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Vivre la Ville en Écosse

 | 
Rosie Findlay
, 
Tri Tran
, 
William Findlay

II. Life in the Scottish victorian city: historical explorations

Saving the weans: Cinderella in the “dark dungeons” of Scottish slumland

Rosie Findlay

Texte intégral

  • 1 For one well-known advocate of child protection, this Act marked the beginning of parliamentary re (...)
  • 2 R. Findlay, "The Geography of play: children’s street games in Victorian and Edwardian Scotland". (...)

1Britain by the end of the nineteenth century was a society which felt enormous pride in its collective provision for childhood. The intervention of the State was evident by then in a wide spectrum of activities. In the work place, a series of Factory Acts from the 1830s on had radically transformed the child’s status, by firstly improving conditions and limiting the number of hours worked, and progressively reducing the age at which a child could be employed. Educational provision had, likewise, been established as a national system through the 1870 Education Act (England and Wales) and the 1872 Education Act (Scotland) which made attendance compulsory for all children from the age of 5. Even inside the home the long arm of the law could be said to have come to the rescue of the child in danger, for the first Childrens Charter (Prevention of Cruelty to Children Act) of 1889 made parents responsible for the safety of their children, and in cases of neglect even provided for the removal of the child from “parental care”1. Even more surprising, the State become an active participant in the field of child leisure activities2 · encouraging local government and private initiatives towards the extension of play areas in the interests of national security (physical degeneration) as well as public order concerns.

2But one respect of this system of child protection was woefully inadequate and singularly at odds with the public image of “State parenthood”. Since, by common consent, the State’s role was above all “corrective” and deemed to stop where that of the parents started, the problem of child poverty, in general, and of hunger and malnutrition, in particular, lay in a kind of no man’s land that politicians preferred not to see. Here, no matter how great the provocation, it was widely held that the State could not, indeed, should not embroil itself.

  • 3 James Russell, Glasgow’s first lull-time Medical Officer of Health and an ardent champion of sanit (...)
  • 4 Cf. for instance, Sir Arthur Clay, "The Feeding of School Children", in J. St L. Strachey, The Man (...)

3Two powerful sets of arguments were thus constantly brought to the fore when public outrage at the desperate suffering of the innocents became too great. Firstly, there was the moral consideration, the deep-seated belief that the State had no right to interfere and risk undermining the sacred role and responsibility of the parent. To do so, it was believed, no matter how great the provocation, would result in destroying the very foundations of society: the home and parental rights and duties. Secondly, and in a more general way, poverty was believed to be beyond the normal bounds of parliamentary action and child poverty could be no exception3. The poor, Christ had said, will be with you always, and the matter appeared beyond dispute. Thus it was written. In any case, the practicalities of the question-the size of the child population at risk and the fear of the dangerous precedent in matters of taxation-could often calm any lingering emotional pangs among the wavering few and the undecided4. Charity was the way forward.

  • 5 Brian Simon, Education and the Labour Movement 1870-1920. London, Lawrence and Wishart, 1974, p. 1 (...)

4But herein lay the dilemma, the fine line between the private and the public spheres. If the state had no duty towards the feeding of needy children, it did have an obligation towards its citizens to ensure that the public finances attributed to schools were being put to the best possible use and, above all, not being wasted. In the case of child care and educational provision, this question had been at the heart of much of the reforming zeal of the middle part of the century, when projects such as the ‘payment by results’ scheme had been introduced5. However, by the latter part of the century this whole issue resurfaced in an acute and unexpected form. From all sides, evidence began to accumulate that malnutrition was playing a major role in disrupting or at least handicapping educational provision and results, particularly in the most under-privileged areas of the country. Not only was it seen to be preventing the children from learning and the nation from forming its young, but this chaos came at a devastating cost to public finance.

5As the problem of feeding of school children became the focus of public attention, a variety of private and individual initiatives was brought to bear on it. Many local campaigns were started all over the poorer quarters of industrial England, some with the quiet complicity of the local authorities. Some even outgrew their local roots and became national concerns, forever associated with high profile personalities like Margaret McMillan and Robert Blatchford and, as such, take up their place in the long struggle for a democratic educational system. Little, however, is known of Scottish endeavour in this field. This in itself is surprising since, for historical and cultural reasons, the universality and quality of educational provision in Scotland has always been a more sensitive issue than further south. It is therefore on the Scottish dimension to this question that this paper will focus.

  • 6 The society continued its activities until 1910. James L. Morrison, The Implementation of Compulso (...)

6In Scotland, as in England, by the last quarter of the century, considerable attention was directed at solving the educational dilemma confronting teachers: how to educate starving children. As elsewhere in the country the solution consisted in “feeding the stomach, then the mind” of the starving children of the poor… through charitable work. Glasgow, the industrial heart of the country and with one of the largest and most concentrated, if not the worst, centres of poverty and destitution in the United Kingdom, had already begun to tackle this problem even before education became compulsory in 1872. The Glasgow Poor Children's Dinner Table Society, founded in 1869 and entirely financed by voluntary contributions, was so “successful” that by the early years of the century it was serving up to a quarter of a million dinners at twenty different locations in the city annually and by 1909 this figure had risen to some 850,0006. Here however it was deemed necessary to clearly mark out the limits of this responsibility by confining operations to the hard winter period, for the Society only operated from October to March. Quite clearly the message stressed the complementary nature of the tasks which in no way could be used as an “excuse” for parents avoiding their duties. Perhaps also this fact conditioned the quality of the response, which seemed based on the sacred principle of “less eligibility”. William Haddow, member of the Glasgow School Board and prominent in Glasgow politics, described with horror, a visit to a meal centre in Anderston,

  • 7 William Haddow, My Seventy Years. Glasgow, Robert Gibson and Son, 1943.

