bourne Valley had for many years been amongst the poorest of England’s agricultural workers. That firebrand, William Cobbett, had devoted a whole issue of ‘The Register’ * to the plight of the poor in the neighbouring village of Hurstbourne Tarrant and now, nearly ninety years later, it must be admitted that their situation had not greatly improved.
Something must be done. But what?
She and her committee could – and would – go through the list to see who was likely to be in want. But it was no easy matter simply to hand out coins or food: the people here were as proud as anywhere else and would hate to think that their circumstances were being discussed. Perhaps it would be possible to pair each family with one of her committee who already knew them well and could tactfully ascertain the position without giving offence.
*’Part of the Whole of the Expenditure on the Poor’: William Cobbett’s ‘The Register’ of 1826. Extract from first page of article:
This is a lovely piece of work Laura. I loved William Cobbett when I was at college. Life is now getting a bit serious for your Mrs Selfe isn’t it.
Thank-you for commenting 🙂
I think that is exactly right – one of the things about the sheer dimensions of WW1 is that the knock-on effects were probably larger than people were used to. Even if Mrs Selfe had lived through all those nineteenth century wars, and was accustomed to whipping out the knitting needles and making balaclavas, knitting on its own was not going to sort out this war.
And was it ever so!!
Poor old Tommy, Rudyard Kipling had it right in so many ways!
O it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Tommy, go away”;
But it’s “Thank you, Mister Atkins”, when the band begins to play,
The band begins to play, my boys, the band begins to play,
O it’s “Thank you, Mister Atkins”, when the band begins to play.
The lack of funding for families can still be an issue, particularly for mobilised reservists. It can take weeks for their money to come through, although they can get an emergency cash advance, it has to be paid back eventually.
And many reservists view their reservist pay as their own pocket money, and not for the family – an attitude observed by me when paying soldiers in cash for annual camps, no thought of their dependents, more thought of what they could spend it on.
Thank-you Ernie – I am fascinated and shocked in equal measure to learn that it is still a problem for the families of reservists . We are so used to living in a welfare state and assuming that no one is allowed to go below a certain level. Of course, as you point out, it is still the personal responsibility of the reservists themselves, but perhaps they feel this less keenly in view of the welfare state?
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