|The Rushden Echo and Argus, 15th July, 1932, transcribed by Gill Hollis
Rushden’s United Action for Social Welfare
Problems of Unemployment to be Dealt With
Centre To Open as “A Small Beginning”
Preserving The Nation’s Manhood
Rushden has faced up to its unemployment problem by deciding to open a centre where, by means of recreation, reading, lectures and the “personal touch,” the men who are out of work may keep themselves fit until the era of industrial stagnation has passed away.
This action is the town’s answer to an appeal made recently by H.R.H. the Price of Wales, and may be extended from time to time as ways and means of helpful co-operation with the unemployed are discovered.
The scheme was launched on Friday at the Council Buildings, where a town’s meeting convened by Mr. J. Roe, Chairman of the Urban Council, unanimously adopted the proposals submitted by a group of ministers and influential townsmen who had zealously paved the way for united action.
Although prior to this meeting the Rushden Branch of the Boot Operatives’ Union had taken steps to consider the formation of an Unemployed Association, it is now understood that the Union officials, who are to meet the unemployed this afternoon, will express themselves as satisfied with the objects of the town committee, on which they have been asked to co-operate in a united effort.
Among those present at Friday’s meeting were Messrs. C. W. Horrell, A. Allebone, and F. J. Sharwood (members of the County Council), J. Spencer, J.P., W. E. Capon, G. W. Coles, J.P., J. Hornsby, J. Allen, A. Wilmott, D. G. Greenfield, M.D., L. Perkins, M.B.E., and J. T. Richardson (members of the Rushden Urban Council), the Revs. T. S. Stoney, P. B. Spriggs, W. R. Leaton, E. E. Bromage, and J. W. Brough, and numerous representatives of local organisations and the unemployed.
The chairman said the meeting had been called to consider a matter which, he was quite sure, would have the sympathy of the whole town. Several well-known gentlemen had met at the Rectory on two occasions to consider what had been done in other towns, and also whether anything could be done in Rushden to relieve in some way the monotony of the unemployed.
“We have a scheme to put before you. It is only a very small beginning; probably some of you think we ought to have done a little more, but all these good things start in a small way, and there is no reason why this scheme, when started, should not be developed and become a good thing for the unemployed of the town. Mr. Leaton, who has been very prominent in this matter and has gathered information as to what has been done in other towns will explain the scheme to you, and then Mr. Capon will explain details of the leading proposals.”
Effect of Idleness
The Rev. W. R. Leaton said that a group of them had met to try to come to some decision as to how they could give practical effect to a real sympathetic desire for the welfare of the unemployed of the town.
They all realised the demoralising effect of enforced idleness; they knew that some men were not only losing their skill, but losing heart and hope. They had, however, to face facts, and as a town they could not solve a national problem, but they were anxious to do what they could, remembering the words of the Prince of Wales: “Don’t wait for any ambitious enterprise, but tackle something that is at hand.”
In most of the cases that had proved successful elsewhere they had begun in a very small way. However enthusiastic people might be, they did want that enthusiasm to be well directed; they did not want to start anything they could not carry through.
One of the chief means of help that had been put into operation was a room for rest, the need for which was most urgent in the winter time.
There were facilities for reading and recreation, and those interested had been able to move amongst the men, getting to know their difficulties. In some cases technical classes had been arranged.
A second means had been the provision of workshops notably in Birmingham and Lincoln for woodwork and boot repairing. It was a good thing for men to be able to help themselves in that way. In no case had the products been for sale; the object had been to provide things the men would otherwise have to go without.
The Means Test
Another means of help had been the provision of allotments. Land had been kindly placed at the service of the committees and put under cultivation.
In most of the centres, too, ways and means of personal help and counsel had been sought.
In some areas a watching brief had been held in the matter of the Means Test. Of course, they could not alter the law, but it was possible for an investigation of cases to be made if it was desirable, and he was sure there were those who would be willing to help.
In various centres good second-hand clothing and boots had been obtained.
At Rushden it was proposed to keep in touch with what was proceeding at some of the other centres, and he daresay it would be possible for some of the committee to visit these centres. They wanted if possible to avoid the mistakes that had been made by others.
Mr. Leaton added that they would be very pleased to have any practical suggestions and offers of help. They would, of course, need the co-operation of the men themselves, because the needs varied much in different districts. They very greatly appreciated the lead that had been given by the Chairman and members of the Urban District Council.
Help From Y.M.C.A.
Councillor W. E. Capon stated that as the result of the meetings the Y.M.C.A. were quite willing to place their top room at the disposal of the organisation, if such be formed, free of charge. The room would be available on Mondays all day, with the exception of the first Monday afternoon in the month, on Tuesdays and Wednesdays all day, on Thursday mornings only, and on Friday mornings and Friday afternoons alternately.
With regard to the question of heating, while the Y.M.C.A. would have been only too delighted to grant that concession, they had no funds at their disposal. The room would be open on the days mentioned from 9 to 4. Games, magazines and papers would be provided, and it was suggested that once or twice a week there should be community singing or a short lecture, perhaps by a doctor or schoolmaster, or anyone else whose services they could enlist, on some subject that was interesting and also enlightening.
The immediate financial obligation had been met, which meant that they need not concern themselves with the matter that night.
It was suggested that the room be opened in September until March, should it be necessary.
No doubt as information came along if unemployment was still rampant there would be other things that they could do in order to help those of their fellow townsmen who were so unfortunate as to be out of work.
