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more of his attention than the painting ; but even this had to yield second place to his scientific work, for his chief occupation at this very time was as chief military engineer in that gigantic undertaking by which he irrigated and canalized all the Lombard plain, and connected Milan with the chief rivers and great lakes. I may not say more here lest I draw away attention from the Last Supper. This much, however: He is perhaps the only man in the history of the race who combined two things usually held to be incompatible—the highest instinct for art, and a rare acumen for science. This latter, with the Editor's permission, I hope to discuss in a future article.
P. A. BEECHER.
'THE POOR AT HOME'I
By REV. T. J. NUNAN
The instinct of the poor is to be let alone—beggars are not included, who, having nothing, yet have everythingand he who knows the poor by constant personal contact is, by a cognate instinct, slow to make public anything of their condition, for he feels that he is about to disclose something given him in confidence, and given by those for whom his esteem is not less than his sympathy. This barrier of secrecy is not the smallest of the difficulties which face the student of the problem.
The poor are to the stranger an enigma, to the intimate a trust. They tell not their story to every man. Let a well-dressed stranger appear in a lane, he is regarded as a public demonstration ; faces appear at the doors, and children run out to enjoy the event. He will have his kind word for the elders, and his pat and his penny for the little ones; every question of his will be readily answered, but his note-book will hold no record of the depth of humour concealed in their souls. The result is a mass of unreal information, pure fiction, written up and popularly believed, a constant stumbling-block to the work of public charities.
For best results, the student must aim at intimacy; he must bring to his work a true fitness of temperament, and must endure a long period of preparation, long enough to make his name a household word in every lane and alley where the poor exist; he must possess a constant and untiring energy, operating daily, year in year out, under conditions sometimes disagreeable, but abounding in compensations, and he must be prepared for many disappointments and pitfalls.
The life of the district priest is spent among the poor ; he has the time, for it is his work; he has the entrée, for it is his profession. Thus qualified, it is easy for him to
1 A Study in the South Parish, Cork.
compile particulars, such as are found in the following pages, of facts and conditions and observations, taken from life, which may be a help to the understanding of the problem by those who are interested in the subject, but have neither leisure nor opportunity.
Regular Employment.-Although we are not machines, there is a good deal of the machine in us, and happily so. Many years ago, I remember having heard from senior priests of long experience, that you could enter a school and pick out the children of regular labouring parents, guided unerringly by their clean clothes and plump faces. I frequently proved it for myself, and confirmed the truth by finding in their homes the full complement of comfort and plenty round a cheering hearth. The weekly money ranged from 14s. to 188., and it came in every week and paid for everything, including simple luxuries--a pipe, occasional refreshment, occasional hospitality. The dispensary doctor and benefit society tided them over sickness; insurance money went to relieve the troubles of death; there was never an undue strain on the slender wage, and it came in every Saturday with the precision of a machine. The fathers were carriers, porters, and store-labourers in our hundred departments of business and trade; they had the confidence of their employers, and there was no grumbling. (There were exceptions, of course, not frequent, which never prove anything, but which provided some of those faces frequently seen round our churches and presbyteries.) The life-spring of the machine was the regular weekly wage, and as long as the standard was kept up, the largest class in the community was provided for, and happy. If I were back again in 1900, I should not mention this class; they were not the poor, and only a dreamer would include them as such.
How do they fare to-day ? Let us make a simple calculation. From 168. in 1900 the average wage went up to 198. in 1914. As few, if any, paid more than 2s. 6d. ient, and this figure still remains unchanged, subtract it from 19s. and 16s. 6d. remain, to meet every other expense.
. The 1919 equivalent of this 16s. 6d. is 42s. 6d., to which add the 2s. 6d. for rent, and the sum 458. represents the weekly living-wage of unskilled labour in June, 1919, corresponding as closely as possible with the 198. of 1914, and with the old wage, 168., which proved so satisfactory in 1900. These are simple figures, not statistics, and no one can say they are exaggerations.
