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Book Title:

The Good Old Days: Then and Now


The Good Old Days: Then and Now by S. Box

Published by: S. Box, The Firs, Marden, Hereford

Printed by: Reliance Printing Works, Halesowen, Worcs.

Chapter 13.



In order to appeal to the ordinary men and women of the county and to command their interest in our work I wrote a regular series of criticisms and information to the Press in the form of letters signing in the Nom-de-Plume of "Garge Gee Up." This name created a lot of interest among the farm workers, and there was much speculation as to who Garge Gee Up was. I always wrote in the Herefordshire dialect and this caused roars of laughter every week.

The following are samples of the letters printed:- -

Auld Barns Cottage,
Dear Mister Heditar,
Thenks fur agreein' tu put my kontribution tu yure paper; Nou Sir, I wuz in town saturdy nite, thenks tu our side uv the Wage Board who fowt tu get we chaps a feaw 'ours on a Saturdy, kause we knaws most farmers fowt agun it. Well, me un the missus wuz stood taukin' tu an auld naybor at the korner uv 'Igh street, thinkin' we wuz by the villege pump when a perlecemun sez (quite nice) Muv alung plese. Ut fust I wuz flabergastid, then all of a sudden it cum tu me—What a diffrunce in a perlecemun's job tuday tu when I wuz a bwoy. Now it's pertectin' the publick un 'elpin' everybuddy by shiftin' gossips un setra from the korners instid of lockin' up drunks; We be makin' fer better things slowly.
Yor 'umble sarvant,


Auld Barns Cottage,
Dear Mr. Heditur,
Our yung Garge cums in t'other nite all ixcited like, un sez, Farther, ther's a meetin' ut the pub ut hoff past seven;

it's about the land un whot a faiw lib'rals got tu saiy about it. I bin a Lib'ral all my life, in fact wuz a regiler Radicul, we wuz the ixtreme men them daiys; When Josey Chumberlin un Jussy Collins wuz taukin' about givin' we chaps 3 akers un a cow, but we toned down sense then un thaiy never gen us half un aker or a colf, so we be left same as we wuz till Maister Lord Garge gin a speech ut Lime'ouse, where he got mixed up ooth feasunts un wurzels; so bein' puzzeled like T slips on my best jacket un goose tu the meetin'; Mrs. sez don't get havin' mo-orn a pint, I sez I ony got 2 ½ d. so con't have moore.  Next wik I'll tell yu moore.
Yor 'umble sarvant,


Auld Barns Cottage,
Dear Mr. Heditur,
When I got tu the land meetin' my maister wuz ther afore me. A Mister Bwoys wuz the speeker, he'd bin all over the country un fund out a faiw things uz wuz gwaine on. He teld us how the Lords, Dukes un Squires pinched the land from our faithers, untu our sorra we knaws how thaiy treeted us. Yers agoo, sez he, mowst folk lived in thair awn 'ouse un' 'ad a bit uv ground, un' a rite tu the Common. That wuz stole from us, then, sez he, we be out to ristor them rites, so every mon shall live un' have liberty. We wurkin' chaps clapped 'im un' shouted, down ooth tied 'ouses, a faiw farmers said rite enough too; but the land spwillers amung um sez—an' what shul we do if we wants the 'ouse fer a wagginer? He sez paiy a good wage; be desunt un yu'll get men. Moor next wik.
Yur 'Umble Sarvant,


Auld Barns Cottage,
Dear Mr. Heditur,
Mister Bwoyce went on tu saiy we chaps wuz intitled tu good vittals, close, un' whum uz any sechshun uv the Com­munity, uz atter all, we pervided the meuns uv life, un' we be

treated wust. Course, sez he, t'uther wurkers wuz in the same plite a faiw yers agoo, till thaiy jined thays orgunizashuns un' got it altered a bit. He sed Parliment cood 'elp farmers un' wurkers, but it wuz up tu bwoth tu do thair bit by united effert. He then teld us how the Librals ood give bwoth a chonce. Next mornin' Baister sez hoow'd yu like the meetin', Garge? I sez, I'll tell yu later on, Boss, atter thinkin' it over; but we mun ferget, 'owever good a speech is, it's actions uz counts. In Parliment what thaiyer speekers promise when thaiy gets our votes. Yu be rite, Garge, he sez. We'll huck the 'osses tu the car fer sweed hollin'; it's gone seven. Yur 'Umble Sarvant,