Rector on “Sane” Scheme
The Rev. T. S. Stoney, Rector of Rushden, proposed that they approve the general aims and the formation of the Rushden Social Service Committee.
“Of course,” he said, “I suppose we all feel that what we suggest is very inadequate when we think of the colossal problem by which we are faced, but I believe in beginning in a small way. I have seen things begun often with a great splash, and come to nothing. I have beard many trumpets sounding, and the result has not been up to one’s expectation, but I have noticed that when things are begun in a small way, and when we feel our way, they are likely to succeed.
“It is not very much, but it is something, and I think it is sane. And another thing it is not charity. Once you begin collecting money it is charity. There are men and women in the town who are very short of money. I have had something to do with the giving out of money and the mistakes you can make! I have had to do with handing out as much as £40 in a fortnight, and it has done very little good. We feel it is degrading, and that all we are out for is the character of the unemployed. We see the daily deterioration of the unemployed we cannot help it, and they cannot help it, but if they feel that there is something we can do for them, and at any rate sympathise for them, it is something.
“I am a religious man, and so is Mr. Leaton, but in this sort of thing we feel we must never touch religion. Religion is the moving force and the foundation of all we do, but this is to be free from religion in the sense we all term religious.
“I think the third thing which is so sane in this movement is that we have really got efficient leaders men who will give time and thought. Mr. Leaton has been studying the question and getting information, and I know that he will help us in every way that he possibly can.”
Boot Union Watching
The proposition was seconded by Councillor John Spencer, J.P., who said that although they were not in the position to give work, they could help to inspire the men, and perhaps help them to get in a better position that they were in at the present time. When a man’s time was thrown upon his hands he deteriorated, and every little task that was given to him was a help to him and a help to his family.
Mr. Charles Bates, President of the Rushden and District Branch of the Boot Operatives’ Union, stated that prior to receiving the notification of the meeting the question had been discussed by the Union. They had already formed an Unemployed Association in two of their districts, similar to the one at Kettering, and had also considered forming one at Rushden, but he was instructed to attend and see what was being done at the town’s meeting.
Alderman C. W. Horrell enquired whether the proposals of the meeting and the proposals of the Union coincided whether in Mr. Bates’s opinion there was room for two bodies.
Mr. Bates replied that a meeting was to be held on Wednesday or Friday for the purpose he had mentioned.
Mr. D. Nicholson said the point they were looking for was whether the Union had any concrete proposals.
Mr. Bates: We were to get the men together and see what was in their minds in respect to it.
Walking The Streets
Mr. W. Fletcher considered that the committee had thought out a very good scheme. It was not where you started but where you finished. The manhood of the nation, walking about the streets of the towns, was deteriorating, and another thing was that the Devil found something to do for the idle hands.
Mr. Percival, the manager of the Rushden Employment Exchange, said the Department as a whole was very sympathetic towards all these steps for the social welfare of the men out of work. A report of what the town proposed would go to headquarters, and they might get some suggestions from the Ministry.
Mr. Capon asked if there was any help for the Association mentioned by Mr. Bates.
Mr. Bates: What has been agreed is for the men to pay a penny each per week.
Mr. Capon replied that there must be other expenses in connection with the Association.
Dr. D. G. Greenfield suggested that if the Boot Operatives’ Union co-operated they could gather information as to the ways in which they could make themselves useful.
Disagreeing with the Rector’s views on charity, the doctor said the reluctance to accept assistance was false pride. If the committee was sufficiently comprehensive, and if a certain amount of money was needed, he was perfectly certain it could be raised, if they could only show them the way it could be used properly.
One Good Scheme
Councillor G. W. Coles, J.P., said he believed the scheme was going to be the forerunner of a great amount of good. He suggested to Mr. Bates that there was not room for two organisations. It would be much nicer if they could join together, make one good scheme and pool their experience and their help.
In reply to a question Mr. Capon said that if a second room was required they could probably find one.
In answer to Mr. Bates, Mr. Percival said there were from 700 to 800 totally unemployed in the town those who had been out for six weeks or more and about another 1,000 who were on short time.
The Chairman said he was quite sure that when Mr. Bates reported to the Union what the town was doing they would give the town scheme hearty support.
It was unanimously decided to launch the scheme and form a committee, lady delegates being informed that for the present the proposals only applied to men.
Mr. Roe was elected as chairman of the committee, the Rev. W. R. Leaton and Mr. Capon were appointed joint hon. Secretaries, and Mr. F. J. Sharwood, C.C., accepted the position of treasurer.
Unemployed on Committee
Seven representatives of the unemployed were elected to the committee, with the officers (ex-officio) and Messrs. Percival, Horrell and Coles, and the clergy and ministers. It was explained that other representatives of the unemployed could be co-opted, and room was left for representatives of the Boot Operatives’ Union.
The offer of a room was accepted, Mr. Fletcher describing it as “a very fine action on the part of the Y.M.C.A.,” and it was decided to open the centre on Monday, September 5th.
In reply to the Rev. W. R. Leaton, the Chairman said the committee would keep in mind the question of allotments.
Mr. Gutteridge, secretary of the Rushden Allotment Association, explained the Society of Friends’ scheme under which the unemployed could obtain seeds and tools at half price or less.
Mr. Sharwood proposed thanks to the Rector and Mr. Leaton for bringing the matter before the town, and to Mr. Roe for arranging the meeting. Many, he said, had been thinking along the same lines, and were delighted when the scheme was brought forward.
Mr. Percival, who seconded, said the Rector and Mr. Leaton had worked hard.
The vote was heartily carried.