“A crowd of poorly clad and bootless children were queued up waiting for the hour of twelve to strike, when the door would be opened When we climbed up the rickety wooden stair, we found a filthy room where soap and water had been strangers for many months, if not years. Backless forms were ranged in rows on which were tiny bowls of soup, a metal spoon and a piece of bread. It was not a pleasant sight7...”

  • 8 James E. Handley, The Irish in Modern Scotland. Cork, Cork University Press, 1938, p. 227.
  • 9 Tom Gallagher, "A Tale of Two Cities: Communal Strife in Glasgow and Liverpool before 1914", p. 10 (...)
  • 10 R. D. Anderson, Education and the Scottish People 1750-1918. Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1995, p. 200 (...)

7The Churches were also active in this field although not always ready to cooperate in an oecumenical spirit8. For the Roman Catholic Church, in particular, the question was extremely important given the considerable numbers and extreme poverty of Irish Catholic immigrants among the poorer people of the city, the suspicion and hostility they generated among the native Scots and the obsessive fear of the Catholic hierarchy that they would be “easy targets” for Protestant missionaries bringing gifts9. Here too feeding schemes took various forms but perhaps one of the most novel and far-reaching was started by Marist Brother Walfrid in 1888 when, to finance a penny dinner scheme which he ran in his school, he organised the setting up of the Glasgow Celtic Club10.

  • 11 Miss Stevenson was a well-known educationalist and philanthropist in the city and became the first (...)
  • 12 John Stewart, “‘This injurious measure’: Scotland and the 1906 Education (Provision of Meals) Act” (...)
  • 13 J. Stewart, op. cit., p. 80.

8In Edinburgh, where the industrial infrastructure was less concentrated and the size of the problem less daunting, a “Committee” for feeding and clothing destitute children had been set up as early as 1878. By 1907, thanks particularly to the tireless energy of Miss Flora C. Stevenson11, it had become the largest single provider of school meals in the capital12. In other towns throughout Scotland, the same pattern of support emerges. The Dundee Children’s Free Breakfast and City Mission, for instance, which had been started in 1874, had by 1887 given over 8,000 free meals and more than 24,000 at one halfpenny each13.

  • 14 The Forfar scheme was run by Sir Henry Peek and Dr. James Campbell and probably based on a experim (...)
  • 15 Third Statistical Account of Scotland, Aberdeenshire, Pitsligo, p. 341.
  • 16 William Barclay, The Schools and Schoolmasters of Banffshire, Educational Institute of Scotland, 1 (...)

9Even in more rural parts of Scotland, in particular in Aberdeenshire, attempts were made to feed children who had travelled sometimes considerable distances on foot to school and were in need of sustenance during the day. As a means of improving the physical condition of the scholars, as well as acting as an incentive to school attendance, free or inexpensive mid-day meals were supplied in many country schools from 1888 on. Indeed, as early as the mid-1870s local social benefactors were feeding “necessitous” school children in Forfar14. Elsewhere, as in Pitsligo for example, it was common practice by the mid-1880s for local farmers to supply potatoes and turnips which were then made into soup by the school cleaner15. In Aberlour, the parish school was able to serve up to 150 warm dinners each day in mission halls through public subscription16. In Peterculter, in 1884, it was possible for school children to buy a bowl of soup, which had been prepared in a local cottage, for a halfpenny, the menu being broth on Monday and Tuesday, potato on Wednesday and Thursday, pea on Friday. Earlier, a school soup kitchen was instituted in the school of Farnell, near Brechin in 1878, after a complaint from the parish minister, Reverend T. A. Cameron, that,

“the school children suffered a serious hardship during the winter months in not having the opportunity of getting a comfortable hot meal during the school day”.

10Here too voluntary contributions lay at the heart of the scheme. Lord and Lady Southesk, the local landowners, took an active role in fund-raising among the local farmers. As a result the children were given soup daily, at the cost of a halfpenny, as long as they provided their own spoon! The statistics given for the school results in the five years since the creation of the soup kitchen show a marked increase in the academic success of the pupils, as well as the absence of,

  • 17 Letter from the M. P. for the Scotch Universities, James A. Campbell, to Sir Henry Peek, M. P. 1st(...)

“any serious epidemic or illness among them, from which other schools in our neighbourhood have not been free17”.

  • 18 Ibid, p. 81

11These and numerous other similar projects, not surprisingly, were an echo of many of the fears gripping society at this time. A smouldering conviction which burst into open debate in the aftermath of the Boer War raised the spectre of racial degeneration and gave an edge and an urgency to the idea that the young were the “children of the Empire” and hence that all efforts should be made to build an “imperial race”. As a result, in Scotland’s major industrial centres, a widening of the charity effort from the simple provision of meals for the destitute children to a more holistic approach to their health and well-being became visible. The Dundee Children’s Free Breakfast and City Mission, for instance, had almost from its foundation stressed this link and the need for a wider approach to the problem (see below)18.