Auld Barns Cottage,
Dear Mr. Heditur,
We bin all busy kippin' Krismas, un' it makes us wunder why everybody don't kip up the same speret all the yer round. I don't meun stuffin', but havin' a kindly feelin' for all. Ther ood then be no lock-outs er strikes; Maisters ood want every-budy to enjoy life un' ood see thay ad the means to do it. Well, it wuz Shuppuds uz sin the fust Krismus un yerd the fust caril: Peace on earth good will tward men, they sung, but Sir, it's ony ut Krismas it's karrid out; we see men graspin' fer welth; sum on um don't kere how thaiy gets it, nor how many starve un pinch; uz it's we chaps got to do the wurk. Un' a lot of um wuz drinkin 'un' stuffin' Krismus daiy; the daiy atter gwain tu the Churchis, un' all the next wik ool be skemin' ither tu get our wages down or our grub up. It 'peers tu me the Angils wish us well but men be frusterating the Almightie's will ooth greed. Wishing all your reeders a 'Appy New Year.
Yur 'Umble Sarvant,


Auld Barns Cottage,
Dear Mister Hediter,
The new yer cum in all smilin' like a baby ooth a good

temper, uz if it took no notice uv the doin's uv Maister Baldin un' his gang uv mudlers un' mudslingers ut Parliment. What a good job thaiy don't rule the wether, er we should have frost un' snaw, rain un' sunshine, ooth a jawse uv a lot uv fog all mixed tuguther; Baldin ood want a clowdy daiy. Jix a blazin' sun tu scorth the reds, Cbumberlin rayn, so he could order tin huts, tuther Chumberlin want frost to kill gurms, Churchill ood want fog so's folks oodent see his antics; the back benchers ood yell fer snaw, so them Scotch chaps ood be kept awhum by blocked trayns when Parliment begins agun. So my advice to the wurkers fer the yer unions quik uz the above menshunned gang be tryin' tu bust um if thaiy do thaiyll soon make we chaps wurk for haighteen shillin' a wik un tater ground.
Yer 'Umble Sarvant,


Auld Barns Cottage,
Dear Mr. Heditur,
The fust marnin' the snaw cum Maister send me tu the Blaksmith shop tu get the 'osses shod, so did a farmer ut Weobley send his waggoner. While the 'osses wuz bein' shod this mon went tu the pub tu ayr his greevunce un' 'ave a drink. Sez he, my Maister ony paiys me 31/- a wik istid of 36/- uz I be yed wagginer. Sum'dy axed him if he wuz in the Union. He sed no, but I oodn't stop ooth the gaffer ony my au'd folks lives in his cottage, un' wurked fer 'im fer 'im fer forty yers. He ood see Maister Box about it. A faiw minits later a nayberin' farmer cums in un' sez, 'ave a drink, tu this wagginer; he suddenly turned perlite and sed Thenk yu Sir. Thaiy got tawkin' about things un' the wagginer sez, we could oothout Maister Box; we wurkmen un' Maisters could settle our affairs rite enough. Now, Sir, things were rung, the farmer should uv paid thirty-six, secundly the chap shouldn't wurk onless he did, thirdly, he shoud tel his Maister strayt, not talk about him beyhind his back in a public 'ouse. That mon's no Britisher. If twont fer the Union ther'd be no Wage Boord, un' that chap ood be bettin' aighteen shillin'

a wik.   Well, it's all he's wuth; uz fer bein' strytforud is concerned.
Yer 'Umble Sarvant,


Auld Barns Cottage,
Dear Mr. Heditur,
A speshul meeting wuz held ut the Plough Inn on Satady night to yere a report by the wurkers' leader ut the Wage Boord. Garge Carter took the Chair, sported by Bill Shuppud un' Jack Stocker. Ther wuz a full 'ouse tu yere the report uv the Imployers' antics ut the Wage Kommitte of Herefutshur. Garge soon silenced the Kumrades. Then the report; it wuz as follows. The farmers purposed to putt two 'ours on the wik, all the yer round, un' to paiy we chaps fur wurkin' them extra 'ours, to take off a shillin' a wik from wages. 'Ours to be 54 Summer 8 munts, Winter 4 munts. Thaiy purposed tu sink key men 1/6 a wik fer 60 'ours. Our Secetary couldn't get any further fer notes uv exclamashun, Konsturnashun, un' defamation uv the farmers' wicked purposals, un' lang-widge I musn't putt yere, till Bill Ca-Canny sed, Well, bwoys, we can get level ooth um. If thaiy want moore 'ours, we can yet the 'osses have a easier time by gwaine slaiw. More next wik
Yer 'Umble Sarvant,


Auld Barns Cottage,
Dear Sir,
Atter the bwoys had gin vent tu thayir feelin' over the farmers wantin' to sink our wages un' increase hours the Secretary perceded tu read the purposals put on our beholf by our side uv the Boord's Wage Kommittee. It wuz axin' fer too un' sixpunce a wik on our wage perporshut fer the bwoys un' a 'a'punny un 'our fer women, the 'ours tu be 48 in Winter, 50 in Summer. This wuz 'cordin' tu orders gin tu our side by the Distric' Kummittee uv the Union uz manigies

our business fer the Kounty. No 'eadway wuz made; so it be sent back tu the Farmers' Union tu see if thaiy ool be resunable, but our chaps sed 'cause we'ed bin resunable allready, our side should stick to thaiy perposals. A faiw non union men wanted to knaw wat we'ed dun and looked perty ship-pish when we axed um what thaiy wuz doing about it. Sir, I'll tell yu what my Missus said about it when I got whum, next wik.
Yur 'Umble Sarvant,


