I remember Mum reciting this to me, little did she know...
Posted: Sat Nov 25, 2017 7:38 pm
that I would work as a genealogist and research these kind of things!
It is Christmas Day in the workhouse,
And the cold, bare walls are bright
With garlands of green and holly,
And the place is a pleasant sight;
For with clean-washed hands and faces,
In a long and hungry line
The paupers sit at the table,
For this is the hour they dine.
And the guardians and their ladies,
Although the wind is east,
Have come in their furs and wrappers,
To watch their charges feast;
To smile and be condescending,
Put pudding on pauper plates.
To be hosts at the workhouse banquet
They've paid for — with the rates.
The poem tells of an old Devon trader named John who has been reduced to poverty and so must eat at the workhouse on Christmas Day. To the shock of the guardians and master of the workhouse, he reviles them for the events of the previous Christmas when his wife, Nance, was starving. They could not afford food so, for the first time, he went to the workhouse but was told that food would not be given out – they would have to come in to eat. At that time, families might be separated inside such institutions but his wife refused to be parted from her husband of fifty years on Christmas Day. He went out again in search of scraps but she died before he returned and so now he is bitter at the memory