Version classiqueVersion mobile

Scotland and the Scots, 1707-2007

Christian Auer

XVII. Economic and social conditions

120. The Means Test, 1930

Texte intégral

1The Complete Odyssey: Voices from Scotland’s Recent Past is a collection of oral stories in which people present their own version of their past. In the introduction to the collection the editor underlines the fact that only oral history can give an idea of what simple people’s lives are about: “stories of work, unemployment, hardship and leisure which illustrate vigorously the changing lifestyle of the masses and contrasts strongly with the Chronicle of Kings and Great Men’s version of the past found in the history book.” (introduction, p. 3)

2In this extract Sarah Craig is talking about the controversial Means Test: before a worker could qualify for benefit, his family’s income and savings were subjected to a rigorous investigation.

3Sarah Craig in Billy Kay (ed.), The Complete Odyssey: Voices from Scotland’s Recent Past, Edinburgh: Polygon, 1996, p. 43-44.

Sarah Craig:

  • 11 The entry to a tenement house, the open passage-way giving access to the common stairs and the flo (...)

“During the winter month, if you didn’t have anything and applied what they would term as social security now, but it was the bread line, you might as well say. There was this Mr Allan that was here in the town. He run this lookin’ after the poor, and if he came in and he looked round their house—‘Can ye no’ sell this, can ye no’ sell that?—necessities. But eh, of course you would say I need that. They would even liftthe lid of where you kept your coal—an’ if you had one bit o’ coal, you never got any coal. But they gave you a line, it would be for two pound o’ jam, a loaf o’ bread, a half-bag o’ coal, it would come tae about a pound. You were well off getting’ that. Then the Means Test came in. That was in 1930 and I’ll never forget it, they begun tae gather together people in crowds, and Albert Square wis the place that all the meetings was held. Ed Scrymgeour, he was an MP for Dundee and eh, all the Communist men, they come from Glasgow to hold their meetings there. Well, they organised that they would have a big meeting and they would march the streets against the Means Test. Well, they marched from Albert Square. My man went up on the platform and he spoke and he told them, ‘No vandalism, no breaking windows or things like that’, and advised the people, what they had to do. Well, they walked from Albert Square in Dundee to a park in Lochee here, which was at that time called Maloney’s Park. And had a great big torchlight procession—it was in the winter months—and they did big meetings there and they walked back tae Albert Square again. They were goin’ tae walk again and the people all gathered, when the doors in the Commerce Chambers opened—an’ the policemen came on horseback and they were hittin’ folk wi’ their batons. They were hittin’ the folk wi’ their batons and chasin’ them and breakin’ up the crowds. And I remember, getting’ my girl and getting’ her outside the library door, and how I got out o’ there I’ll never know to this day, but the way I had to get home was going intae one close11, as we termed it, into another, till I got up to Anne Street. What a feeling wi’ seeing the policemen. And at that time it wasna like the lads that they have now, they were great big men frae the country. It was terrible. Well, the following day, we were sittin’ in and I was pleading wi’ him not to go out in case—and the knock came to the door, and it was the head man o’ the detectives, the police force, And he says, ‘It’ s me Peter, open the door. I want to talk to you.’ Robinson was his name. And my man says, ‘What have ye come up for?’ ‘Now look Pete,’ he says, ‘you gave them sound advice, which they didn’t take.’ My man said, ‘You’ re a liar, it was your men that started it!’ After they’d done that to the people then they started breaking windows, Birrell’s the Shoemakers in the Overgate. They gave them cause for it. But he says, ‘We’ve nothin’ against you. But the boys that we have inside–they’re for it.’ But times went on, but then when I got married and all the upheaval o’ the Means Test and one thing and another, it just threw me back to when I was young and I faced up to it. I had a good man and he stood by me and him and I came through a lot, but we made it.”


11 The entry to a tenement house, the open passage-way giving access to the common stairs and the floors above.

© Presses universitaires de Strasbourg, 2013

Conditions d’utilisation :

Rechercher dans OpenEdition Search

Vous allez être redirigé vers OpenEdition Search