Arsenic And Old HAlifax
It’s time for another helping of mindless rants from some self-obsessed old fool with too much time on his hands. Now, I know what you’re thinking – it will be something like “You are being a little too hard on yourself …. but, there again, I can see where you are coming from“; but you misunderstand me, I am not talking about my own pointless ramblings, I am talking about another extract from that paragon of early 20th century journalism, the Halifax Comet. I have been working my way through copies of the Comet for a good few weeks now and I still can’t decide whether it is a failed attempt at serious journalism or an early experiment in post-modern satire. As the publication reaches its tenth birthday in 1901, the editorial content gets shorter whilst the adverts get longer. It is a little like one of the present day advertising magazines you get delivered through your letter box …. but without the interesting adverts for teeth whitening and roof repairs.
The leading news item in the edition of the 20th April 1901 is a lengthy rant against the Amalgamated Association Of Tramway And Vehicle Workers who have had the audacity to demand such things as a week’s paid holiday, time-and-a-half for overtime, and an end to the practice of workers having to pay for broken tools. “How can tramway workers expect a full week’s paid holiday a year when they only work six days a week”, thunders the editorial? As far as premium payments for overtime and Sunday working is concerned, “perhaps the public would like to pay a fare-and-a-half to meet this”!
The editorial will no doubt have dripped from the pen of the owner, publisher, and editor of the Comet, the irrepressible Alderman Joe Turner Spencer. One would like to think that the propagation of these views was without a trace of vested interests, but that was as unlikely then of a media baron as it is now. The last page of this particular edition of the Comet carries an advert for the Hipperholme brewers, Brear And Brown Ltd. The advert carries a copy of an analyst’s report which proudly proclaims: “I have analysed samples of brewing materials and beer and stout and as a result of my careful examination I certify that they contained no trace of arsenic”! If the Public Analyst had examined the pages of the Halifax Comet, he might not have come to the same conclusion.