This topic, when I read it, felt like opening a can of worms. If you have read any of my previous posts you will know I love where I live, but am very aware that I am walking through history every time I turn down a new street.
The trouble with history and a built heritage is, you often only find out about the rich people, the land owners, the gentry who allowed their name to be attached to their gift to the nation. Rarely do you hear about the lives that were ruined in putting them on their pedestals.
Living in Ireland, I often feel I have clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right, when I hear the news from England and America. Phrases constantly repeated by rich people, blaming the poor for being the problem, while giving more money to the rich. Poor people using Food Banks by choice, rather than, having no hope once they had funded their landlord’s millionaire lifestyle.
Sorry, back to the photo, I was getting a bit carried away there.
One of the threats used by teachers around here, to encourage unmotivated students, is to say “Get a move on Rover, or you’ll only be fit for breaking stones!”. Not the idle threat it sounds like on paper. You all would know of the images of Nelson Mandela, sitting in the prison yard breaking stones as a punishment, but in Ireland it was the basis of the social welfare system.
This photo was taken on the road to my village, I suppose you could call it the original Benefit Street [a programme on English T.V.]. It looks just like a small lay by at the side of the road, mostly overgrown in the summer, un-noticed for the rest of the year. But these compounds were where the man of the house would go to be able to feed his family.
These stone depots were one step away from the workhouse, while able bodied men could still work, they came to break stones in exchange for food. He would have to work here for 10 hours a day, and in return he would be given sustenance for his dependants. I fear when I listen to modern politicians, that they would like to go back to this system, with ideas like Welfare to Work mimicking this old policy.
“the Commissioners recommend the Guardians to establish a system of breaking stones by Measure, as the most suitable employment for able-bodied males requiring relief. The advantages of stone breaking are, that it is easy to superintend and regulate as task-work-that the materials are generally available, the implements of labour few and simple and above all, that it is less eligible to the labourer than most other employments, provided that it be vigilantly superintended and that a full day’s labour be rigorously exacted from each recipient of relief”.