"I have never been nor will I ever become an advocate for child labour. However, neither will I do anything that increases the likelihood of child indulgence and promotes adult idleness or State dependency.
I was reading recently about the current levels of pocket money that children receive weekly in return for little more than promising to behave like civilised human beings. All they need do to get their weekly spend is refrain from kicking their parents for serving them greens to eat or hitting their sister with a brick between the eyes for having used the bathroom first.
It would seem like austerity has had very little part to play in their ongoing payouts since the 1980s as the pocket money of an 8-year-old has risen twice as fast as their parents' wages and now stands at £6.35 pw. How much different it was in my day!
For a start, anyone who got pocket money had to earn every penny of it and were paid at a rate that encouraged industriousness instead of diminishing it! Although the Welfare State had just come into existence, pride led one not to use it unless emergency situations demanded and starvation beckoned.
I recall that at the age of seven (1949/50), I daily walked half a mile from my house on Windybank Estate to Harry Hodgsons the family grocer. I would add that not only did I perform this task in return for no tip from mum except a 'thank you,' but I also needed the skills of a magician to persuade Harry to give us this week's groceries out of father's next week's wages. Try to get today's kids to enter a shop with no money and leave with a week's groceries in hand that weren't stolen if you can! It would be easier to persuade a politician to tell the truth!
Being the oldest of seven children with only dad bringing in a weekly wage, by the age of 11 years I delivered papers before going to school during a weekday, had a firewood round every thursday evening and worked in a grocer's shop all Saturday morning. Naturally, any money earned from these additional jobs went into the housekeeping pot. I even remember potato picking in the summer holidays along with haymaking alongside my father in a farm off Green Lane. The season of annual tasks would be rounded off going carol singing nightly during the two weeks before Christmas Eve so that my mother had additional money to buy a few extras for the family at Christmas time.
I mention these facts not because they applied uniquely to me, as they surely didn't. They applied to all children brought up in the 1950s and 60s. The specific tasks that children performed may have varied from house to house, but the underlying principle remained the same; we all mucked in to help the family and not to add to our piggy bank! This was a way of life we grew accustomed to and it was a much better way than the mollycoddling many youngsters receive today. I don't say bringing back the birch would help to make children more upright today, but bringing back National Service might!
I do believe that reintroducing children to the concepts of family responsibility and community respect would be a good start in building stronger foundations for a more civilised society. The young today may be quick to mock the importance of behaving politely and having 'good table manners' for instance in the building of one's character, but to do so would be foolish in their early dismissal of such social etiquette.
If you don't believe me, find me a child in modern times that never takes the first piece of cake from the dinner plate or isn't prepared to eat the last sandwich and I'll give sway to the counter argument of modernism, but until then, pass the plate round and provide guests with the first pick!" William Forde: June 9th, 2015.