How many of that large and deserving class of regular labourer receive 458. a a week now ? Not small percentage were recruited for the army, and many are treated justly by employers; but unfortunately, a considerable number of below-minimums remain with us. We will count them presently. These sub-minimums, are they poor now ? Ah, yes.
Ah, yes. But we hear nothing about them? There is the barrier of secrecy. What do the schools tell us ? Not much, thank God. The free lunch is small, but what a vital part it helps to play. There is heroism somewhere. Come and see them at home. There is the
cleanliness and neatness, the brushed floor, the dusted dresser ; but the kitchen-living-room looks bare, the hearth is cold, made colder by the square inch of living coal among the ashes. If it is washing day, you will see the strained arms of the mother drenching the threadbare garments in the tub, while she does her best to welcome you with her weary eyes and thin echoy voice. If it is meal-time, the father is there; how familiar is that pale, wistful face, dumbly speaking a reminder of days that have been, looking at the table, glancing at his wife, then turning full round to you, his eloquent eyes seeming to whisper all the time : ‘Father ... you understand.'
The fact is, these parents of sub-minimum wage, who never before knew what poverty was, are now able to rise to the occasion, and deny themselves heroically for the children; not yet driven to the public-house-which poverty ever feeds—but a class of heroes in distressing want through no fault of their own, while they work in the midst of plenty. A sorry state of society.
The labourer has a right to the living-wage. When he receives less, he has a right to the remainder; therefore, if charity gives him anything-cheap milk,
free lunch, free coal, etc.-he accepts it as his right. The money that should be his is in the pocket of his employer, who, in his turn, contributes largely to local charities. Would it not be better for such employer to give the necessaries of life, the living-wage, to the men who do men's work for him, and so permit a reduced charity bill to assist the only proper objects of charity, those who are incapacitated from earning a living wage ? By so doing, he would fulfil both justice and charity ; at present he fulfils neither. (The shareholder who does not protest must share responsibility.) And, financially, this is easily possible, without
straining his big reserves ; economically, if he does not wish to touch the actual wage-figure, fearing after-war depression, let him give the extra shillings as a 'weekly peace-bonus' or 'present from Cork,' or whatever else he may wish to call it; the labourer won't quarrel with the name. Many of our employers, to their high honour, have raised the actual wage to 458., and I can give personal testimony to the daily gratitude of hundreds of their workmen.
Is it necessary to speak of cases where one or more boys or girls of a family are at work, and increase the weekly income? Is this calculated to lower the minimum wage of the workman and lessen the obligation of the employer ? Certainly not. The working boy is of an age when he is most expensive in upkeep; he is big and he is growing, and needs plenty of food ; his clothes and boots do not stand long, and they are expensive--twice as much so as children's and what does he bring in ? 68., 88., 108., perhaps, often for doing a man's work. Plainly, if that boy were to leave home then and there, and emigrate, would the family be worse off? My experience convinces me, and I have no hesitation in saying they would not ; rather to some extent the reverse.
Cases like the above must not be confounded with others, when nothing like a living wage is coming in; where the father, perhaps, is dead or invalided, and the mother bears the burden. Here, frequently, children even under fourteen years are forced to earn a pittance every day; they are doing their bit, and cannot be spared. Such cases are best known to the charitable societies, and surely do not affect the argument of the living wage.
Some figures.--The congested district, from which all our observations are taken, lies midway in the South Ward, and contains about 5,600 people. There are 340 single houses, with rents of 2s. 6d. and under, and 75 tenements containing 334 families. This gives a total of 674 working families (unskilled). Of these, 252' labouring parents have gone into the army, and 92 families belong to the class of indigent poor (widows, etc.), leaving 330 families depending on the labouring wage. About 190 of these
1 Thanks to the trade unions, these figures have gone up considerably during the past few months.
2 More than 400 of all classes in the district are on H.M.S.