The Auntie Doris Years: 1901

The Auntie Doris Years: 1901
Seebohm Rowntree was a proper millionaire. His dad had not only made a fortune out of chocolate and Cocoa, he had invented Rowntree’s Fruit pastilles an’all. The Rowntree family were from the North of England too, and when they got rich, they didn’t go swanning down south to hob nob with all the bigwigs in London either. They stayed up North, in York. And they were proper socialists too. Well they were philanthropists until Queen Victoria died, and then they were socialists, because it was no longer Victorian days, so socialism was allowed by edict of Edward 7th.
These modern socialists were different to the old guard. Charles Dickens, bless him, his heart had been in the right place, what with exposing social injustices and the plight of the poor in his books and magazine articles, but as you know, its hard to bring about real change by writing five or six hundred words down every day. Seebohm had a better idea: Research and statistics.
He went visiting all the people in York, over 11,000 houses. (he must have had a few ruddy assistants helping him – otherwise he would have worn his ruddy shoes out) and he made notes about how much they earned and what they spent it on. Then he published everything he found out in a book called “Poverty – A Study of Town Life. This study suggested that 10% of the population were living in extreme poverty, and a further 20% weren’t much better off. (of course, that didn’t include my mother, her family were quite posh, they could afford a bit of jam on their bread. Mainly because her father didn’t piss his meagre wages up the wall at the Rose and Crown, like plenty of others did. Still, it would have been nice if my Grandma could have afforded a drop of the cup that cheers now and then. She never did though. What with one thing and another, I think I was the first woman in my family who enjoyed a decent sherry.
Seebohm would rather that people were earning enough to buy his cocoa though. And I don’t blame him either. Its a lovely drink, cocoa. Particularly if you splash a bit of Bailey’s Irish cream into it. Any road, his business competitor George Cadbury wasn’t going to let Rowntrees have all the glory, so he started forking out a bit of cash in support of the liberal press, to see if they couldn’t oust the tories and get the Liberals back in. Honestly, in back in 1901, Rowntrees and Cadburies were like Coke and Pepsi are in America today, always trying to manipulate the political scene. Of course the difference was that Cocoa doesn’t rot your teeth, and these blokes were supporting the oppressed.
Course, the liberals didn’t get in until 1905, but things seemed to be heading in the right direction, the Labour party even got going around that time, with old Kier Hardie in charge of it. Imagine what a prime Minister he would have made.
But dreams have a way of turning to dust. By 1988 Rowntrees of York eventually got swallowed up by Nestle, the baby poisoners. Although Fruit pastilles are still available under the Rowntree name in much of the world, in Australia they are known as Wonka Fruit pastilles. Perhaps old Seebohm would have liked the idea of his sweets being re-named after the man who helped poor impoverished Charlie Bucket get a decent deal in life.
Auntie Doris’s Pop Pick of 1901. “When You Were Sweet Sixteen” by harry McDonough. How my mother laughed when grandfather sang it to her Fanny.
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2 thoughts on “The Auntie Doris Years: 1901

  1. After too many years in American schools, I’m finally reading an English history peopled with personality. School children everywhere would adore you, Auntie Doris, but I’m afraid they’ll never have the chance.

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