12Police authorities were among the first to offer their support to such initiatives for they had often to deal with the effects poverty and destitution produced among the children of the poor. From the early 1890s agencies such as the Police-aided Clothing scheme of Edinburgh aimed to relieve,

  • 19 This Trust began in 1892 and is still in existence today. For further information, contact Mr. A. (...)

“the sufferings of necessitous children..., resident in the city of Edinburgh District, by supplying them with footwear and clothing and by making such other provision for them as may seem requisite from time to time”19.

  • 20 Ernest Barker (ed.), The Character of England, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1947 p. 223.
  • 21 Preference was given to the poorest and most delicate children selected by Schoolmasters, School B (...)

13Other initiatives took an even broader approach. In 1886 an Edinburgh Children's Holiday Fund was set up to send these ‘prisoners of the pavement20 to the country for two weeks, boarding with “respectable cottagers”21 so as to reap the benefits of,

  • 22 B. S. Boyd, Hon. Sec. And Treasurer for the Fund-GDI/909/1. National Archives of Scotland. The Nor (...)

“a fortnight's pure air, good food and intercourse with healthy, happy country children is undoubted”22.

  • 23 There were many social observers at large in this period each in their own way transposing descrip (...)
  • 24 E. Barker (ed), op. cit., p. 223. This group, founded by Cyril Arthur Pearson in 1892 is still in (...)
  • 25 Fifty Years for the Children A Record of which to be Proud. Pearson’s Fresh Air Fund 1892-1941.9 p (...)

14Within the space of a few years all of Scotland’s main industrial towns were evolving similar schemes in the fight against the evil of urban life23. Yet it was only in 1892 with the setting up of Pearsons Fresh Air Fund by Pearsons Weekly that these individual local initiatives began to take on a national dimension and a political importance. An Edinburgh group was set up in 1895 to alleviate the living conditions of the poor of the capital by organising trips to the seaside and the country so that they would enjoy “happy play in grassy places”24 Within the space of a few years the scheme had spread to other Scottish towns such as Aberdeen in 1897 and Dundee in 1902. In Glasgow, his Fund, begun in 1894, was particularly dynamic and, in the first fifty years of its existence, provided 3,698 fortnights and 195,782 days’ out to the children of the city25.

15Behind all of these initiatives similar sentiments to those expressed by the Edinburgh Children's Holiday Fund are visible,

  • 26 14th Annual Report of the Edinburgh Children’s Holiday Fund Report, 1900, p. 4. National Archives (...)

“[To make children] stronger, mentally and physically, and more fitted to face not only the battle of life and the struggle for existence but also, when the need demands it, to take the place of these brave soldiers for whom we mourn today”26.

16Likewise we find the same fear of the consequences of failure,

  • 27 16th Annual Report of the Edinburgh Children’s Holiday Fund, 1902, p. 5. National Archives Edinbur (...)

“the British race will deteriorate and the rising generation of the “masses” will grow up feeble and inefficient, and unable to combat successfully in the battles of enterprise, competition and war”27.

17Yet all were limited in scope and founded on the conviction that charity and self-help held the key to solving the problem.

18A new national approach to the problem of malnutrition, differing itself from the individual isolated initiatives, and which stood out from the other schemes, came in 1890 from the editor of the newspaper The Clarion, Robert Blatchford. He saw the plight of the starving children in industrial Manchester and initiated, through letters to the Sunday Chronicle, the first Cinderella Club in the town. Tapping into the sentimental mood of the times, Blatchford explained the motivation behind his scheme to help working-class children, for,

  • 28 Labour Prophet, June 1893, p. 53-54. At other times his image of “Cinderella” stressed other tende (...)

“Cinderella was a Manchester Cinderella, a poor little girl, who had neither small feet nor a fairy godmother, and so had to sell matches in the street....”28

  • 29 W. Stewart, “Helping the slum children”, The Clarion, 16th February 1906, p. 6.
  • 30 David Prynn, “The Clarion Clubs, Rambling and the Holiday Associations in Britain since the 1890s” (...)

19His aim was to encourage the clubs to provide meals, clothing and other bare necessities, as well as entertainment, to the poorest children of the district, and thus rescue them from the “dark dungeons of slumland”29. Although funding still relied on charity, unlike most of the other schemes, Blatchford had a more comprehensive view of the problem which could only be solved by forming an “army” of volunteers sharing the same convictions and the same passion for social change. This approach had a magical turn to it and spread like wildfire throughout the North of England. Soon there were Cinderella Clubs in all of the major industrial centres such as Hull, Bradford, Birmingham, Salford and Halifax. In the second year of their creation, Blatchford’s brain-child was feeding more than fifteen thousand children. With help from the local schools, tickets for admission were distributed and each club kept a record of individual children’s progress and clothing requirements30. In the Clarion newspaper there was even a column called Cinderella devoted to club life, where members gave an account of treats, outings, numbers etc., and could appeal for financial aid. In Scotland the idea was also quick to catch on and clubs sprang up in a wide range of towns such as Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Falkirk.

