Chertsey Boy, Week two,

The days that followed that terrible moment, puts into sharp focus, how one section of the local community reacts when one of their own has fallen on bad times, and how, in a time when there were sharp divisions between the ‘haves and have nots’, how the other half also reacts.

The local paper, largely devoted to the important issues of the local gentry—this part of Surrey was full of the local gentry— did not think it was of interest to their readers, it did not report on what was a devastating tragedy for one of those council house families.

It did, however cover the funeral, perhaps because there were some ‘important’ people there.

By contrast, back in the council houses and the close-by private homes, an immediate coming together of the neighbours, and even some people who lived just outside of the council houses put together a plan to protect this desperate young family.

The workers at the Airscrew, collected money and food parcels for their mate, and this money together with the help from the kind neighbours helped the family to survive for a few weeks.

Although there was no Social Security as we know it today, there was a sort of ‘poor aid’, this was organised by the Church, local shops, doctors and businesses and supplied by some of the fine ladies of the town.

At this time, because of this lack of any automatic help from the government, these ladies controlled how to use the proceeds of this ‘poor aid’.

They would decide, that before any aid was passed on, an inspection of the homes and finances of the family would be carried out—a sort of unofficial means test.

In our ‘boys’ home the only ‘finances’ to be counted was the money that had been collected for Mrs. Wegs, but this was all taken into account.

The other operation, these well-meaning ladies would carry out, was to see if there was anything of value that a family like this would not need, apart from the obvious things such as the normal items used in a family home.

Mr. Wegs was from a reasonably well-off family, the home had some nice furniture, paintings, china and glass, which had all been passed down to him.

Plus, some furniture that he, as a skilled carpenter, had made himself, he was also a clock repairer in his spare time, and had some refurbished clocks ready for sale.

He was a very industrious man and by his hard work, he had made the home quite comfortable.

All ‘rich pickings’ for ‘means test’ ladies, some nice items here for sale, before any of the poor aid could be given.

The home was ransacked, there is no other word for it, all that was left of anything valuable— that could have raised money, before the ‘aid’ was given over— was a glass panelled china cabinet and a medicine chest, both made by himself, even the clocks that he had repaired and were ready for sale were taken and sold.

The money that this raised was pitiful, it lasted less than a couple of weeks, the family home now looked like a shell.

The next hurdle Mrs. ‘Wegs’ had to clear was the authorities, they had a duty to make sure the family could survive with a lone parent, it seemed impossible.

Mrs. Salmon, now took control, a rota was put in place to look after the younger children, and for the older children to be looked after when they returned from school, the idea was to show that as a community this family would survive.


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