Auld Barns Cottage,
Dear Sir,
When I got whum atter the meetin' Missus wuz lookin' angshus like, er axed—be the farmers gwaine tu give us a rize? Atter sich a big 'arvist, un' good wether tu get it in; corse 'er wuz ixpectin' the imployers ood act like Christeuns, as moust of um tends Church Sundys. When I teld 'er thaiy perposed making us wurk moor 'ours fer less wages, 'er sed it's time the Women's Institoot eleped our Union Garge tu make it possibul fer wages tu be enuff tu live ooth a bit moore cumfirt; but I'm afrayed the farmers' wives uz rules the roost ther un if thayir 'usbands gin ther wurkmen a stubstanshul rise thaiy ood not 'ave so much fer furs un' ferbiloze, fine motor kars, fancy dress balls, to say nothin' about sarvants tu wayit on um. Yers me bro't up to hold a dozen yung uns, dun me awn wurk, picked fruit, tied un' picked hops, tu dress um (us yure wages never bin enuff tu buy vittals) un' now thaiy bin doing well fer yers, wants we tu slide back tu the auld wages; un' thaiy drive yu back Garge if the men don't get tuguther un' put thaiys fut down; China in Britun I call it; I wuz glad when 'er finished.
Yur 'Umble Sarvant,


I have shown how, by writing in a humorous style, how much propaganda work was and can be done. Therefore the reason for inserting a few " Garge Gee Up " postcards out of hundreds printed in the Press.   Now for the serious methods with which to appeal for justice for the workers from the Christian standpoint. I wrote a few recitations to read at the outdoor meetings, the following of which is an example.

It is titled " Country Life ":—


Country Life
Country Life

Oft amidst the seeming pleasure
Of the labourer's quiet home,
Lurks a dread which none can measure;
Only those to whom it comes.


God to men has freely given
Of a rich and bounteous store,
Each year sends a glorious harvest
To the rich and for the poor.


But so selfish is man's nature
And so utterly unjust,
That the will of God's frustrated
By their greediness and lust.


God intends this lovely country
For the benefit of all;
But a very few enjoy it:
Over others hangs a pall.


Black as midnight in the Winter,
And with Winter's chilling blast,
Strikes the soul of country workers,
The experience of the past.


Hard they fought and hard they laboured
To obey the Lord's command;
Lived and toiled as he would have them,
Worked with heart and soul and hand.


After all their toil and suffering
What reward is it they find?
Those who sow, not reap the harvest,
Cause perplexity of mind.


In the mansions of the wealthy,
Luxury and waste abound,
In the homes of country toilers,
Want and poverty are found.


Christians tell us that in heaven
Many mansions there await,
Not for Dives but for poor Lazarus,
Toiling now at rich Dives' gate.


But why wait till death o'ertakes us
When the great God's on our side,
We should fight for right and justice,
Let whatever will betide.


Up then, men, and join the legions
That are clamouring for the right;
A fair share in this our country,
Of its wealth, freedom and light.


Freedom from the curse of slavery,
By which now our hands are tied;
Free our homes from the employer,
Say we will not be denied.


Then the wealth will follow after
To be counted not in gold,
But  arich and sweet contentment,
And a spirit free and bold.


Free to do our toil and duty,
Knowing that the recompense
Will be measured by our labour,
And no perquisites from hence.


Time demand for education,
So that we may take our place
As true citizens of England,
True to ourselves, true to our race.



The labourer's lot is hard indeed,
By all it is admitted;
His wages were so very small,
With perquisites he's twitted.


And if by chance the fifteen bob
He manages to get,
It must be the time, when weather's fine,
He loses if it's wet.


The cottage that he calls his home,
They say it's given free;
Yet he toils two extra hours per day,
So pays indirectly.


And even this, should he offend
By word or deed, or look,
The master, mistress, or the miss,
He soon is called to book.


And then away he has to go,
His home is broken up;
He seeks elsewhere for work and home,
And bitter is the cup


He has to drink, and that to please
These generous-hearted men,
Who boast so much of freedom,
So they themselves may gain.


No wonder that our countryside
Is falling to decay,
While such a system still exists,
Think of it as you may.


So labourers all at once unite
This system to destroy;
You will in time experience
The pleasure and the joy.