  • 31 The Clarion, 22nd April 1904 and 31st March 1905.
  • 32 The Clarion, 22nd April 1904.

20Most clubs were structured along the same lines with weekly activities which took the form of “socials” in the winter and “outings” or camps during the summer months. The socials consisted in a two-hour afternoon or evening where the children were fed and entertained in various ways. A good square meal was top of the list of activities but the pleasure experience was not meant to stop here and the “fun” time continued with a variety of entertainments such as singing, conjurors, and even, in some cases, acrobatic monkeys31. The Partick club32, for example, in 1904 supplied a decent meal to over 200 of the poor "nippers" consisting of, in the words of the club secretary:

“a ragged, poverty-stricken lot, who were dumbfoundered (Scotch expression) at a small band of evidently sane people giving them areal good tuckin and a good concert for nothing!”.

  • 33 The Clarion, 16th March 1906.

21Some clubs offered tea, pies and buns, while others started what was to be called a Bread Fund, where almost 500 loaves were handed out weekly to the starving children. The Edinburgh Club seemed to offer only cocoa or tea with cakes in plenty, as the time was filled up with other activities such as songs, dances and games; however on leaving each child was given an orange and sweets, “kindly given by one of our Cinderella friends”33.

  • 34 The Edinburgh Cinderella club was one of these. The Clarion, 18th December 1897.
  • 35 The Clarion, 22nd April 1904.

22Cinderella entertainments were not something the militants took lightly. For some militants it was important to let the children amuse themselves and not to impose adult control over their choice of entertainment34. For others, it was about showtime and sharing public spectacles. In Glasgow the Theatre Royal Cinderella Fund gave a special treat to the children from the north of the city in March 1903 with stage employees collecting the funds to defray expenses. One person sent a cinematograph to show pictures and another sent a large phonograph. A Punch and Judy show was also put on and “thoroughly appreciated”. The following year the same employees funded a treat for 350 children in the Alexandra Rooms, Cowcaddens, where the hungry weans were fed and entertained in similar style to the previous year35. In 1905 they went on to give a treat to 500 local children,

  • 36 The Clarion, 31st March 1905.

“who must have had a good time, for they were entertained by celebrities from the Princess and Lyceum theatres, including the Brothers Griffiths, and assisted by the Theatre Royal Orchestra”36.

  • 37 Cf. The Clarion, 8th January 1904.

23As well as these weekly activities, special efforts were made on big occasions such as Christmas and New Year. Falkirk, Aberdeen and Glasgow were some of the towns which organized special treats over the festive season. Meals were obviously provided (with plum pudding of course) but the children were also given a toy from the Christmas tree along with the statutory orange. Aberdeen even managed a trip to the pantomime to see Sinbad the sailor and “through the kindness of the manager”, got them into the front seats of the gallery at half-price37.

  • 38 “Edinburgh Cinderella Club”, The Clarion, 12th January 1901.
  • 39 The Clarion, 24th June 1904.

24Summer brought with it outings, sometimes day trips to the seaside or to the Zoo, and occasionally in the form of camping (copied perhaps from William Smith and his Boys’ Brigade camps dotted all over the Scottish countryside and coasts at this time). Since 1897, the Edinburgh Cinderella Club initiated an annual camp for boys although in the words of their secretary they did “hope that through time we may be able to extend its benefits to girls38”. After an experiment in 1901 with fifteen girls joining the camp, the Edinburgh club announced that in 1902, 116 children, boys and girls, spent a fortnight each on Cramond Island in the Firth of Forth39. The camp itself lasted 6 weeks each summer with the helpers changing every two weeks. The accent was on feeding the children with what they called well-chosen and well-cooked food as well as offering activities such as bathing, cricket and football.

25These initiatives quickly inspired others in various parts of Scotland. In the early 1900s for example the Dundee Cinderella Holiday Home, 8 miles from the town, catered for hundreds of little ones who would otherwise not have left their own doorstep in the summer months. In the words of the secretary of the club,

  • 40 The Clarion, 10th July 1908.

“These poor, underfed little town dwellers have such a stunted imagination and power of observation that they need to be “taught” to enjoy the country. They herd together, near the house instead of seeking adventures over fields and hedges...”40.

  • 41 The Clarion, 9th August 1907. The idea remains however that boys and girls don’t mix-the children (...)

26The Home was financed by subscriptions but thanks to Visitors Day held on a Sunday in August, many local business people lent a hand. One Clarionette from a hardware shop gave the Matron of the Home “carte blanche” in the crockery section, another supporter of the scheme, a gardener, offered his services to put the place in order, the villagers gave gifts of boots and stockings “for the more needy of the bairns”, the farmer’s wife delivered milk and eggs and the local butcher/greengrocer provided vegetables and the “occasional bone for soup” free of charge41.

  • 42 “Partick Carolyn Martyn Cinderella Club”, The Clarion, 18th March 1897.
  • 43 The Clarion, 25th February 1910.

27On a more mundane but equally effective note, many Cinderella Clubs likewise realised the importance of improving the clothing condition of the weans. From 1897 on the Glasgow groups were very active in the “second-hand” clothes trade, distributing frocks and petticoats to the girls, trousers to the boys as well as boots and shoes when available42. The popularity of these “hand-medowns” can be measured from the fact that appeals for donations from the Glasgow movement continued up until at least 191043.

