Snippets 212. Exactly one hundred years ago today, on 1st January 1920, the West Sussex Gazette carried a very tongue-in-cheek look back on previous year, titled “Humorous Review of the Year 1919”. The following are the highlights of this amusing article, with explanatory notes below:
The year 1919, which has been torn from its moorings and packed away with a few bits of camphor to keep the moths from pecking it, will undoubtedly go down in history as the “Year Won.” Promptly on the morning of January 1 it started its career. The population of Great Britain on that day was, roughly speaking, 43.221,715 – including Lord Northcliffe. The number of births registered showed a decrease of at least 10.400 compared with previous years. These figures may appear startling, but, after all. you cannot blame people for refusing to be born while housing conditions remain as they are at present. While on the question of births, a remarkable incident happened in January, when the wife of a Hamilton miner gave birth to three girls and one boy. The father is reported to be going on as well as can be expected under the circumstances.
Marriage during the year shows a falling off also, which seems to indicate that a few of the bigamists have gone out of business, though one bigamist confessed that be could not remember marrying three “wives.” In all such cases it is as well to keep a diary. Deaths during the year have dropped considerably, especially in Scotland, where undertakers’ fees are so high as to render death almost prohibitive. A very satisfactory state of affairs is reported by the marked falling off in the number of suicides, there being 2495 fewer than the previous year. This is probably due to the fact that owing to pressure of business and speeding up, few people have had time to bother about suicide. There were also 2321 fewer bankrupts in 1919 than in 1918, though it would be more interesting if we could have their names. It is worthy of note that 98 centenarians died during the year, of whom 13 were over 102. Strange to relate, most of these died orphans. This seems to indicate that as general rule centenarians are delicate race…
On March 31 the Floating Debt of the country was £1,412,000,000, but no effort was made to wipe it out, despite the suggestion of a dear old lady in Kensington that we should hold a whist drive and clear the debt…
A Glasgow man has made a written confession that he has never read the “Daily Mail”, and a warrant for his arrest has been issued. Mr. Winston Churchill has threatened to paint a portrait of Mr. Asquith; Mexico is about to start shooting for the Presidency; a pair white spats have been seen mating in the Strand; bricklayers have been seen building at Golders Green; the snails on the thorn, the tax-gatherer on the wing; Mr. Bottomley states that the war will still be over next Christmas; Christmas, 1911 passed peacefully away on the morning of December 26; Mr. Pelman still remembers what Gladstone said in 1887: and things are not what they used to be – and never were.
Lord Northcliffe was a newspaper publishing magnate, who owned the Daily Mail and the Daily Mirror. During the First War he was appointed Director for Propaganda by Lloyd George, and an unsuccessful attempt to assassinate him was made by the Germans during the war, when a warship was sent to shell his house. “Mr Bottomley” refers to Horatio Bottomley, a journalist whose skills were utilised by the War Propaganda Bureau. As part of his attempts to persuade young men to sign up, he was known for giving the impression that the war would be over quickly. “Mr Pelman” presumably refers to the memory system “Pelmanism”, popular at the time and practised by former Prime Minister Herbert Asquith.
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