At last of coming to your rights
A living wage be paid,
A cottage you may call your home,
Of no man be afraid.


These are the rights of those who work;
In justice we demand
In coin be paid, and that enough
For us to take our stand.


Amidst the toil and strife of life,
Our course would then be clear
To work as men and not as slaves,
And of man have no fear.


eviction scene

In a lonely country cottage
Sits a woman darning socks,
Waiting for her man's appearing
After tending to the flocks.


With one foot she rocks a cradle
Of a shepherd's youngest child;
And she's thinking, thinking deeply,
Till her thoughts near drive her wild.


Yes, she knows quite well her husband
Comes straight home when work is done,
For he has no time for leisure,
Nought but work to get the sum.


For a lingering existence
To maintain a wife and six,
All his manhood's taken from him
By the cruel way he's fixed.


Bound by chains of cruel slavery
To a system long accursed:
'Tis his cottage makes him cheerful
And he's now come to the worst.


His employer takes advantage
Of his poverty and fear,
Piles the extra work upon him;
Knowing this, it is quite clear


That the threat of a month's notice
Will soon bring him to his way:
Hence the shepherd's present sorrow,
Murmuring deep, filled with dismay.


Shall he humble to his master,
Struggle through the extra toil?
Yes, his wife and bairns demand it,
Though his better self recoils.


Tired and crushed, homeward he struggles;
Then he sees his wife perplexed:
"What's the matter, Jane, my lassie?
You look worried like and vexed."


"Do I, John. Well, I've been thinking
That if we are ever spared
We will try and place our children
Off the land, where we were reared.


To the towns our lad and lasses,
Where they get a chance of life,
Have good homes and are free agents,
Wear good clothes, look always nice."


Thus our country is denuded
Of its best and brightest men;
Let us stop to think and ponder,
Shall we alter it; if so, when?


Raise the wages, free the cottage,
Pay in cash, for this is right;
Then the wrongs will soon be righted
When the workers all unite.



Of all the classes of labour
There's none that is so despised
Than the one that's most essential
To those who think they are wise.


For the most useful of all occupations
To all nations under the sun,
Is the raising of food for the people,
Yet these workers are libelled by some.


First of all we will take the lawyer,
The man who collects the rent,
Who libels the country worker
With the spirit of discontent.


He will tell you: " Those ignorant fellows,"
And speak in a scornful way,
"Ought to be thankful to be found employment,"
To allow them to live each day.


"And their work, it is so healthy,
Although bad weather they face,
They are not cooped up in an office ":
This he says to make clear his case.


That of all men, the life of a lawyer
Is a terrible arduous one;
Yet they charge six and eight for a letter,
And guineas galore ere they've done.


Next comes Mr. Miser, the banker,
Who takes care of all he can get;
He says that the labourers are thriftless
A useless and ignorant set,


Who deserve all the punishment meted
To workers of every rank,
Who carelessly spend all their wages
And seldom put ought in the bank.


And then we hear farmers decrying
The labourers, they call them unskilled;
A fool may do all that's required
On a farm, with plough, scythe, or bill.


The the parson, when preaching his sermon,
Digs oft at the poor working man;
Bids him work and obey his employer
In humbleness, for this is God's plan.


The poor ye always have with you,
Earn your bread by the sweat of your brow;
Be honest, be sober, be righteous,
In the future the reward is, not now.


Then teetotallers we meet very often,
Who for ever are on the alert
To prove that the labourer's worst enemies
Is the drink, the Devil and dirt.


Then again there's the political gentlemen
Who are after the Labourer's vote;
And once they are seated at Westminster
The actions of all they misquote.


If again we hear these base libels
From those who have plenty of pelf,
Let's remember these honourable gentlemen
Take care not to libel their self.



The readers should note that these verses were written about 1913 and illustrate the position of the life of the agri­cultural workers prior to the strike in 1914. At that time certain perquisites such as potato ground, in the farmer's field, in some cases a quart of skimmed milk, and two or three quarts of cider per day (but not out of the master's tap), a load of wood on some farms, and this was calculated to be worth approximately from two to three shillings per week. In reference to the free cottages, they were free usually to the stockmen, but those men had to work one or two hours extra daily and part of Sunday for no extra pay in many cases. The ordinary labourer paid 1/6 to 2/6 per week rent out of his wages, but he was not legally acknowledged by law as the tenant.


The perquisite system was partially abolished as cider was not allowed to be a charge upon wages. In fairness to farmer and worker both sides agreed to this under the orders of the Agricultural Wage Board, but the employers were allowed to deduct from wages charges for rent, potato ground, and milk, the charges being in accordance with the values determined by the County Committee of the Boards. No doubt all will agree now that the changes were brought about by the efforts of the Trade Unions and its loyal mem­bers, particularly the Herefordshire farm workers' strike in 1914, as previously stated.



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