  • 44 Elliot Morrison, Donald Morrison, Changing Britain 1850-1979. Fenwick, Pulse Publications, 1991, p (...)

28Despite the fact that these practices were widespread and a visible feature in most major towns and cities of Scotland, they were not universal and in a sense also served to expose the depth of the problem rather than the solutions to it. As a result of the militant campaigning by Cinderella Clubs and other charitable groups, public pressure gradually forced the authorities into action with the setting up of a series of inquiries and commissions into the various aspects of the problem. In 1903 the Royal Commission on Physical Training in Scotland recommended the introduction of a physical education scheme, as well as the medical inspection of school children, but above all they emphasized the importance of an adequate diet for physical and mental development. These reports however brought no solutions to the question and merely served to underline how particularly badly Scottish towns did in relation to their English counterparts. Edinburgh’s children were, for instance, significantly underweight and smaller than the national average. Boys aged between twelve and fifteen, for instance, weighed 64 pounds in Aberdeen while their counterparts in the Scottish capital weighed a mere 59.5 pounds, with the British average being 66.6 lbs44.

  • 45 Ibid. Inquiry into the Physique of Glasgow School Children.
  • 46 W. Hamish Fraser and Irene Maver (eds.), Glasgow, Volume II, 1830-1912. Manchester, Manchester Uni (...)
  • 47 Ibid.

29Other inquiries soon followed such as one conducted under the auspices of the Sanitary Institute45 in 1904. This study confirmed the earlier findings and showed that Glaswegian children were even more underweight than those in the capital city46. A fourteen-year-old boy living in a good West End house was a massive 4.1 inches taller than a boy of the same age from a poor single-end47 in the East. Worse was still to come as a subsequent study carried out one year later in a poor district of Dundee showed that the children there were more underweight and smaller again than the national average. As one observer put it,

  • 48 Quoted in T. Ferguson, Scottish Social Welfare, 1864-1914, Edinburgh, E. & S. Livingstone, 1958, p (...)

“It may be fairly affirmed, after a dispassionate consideration of the facts disclosed by the Medical Reports, that there are in the Dundee schools a large number of children who should be under medical supervision, and whose future in life is imperilled for want of it; that many children, either from disease or lack of personal cleanliness, are a source of danger and serious discomfort to their companions; and that many derive little benefit from school attendance, because they cannot apply their minds to lessons while their stomachs are empty”48.

30By this date the pressure mounting on the government to come up with a solution to the problem was becoming unbearable, particularly after the publication of the Report of the Interdepartmental Committee on Physical Deterioration in the same year. This influential committee took the bold step of recommending that,

  • 49 Report of the Interdepartmental Committee on Medical Inspection and Feeding of Children attending (...)

“definite provision should be made by the various Local Authorities for dealing with the question of underfed children”49.

31Caught between the public uproar at the deteriorated state of the nation’s health and the constant accusation of implementing socialism by the back door, the Liberal government was finally galvanised into action and introduced an Education Bill for the Provision of Meals in 1906. In so doing it unwittingly highlighted one of the key fracture lines lying deep within British society and opened up the unspoken debate which underpinned the whole question of the responsibility of the State towards its children.

32Opposition to the very idea of State-funded meals came furiously and from various sources, some of them surprising bedfellows. Among these, perhaps the most significant was that of Sir Henry Craik, secretary of the Scottish Education Board who prophesied that feeding the children in this ways would damage,

  • 50 Parliamentary Debates, 4th series, vol. 186 col. 1601. J. Stewart, op. cit, p. 86.

“the home-life of Scotland and the moral character of Scotsmen, of which they were so proud”50.

  • 51 J. Stewart. op. cit, p. 78.
  • 52 W. Haddow, op. cit., p. 129. See also W. M. Haddow, The Feeding of School Children. Glasgow School (...)

33Craik was, in fact, a strong supporter of the Charity Organisation Society who was implacably hostile to State feeding, which it deemed contrary to the ‘natural laws51. Opponents also had the support of the Churches which organised a School Board Conference in Glasgow. Here too we find the same arguments about the dangers of this “socialistic” legislation and its consequences: the “breaking up the homes”, the “pauperising the children”, and the belief that it was totally unnecessary since “charity could do all that was necessary”. Although this opposition was more muted than elsewhere it did contain an interesting addendum that, should the measure become law, “Roman Catholic Children must be excluded”52.

  • 53 J. Stewart, op. cit., p. 77. In Glasgow for the period of 1905-1906, 2,800 children were being fed (...)

34Supporters of the scheme equally formed a strange coalition only really united by the determination to see the measure passed. On the left, militants such as those from the Socialist Labour Party campaigned vigorously for provision of meals at school, appealing to the electors of Glasgow to force the State to look after “the helpless children of the poor”53. For Labour M. P. George Barnes, children needed to be in “a proper condition” to be educated. Only now were people waking up to the harsh realities of the times, as,

  • 54 David Northcroft, Scots at School: an Anthology, Edinburgh, Edinburgh University Press, 2003, p. 1 (...)

“the nation... discovered that it could not expect to breed an Imperial race from undernourished children subsisting in slums”54.

  • 55 G. R. Searle, The Quest for National Efficiency: A study in British Politics and Political Thougit (...)

