“Cast a cold eye on life, on death…” (3)

An occasional series of vignettes of the past, drawn from the archives I use.

Jane Rowell was Children’s Officer to the Middlesex County Council from 1949 to the dissolution of the council in 1965. Here is a sample of the correspondence she received in that office. The envelope, marked “PRIVATE“, is postmarked Hornsey, 17 March 1962. Walton Lodge was a county council hostel in Hampton for young people leaving care. I have preserved the original spelling, punctuation and layout throughout.

ask miss brazier from walton lodge who runs her hostel so well to tell you about her pregant girls.

the idol always falls.

they never seem to do any thing wrong
keep thier jobs come in on time act as the perfect ladies.

let her talk her self out of that one.

(London Metropolitan Archives, MCC/CH/CO/1/25)

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Remember the little ones.

Most of us, when we think of a sound archive, probably think of recordings of poets reading their own work, or of a collection of great speeches, or of oral history, or perhaps of dialect surveys: at any rate of a body of substantial material. But brief and apparently ephemeral material may also re-create the past for us and should never be overlooked. I am very happy to report therefore that some people have thought to preserve the jingles used by LBC radio in the past. The preservers include the station itself and some freelance enthusiasts. Anyone who listened to LBC in the 1970s and 1980s (perhaps, like me, you listened clandestinely to the late-night talk show under the bedclothes) will remember in particular the three-note theme in a minor key composed by Jeff Wayne, which was sometimes played bare (the precise key used varied, as did the scoring) and sometimes elaborated in one of several ways. Jingles such as these preserve the “voice” of the past as surely as any dialect survey. Radio style has moved on since then; the repositories of these jingles certainly constitute an archive. All credit, then, to those who have collected them, and who, by putting them online, have allowed us all to retrieve them and catch, however fleetingly, a flavour of their times.

“Cast a cold eye on life, on death…” (2)

An occasional series of vignettes of the past, drawn from the archives I use.

On 14 October 1958 Mr G Knight, Deputy Clerk of the Middlesex County Council wrote to the Clerk, Kenneth Goodacre, seeking a ruling. When the Middlesex Local Area Health Committee for Ealing and Acton had met on 18 September, the Joint Area Medical Officer raised the case of a Mrs Goble, employed in the committee’s Acton office. Mrs Goble had opened a parcel of clinical thermometers to find that one of them had broken. Her hands, and the three gold rings she was wearing, were covered in mercury. She had to have the rings cleaned at a cost of ten and sixpence. She now claimed this sum from the County Council. The Area Committee’s Clerk had said that the claim should be referred to the Clerk of the County Council, in accordance with a memorandum of 1951, although the members of the committee considered that Mrs Goble should be paid. The Joint Area Medical Officer then submitted a written claim by Mrs Goble but was told that as there was no evidence that the thermometers had been negligently packed no payment could be made.

It then transpired that the Chairman of the Local Area Health Committee had discussed the matter with the Chairman of the County Health Committee, County Alderman Bernard Rockman, who had said “very forcibly” that Mrs Goble should be paid and that if the County Council would not pay her he would do so himself and take a chance on the County Council reimbursing him.

The 1951 memorandum on ex gratia payments had resulted from a resolution of the Finance Committee, which laid down that the Clerk might settle claims against the council by its employees of up to £50 subject to a report to that committee; claims should therefore be submitted to no other committee, sub-committee or divisional executive. The resolution had been interpreted as permitting payment only when an employee’s financial loss was incurred in the course of duties involving the protection of persons and property. Recent claims had been trivial in themselves but there had been many of them. Their number, and the need for a uniform policy, were the reason why the power to deal with them had been delegated to the Clerk by the Finance Committee. Mr Knight suggested he should write to Bernard Rockman summarising this position. “Do you agree please?” he asked.

A clearly irritated Kenneth Goodacre, who did not normally handle administrative matters himself, now replied in his own handwriting, scribbled on Mr Knight’s typed memorandum:

Whilst not influenced by Mr Rockman’s remarks –

I nevertheless sympathise with the view and on the principle “De minimis non curat lex”, I have told the local area health officer to pay Mrs Goble 10/6 out of petty cash – to let me have the receipt so that the County Treasurer can reimburse.

It would have saved everybody’s time & trouble if the Local Area Health M.O. had paid out in the first place & dealt with the matter administratively instead of wasting the Area Health Committee’s time.

(London Metropolitan Archives MCC/CL/CC/3/346)