It is very cold outside, a howling wind, some sun but some heavy clouds which I recognise as possible snow clouds. Winter is on the way. The trees are almost bare now and there is a carpet of leaves on the ground making it golden in the sunshine. For me this is the time I start to stay inside as it is too cold for me out there. But I spend my time reflecting and writing mainly as well as knitting thick scarves for when I do go out.
But what I want to write about today is something different. As some of you will know I am an avid researcher and recently have been researching the local workhouse which was closed in the 1930s. Although this is nothing to do with druidry, it is to do with our approach to our lives, our compassion for others and our wish to make the world a better place.
During this research, I have read some terrible stories of hardship and cruelty especially towards the poor and the mentally ill who were soon put away in the workhouse or lunatic asylums. Some stories struck a chord within me. In 1912 there was a miners strike. Some miners belonged to a union so were unable to ask for poor relief to help them survive. Other miners did not belong to the union but could not work because of the others. However the Board of Guardians who were in charge of poor relief as well as the workhouse decided that those miners who did not belong to a union, sympathised with those who did, so were not eligible for help.
Food in the workhouse was set by the main Poor Law Board and was just enough to keep you alive. Later there were dietary changes so on Sundays you got meat and potatoes for lunch instead of rice and treacle. You had to wear what can only be called a uniform and you all went to church on Sunday in that uniform so everyone could see that you were poor and in the workhouse. What does this remind you of?
I found a case in 1915 where two young children born in Germany of a German father and an English mother. The mother had returned to England with the children who were born in Germany but she had died and the two children went into the workhouse. The Guardians thought that it should be possible to deport the young children back to Germany. 1915 was the time of the first world war and Germany was not the place to send young children. Did they have no compassion? All they thought about was the cost of providing for these young children.
As for those who were ‘mentally defective’, the words used by those in charge, they were sorted into different types or classes and kept to their own class. Many were sent to what became known as colonies where they lived separate from the normal world.
Has our world changed? I look at what is going on around me and think that we are going backwards not forwards. What do you think?