35Strangely enough these sentiments found an echo in a most unexpected quarter among social imperialists such as Lord Rosebery, leading spokesman of the “national efficiency” cause55. Rosebury’s position was voluntarily a-political,

  • 56 Brink Lindsey, The Decline and Fall of the First Global Economy, Washington D. C., Cato Institute, (...)

“An Empire such as ours requires as its first condition an imperial race-a race vigorous and industrious and intrepid.... (but) in the rookeries and slums which still survive, an imperial race cannot be reared”56

36In speech after speech he hammered home the message that,

  • 57 Educational News, 25th February 1910, p. 198.

“The falling birth-rate demands our care of every little child born to the State”57

37Behind those arguments over racial degeneration there were other powerful factors brought to the attention of the public. The Scottish Review and Christian Leader in March 1906 highlighted the advantages of the government’s project,

  • 58 J. Stewart, op. cit., p. 83.

“The ‘chronically underfed children’ .. should be fed at school... not because it is the necessary duty of the State to feed (them) but because the educational machinery which is set up and maintained at great public cost works wastefully in the case of a scholar who is physically incapable of benefiting by it”58,

  • 59 Ibid, p. 83.

38To adopt this measure was therefore sound judgement and would ensure that the children, “the seed-plot of the race”, would become a ‘national asset’59.

  • 60 Gateshead Council levied a half-penny rate for school meals as early as 1900. F. B. Smith, op. cit (...)

39As we know, the outcome of this struggle fell in favour of the reformers and the Liberal government passed the Education (Provision of Meals) Act in 1906 which enabled municipal corporations in England and Wales to officially subsidise school meals from the rates60. Yet such was the strength of opposition from “respectable society” in Scotland that it took a further two years for a Provision for the Supply of Meals (Education (Scotland)) Act to become law there. Even at this late stage, the wording of the new law made it very clear that this was not a “socialistic” measure” and was exclusively,

  • 61 Education (Scotland) Reports etc., issued in 1914-14. London, H. M. S. O., 1915, p. 15. See p. 58 (...)

“for the purpose of making arrangements for the supply of meals to children attending schools..., expenditure may be incurred by School Boards on the provision of equipment and service but the cost of the food prepared and served must be paid for by the children or from other private sources, except in the case of... necessitous children”61.

  • 62 In England by 1908 only 39 local education authorities had asked for (and obtained) permission to (...)

40Resistance to the measure however continued unabated on all fronts after the passage of the Act As in England many local education authorities were reluctant to seek permission to implement the clauses of the Act and it took six more years before meals were provided for those same needy children during holiday times as well62.

  • 63 For information on their decline and closing of die ‘Tables’, see Poor Childrens Dinner Table Soc (...)
  • 64 Started in the winter of 1884-85. Dundee School Board, Report on the Feeding of School children, 1 (...)
  • 65 M. E. Bulkley, The Feeding of School Children, London, G. Bell & Sons, 1914, p. 247. Report of Chi (...)
  • 66 Ibid., p. 237-248. Report of the Chief Inspector for the Southern Division for 1911, p. 27-28.

41Voluntary societies continued likewise to control the system for they provided the bulk of the food for the school meals. In Glasgow the Poor Children's Dinner Table Society supplied meals up until 191163, when their voluntary contributions became inadequate and the School Board had to take over, building a central cooking centre at the same time. Dundee’s “Free and Assisted Dinner Fund”64 continued to provide soup for children, either at school or in coffee houses, free for one third of the city’s children and at the cost of a penny a week for the rest. A large majority of the children in Paisley paid for the soup and bread provided, with the School Board paying the expenses of administration. Further north, in Inverness, the children were served in local “eating-houses”, financed by yet another voluntary organisation. Even in the rural areas of Aberdeen-shire and Inverness-shire, most country schools gave the children a cup of cocoa or a bowl of soup, while in 1906 in Kincardine-shire the soup kitchen was looked on as a “universal institution”65. However, in the Borders schools and in Fife-shire, there was an attitude of “stolid apathy” among the Boards and very few arrangements were made to provide any services to feed the children66.

42It is quite understandable therefore that Lizzie MacDonald, a Clarion columnist and Socialist militant, should breathe a sigh of relief at these changes and claim that, at last,

  • 67 The Clarion, 28th September 1901.

“One is continually hearing that this is the Children’s Age, The little child is leading and the best thought and care of the country are being devoted to his service.... The cry of the children has been heard”67.

  • 68 Cf. The Lancet, 24th January 1914.
  • 69 The Scotsman, 12th November 2003.

43Yet, sadly with the benefit of hind-sight, her optimism seems hard to justify. As early as 1914 the inadequacies of the system to deal with the magnitude of the problem were being highlighted by the medical profession68. Even sadder still, almost one hundred years after this “memorable” breakthrough one in three children in Scotland is still living below the poverty line69. The Barnardo’s Scotland report, Poverty Wrecks Futures, published in November 2003, confirmed what child welfare reformers had been claiming a century earlier, that,

  • 70 Ibid.

“Poverty is the single biggest threat to a child’s future. It is essential that poverty is tackled now if we are to affect future outcomes for children”70.

  • 71 For further information on education in Scotland today, see the website www.scotland.gov.uk/stats.

