"My father never completed his formal education and left school at the age of twelve to enter work. He never prized the benefits of school learning; my mother became the advocate in that department of my development. Instead, my father preferred to gather his worldly knowledge from his daily experiences and believed that these would serve him better than any book learning or educational theory ever could!
He was a man of few words and firm action and once his mind was made up, he would never change it! His favourite sayings were ones I did not always agree with and usually came from the mouth of his favourite film star, John Wayne, such as: 'The first is first and the second is nobody' and 'A man's got to do what a man's got to do.' There was one one saying he often repeated however, that stayed with me throughout my life and which I wholeheartedly endorse. It is about the importance of a worker's tools and it has been said to me by so many industrious and conscientious men and women I have known in my life, 'A good workman never blames his tools.' I can still recall my father's explanation as to why this saying held truth, 'Because Billy, a good worker will always look after them properly!'
I can remember as a child that after digging his garden, my Irish grandfather would never go back inside the house until he had scraped the muck off his spade, washed it down and cleaned it. Likewise, after cutting the lawn, my father would always clean the cutting blades of the mower, oil the machine joints and leave the mower in the pristine state in which he'd found it. As a child, I can still recall every mum and grandma I've ever known to tell us, 'Leave the place as clean as you would wish to find it.' Indeed, I have known my sisters Mary and Eileen, both of whom take care of their homes better than they brook argument from their husbands, have a holiday in a rented cottage or caravan and refuse to go on the morning of their departure without leaving the place far cleaner than it ever was upon arrival!
I can only think that such attention to one's work tools originates from the times when a worker needed to buy their own tools in order to be taken on by an employer. There was also the old saying that lived throughout the Victorian Age right up until the Second World War years, 'Cleanliness is next to Godliness.' Such a saying was responsible for women's obsession with home hygiene. Was it this cleaning obsession that led to housewives washing down their door step and whitening it during the Second World War years, to leave a good impression in the event of having visitors to their home? Or perhaps sweeping down the public path immediately in front of one's house and scrubbing clothes so vigorously on the wash-board that the garments would not be considered done until she'd also rubbed the skin off her hands? I remember my mother washing the lino of our kitchen floor every day. She would scrub it so much that it would often shrink in size, but it would be left clean enough to eat from!
Is it little wonder that many of our young today cannot look after their toys for more than two minutes, when they know that mum and dad will replace them as quickly as they break or discard them? We should learn from childhood years, as our parents and grandparents were taught, 'If we look after the pennies, the pounds will take care of themselves.' They knew that from all things small, big things grow, and that if we respect our tools, we shall respect both the person and property of others along with their opinions and beliefs; we shall also respect ourselves!
Learning for life is not a thing which happens to be picked up along the way; it starts in the cradle and ends at the grave. I believe that the discipline of climbing a ladder safely is best done when it begins with the first step. I also believe that the child who does not look after their toys will not look after their work tools and will be most unlikely to look after their own affairs as they travel through life or look after their own mum and dad in their old age." William Forde: March 10th, 2016.