Country Matters by The Hodge March 2018

Country Matters
By The Hodge
“Never eat more than you can lift
Miss Piggy
Clip your hedges!

Following on from last month’s little piece on the privations being experienced by those people back home in Britain in 1918 when rationing was introduced, I was intrigued to find this little snippet of news. It concerns an MP – Mr William John McGeagh MacCaw – the representative in parliament for the constituency of West Down in Northern Ireland.

He was taken to court under the 1917 Food Hoarding Order, a law brought in to try and ameliorate the effects of food shortages before rationing began. When I first read this, I assumed it was going to be a minor infringement and that they were making an example of a public figure but I was wrong.

Mr MacCaw MP was fined £400 – a huge sum – and the hoard of food was confiscated. What was found at his home in Godstone, Surrey by inspectors of the Local Food Control Committee and another from the Ministry of Food was as follows:

Flour – 435lbs
Tapioca – 641/2lbs
Biscuits – 1001/2lbs
Oatmeal – 59lbs
Sugar – 102lbs
Semolina – 531/2lbs
Tea – 53lbs
Golden Syrup – 34lbs

An old poster exulting rationing.

Rice – 1341/2lbs
Honey – 211/2lbs

But there was more! They then searched his London flat and found additional hoardings of:

Tea – 12lbs
Tapioca – 321/2lbs
Flour – 473/4lbs
Rice – 106lbs
Oatmeal – 571/2lbs
Sugar – 281/4lbs

Mrs MacCaw was also charged but the charges were dropped due to ill health. Unfortunately, the news report fails to give details of any arguments used in his defence such as Mr MacCaw was hoping perhaps to corner the market to supply the House of Commons catering department or that he had a very large family. I have not personally had tapioca or semolina since I left school and have not in a single day missed either but tastes were different then.

Amazingly, the court found him not guilty for hoarding golden syrup but the other charges were upheld and as well as the fine, Mr MacCaw had to pay 35 guineas (£36.75) costs.

I don’t know about you but I find such snippets of social history fascinating.

* * * * *

Easter will soon be upon us as it is early this year. By then spring should fully have sprung and we will be enjoying the sights and sounds of blossom, the flowering bulbs and birdsong, (designed mainly to establish territory and tell competitors to sling their hook!). Please try and ensure that you cut any untidy hedges before nesting starts in the next couple of weeks. If you don’t manage it, then learn to live with a straggly hedge until August at least to help protect the songbirds. Farmers are prevented by law from hedge cutting during these months, the only exception being if road safety is threatened.

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