44Of the 406,919 pupils in state primary education in Scotland in 2004, 20.2% (83,580) are entitled to free meals and the highest percentage of these are still to be found in Glasgow71. Disturbing statistics for the beginning of the twenty-first century and a clear sign that “the cry of the children” has not yet been heard.

Notes

1 For one well-known advocate of child protection, this Act marked the beginning of parliamentary responsibility for children as children and human beings. R. Waugh, The Life of Benjamin Waugh. London, 1913, p. 306.

2 R. Findlay, "The Geography of play: children’s street games in Victorian and Edwardian Scotland". Le Loisir en Ecosse. Publications de l’Université de Saint-Etienne, 2004, p. 157-165.

3 James Russell, Glasgow’s first lull-time Medical Officer of Health and an ardent champion of sanitary reform in the poorer districts of the town, recounts in his memoirs how even some of his learned friends questioned the wisdom of trying to carry out his official duties as being “somehow... opposed to the laws of the universe”. Edna Robertson, Glasgow's Doctor. James Burn Russell, 1837-1904. East Linton, Tuckwell Press, 1998, p. 49.

4 Cf. for instance, Sir Arthur Clay, "The Feeding of School Children", in J. St L. Strachey, The Manufacture of Paupers. 1906, p. 15.

5 Brian Simon, Education and the Labour Movement 1870-1920. London, Lawrence and Wishart, 1974, p. 115.

6 The society continued its activities until 1910. James L. Morrison, The Implementation of Compulsory Education in Scotland from 1883 to 1914, Glasgow University, Ed. B., Thesis, 1966, p. 99.

7 William Haddow, My Seventy Years. Glasgow, Robert Gibson and Son, 1943.

8 James E. Handley, The Irish in Modern Scotland. Cork, Cork University Press, 1938, p. 227.

9 Tom Gallagher, "A Tale of Two Cities: Communal Strife in Glasgow and Liverpool before 1914", p. 108 in Roger Swift and Sheridan Gilley (eds.), The Irish in the Victorian City. London, Croom Helm, 1985,312 p.

10 R. D. Anderson, Education and the Scottish People 1750-1918. Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1995, p. 200. See also Tom Campbell and Pat Woods, The Glory and the Dream; The History of Celtic F. C. 1887-1987, London, Grafton, 1986, p. 15.

11 Miss Stevenson was a well-known educationalist and philanthropist in the city and became the first Chairman of the Edinburgh School Board. She was the only female member of the Scottish Office. Departmental Committee set up to investigate the problem of “Habitual Offenders, Vagrants, Beggars, Inebriates and Juvenile Delinquents (Scotland)” (1895).

12 John Stewart, “‘This injurious measure’: Scotland and the 1906 Education (Provision of Meals) Act”, Scottish Historical Review, vol. 78, n ° 1, April 1999, p. 78.

13 J. Stewart, op. cit., p. 80.

14 The Forfar scheme was run by Sir Henry Peek and Dr. James Campbell and probably based on a experimental project run by in Belgium which had been given coverage in the Lancet Cf. F. Β. Smith, The Peoples Health, 1830-1910. London, George Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1990, p. 179,193.

15 Third Statistical Account of Scotland, Aberdeenshire, Pitsligo, p. 341.

16 William Barclay, The Schools and Schoolmasters of Banffshire, Educational Institute of Scotland, 1925, p. 158.

17 Letter from the M. P. for the Scotch Universities, James A. Campbell, to Sir Henry Peek, M. P. 1st September 1883, p. 13-16, ANON, Can a sufficient Mid-day Meal be given to poor School Children at a Cost for Material of less than one Penny? London, Causton & Sons, 1883,16 p.

18 Ibid, p. 81

19 This Trust began in 1892 and is still in existence today. For further information, contact Mr. A. Sprott, Force Custodier, Lothian and Borders Police, Fettes Avenue, Edinburgh EH4 1RB.

20 Ernest Barker (ed.), The Character of England, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1947 p. 223.

21 Preference was given to the poorest and most delicate children selected by Schoolmasters, School Board officials or Clergy of different churches. GD/909/1- The Children's Holiday Fund. National Archives of Scotland.

22 B. S. Boyd, Hon. Sec. And Treasurer for the Fund-GDI/909/1. National Archives of Scotland. The North British Railway Company took these children at a reduced fare.

23 There were many social observers at large in this period each in their own way transposing descriptions of “Darkest Africa” to the British mainland. Many of the great documents of the time, such as Booth’s In Darkest England and the Way Out, George Sims and Fred Barnard’s articles for the Pictorial World and Jack London’s People of the Abyss had a profound impact on Scotland.

24 E. Barker (ed), op. cit., p. 223. This group, founded by Cyril Arthur Pearson in 1892 is still in existence today as Pearson's Holiday Fund, although the newspaper has long since disappeared.

25 Fifty Years for the Children A Record of which to be Proud. Pearson’s Fresh Air Fund 1892-1941.9 p. Bradford Cinderella Club Archives, Bradford.

26 14th Annual Report of the Edinburgh Children’s Holiday Fund Report, 1900, p. 4. National Archives Edinburgh, GD1/909/1.

27 16th Annual Report of the Edinburgh Children’s Holiday Fund, 1902, p. 5. National Archives Edinburgh, GD 1/909/1.

28 Labour Prophet, June 1893, p. 53-54. At other times his image of “Cinderella” stressed other tender traits such as a little baby-girl nursing a doll made up of a clothes-peg and a duster.

29 W. Stewart, “Helping the slum children”, The Clarion, 16th February 1906, p. 6.

30 David Prynn, “The Clarion Clubs, Rambling and the Holiday Associations in Britain since the 1890s”, Journal of Contemporary History, II, 1976, p. 67.

31 The Clarion, 22nd April 1904 and 31st March 1905.

32 The Clarion, 22nd April 1904.

33 The Clarion, 16th March 1906.

34 The Edinburgh Cinderella club was one of these. The Clarion, 18th December 1897.

35 The Clarion, 22nd April 1904.

36 The Clarion, 31st March 1905.

37 Cf. The Clarion, 8th January 1904.

38 “Edinburgh Cinderella Club”, The Clarion, 12th January 1901.

39 The Clarion, 24th June 1904.

40 The Clarion, 10th July 1908.

41 The Clarion, 9th August 1907. The idea remains however that boys and girls don’t mix-the children were sent to the Home on alternate weeks, with preference being given to the children of the unemployed.

42 “Partick Carolyn Martyn Cinderella Club”, The Clarion, 18th March 1897.

43 The Clarion, 25th February 1910.

44 Elliot Morrison, Donald Morrison, Changing Britain 1850-1979. Fenwick, Pulse Publications, 1991, p. 76.

45 Ibid. Inquiry into the Physique of Glasgow School Children.

46 W. Hamish Fraser and Irene Maver (eds.), Glasgow, Volume II, 1830-1912. Manchester, Manchester University Press, 1996, p. 361.

47 Ibid.

48 Quoted in T. Ferguson, Scottish Social Welfare, 1864-1914, Edinburgh, E. & S. Livingstone, 1958, p. 565.

49 Report of the Interdepartmental Committee on Medical Inspection and Feeding of Children attending Public Elementary Schools, BPP 1906 XLVII (Cd 2779), Appendix VI.

50 Parliamentary Debates, 4th series, vol. 186 col. 1601. J. Stewart, op. cit, p. 86.

51 J. Stewart. op. cit, p. 78.

52 W. Haddow, op. cit., p. 129. See also W. M. Haddow, The Feeding of School Children. Glasgow School Board, 1914.

53 J. Stewart, op. cit., p. 77. In Glasgow for the period of 1905-1906, 2,800 children were being fed daily in 15 halls, outwith the schools, by various agencies. Frederick Le Gros Clarke, A Social History of the School Meals Service (England and Wales) from its origins to 1945. M. A. p. 4.

54 David Northcroft, Scots at School: an Anthology, Edinburgh, Edinburgh University Press, 2003, p. 120. See also R. Pope, A. Pratt, B. Hoyle (eds), Social Welfare in Britain 1885-1985, London, Croom Helm, 1986, p. 91.

55 G. R. Searle, The Quest for National Efficiency: A study in British Politics and Political Thougit, 1899-1914. Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1971, 286 p.

56 Brink Lindsey, The Decline and Fall of the First Global Economy, Washington D. C., Cato Institute, December 2001.

57 Educational News, 25th February 1910, p. 198.

58 J. Stewart, op. cit., p. 83.

59 Ibid, p. 83.

60 Gateshead Council levied a half-penny rate for school meals as early as 1900. F. B. Smith, op. cit., p. 180. More pressure came from Bradford Council, who had placed school meals at the head of their municipal programme in 1902. B. Simon, op cit p. 279.

61 Education (Scotland) Reports etc., issued in 1914-14. London, H. M. S. O., 1915, p. 15. See p. 58 Appendix VI, for the Expenditure by School Boards on the medical inspection and treatment and on the feeding of school children etc. for more information. See also John W. Gulland, M P., Save the Bairns! How to work the new laws for Scottish Children. Edinburgh, British Women’s Temperance Association, 1909, 8 p.

62 In England by 1908 only 39 local education authorities had asked for (and obtained) permission to implement the Act.

63 For information on their decline and closing of die ‘Tables’, see Poor Childrens Dinner Table Society archives, Glasgow City Archives, file TD 162/87.

64 Started in the winter of 1884-85. Dundee School Board, Report on the Feeding of School children, 1913, p. 11.

65 M. E. Bulkley, The Feeding of School Children, London, G. Bell & Sons, 1914, p. 247. Report of Chief Inspector for Northern Divison for 1906.

66 Ibid., p. 237-248. Report of the Chief Inspector for the Southern Division for 1911, p. 27-28.

67 The Clarion, 28th September 1901.

68 Cf. The Lancet, 24th January 1914.

69 The Scotsman, 12th November 2003.

70 Ibid.

71 For further information on education in Scotland today, see the website www.scotland.gov.uk/stats.

Auteur

GRAAT-EA2113 Université François-Rabelais de Tours

Maître de Conférences à l’Université de Tours, où elle enseigne la civilisation britannique. Ses recherches portent sur le statut de l’enfant en Grande-Bretagne depuis 1800 à nos jours et sur l’histoire sociale de l’époque victorienne en générale.

© Presses universitaires François-Rabelais, 2005

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