On this Day 23rd November 1899

Bravo, Ladies of Penzance

The Mayor, as I daresay you know, is leading an appeal for victims of the war in South Africa. Folk have given generously to the Patriotic Fund, and have already given over £250 to help the disabled servicemen, the sick and wounded, the orphans and widows.

Now His Worship (or Mr Couch, as he is more simply known) has set up a new fund for the wives and children left to manage as best they can when their menfolk heed the call of duty. The money raised is to be administered by the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Families Association, and the ladies have certainly shown their mettle.

Our industrious and determined womenfolk went at their task with a will, with teams at the collection stations from ten in the morning until five in the afternoon, when the gentlemen – freed from their business tasks – came to relieve them of their burden. Mayor Couch himself came along to Shaw’s Corner to help out. But it was the ladies who did the lion’s share, gently but firmly pressing one and all for contributions. And the fruits of their efforts? £56, 15 shillings and 21/2d! All gathered in a single day!

The Mayor's Fund (by kind permission of the Cornish Studies Library)At eight the boxes were taken to the council committee room, the contents tallied up under the watchful eye of the Mayor. At the railway station, the ladies (and the gentlemen who took charge during the evening) had collected a magnificent £13, 3 shillings and 7d. And even the small team of four ladies in Causewayhead had managed to gather £3, 14 shillings and 7d before heading for home at 4.00 pm. It is perhaps to be regretted that no gentlemen came to relieve them – but then again, how much is to be done in Causewayhead once the market is finished, darkness threatens and the traders close up for the night?

Once the other boxes – from Queen’s Square, the Davy monument, and other popular corners of the town – were emptied and their contents added to the total, the result was “gratifying to all concerned”, ladies and gentlemen alike.

Donations are still rolling in, and there will be another collection on Saturday –a holiday of sorts these days, with so many workers now finishing work at lunchtime. I gather the collection boxes are to be brought forth at the football ground, although I daresay few ladies would wish to venture there! Maybe the total for all the funds combined will reach £400. And if it does, make no mistake - we shall have the gentler sex, out on the streets today regardless of the winter weather, to thank.

So it’s “Bravo, ladies of Penzance!” from all of us whose “hearts are with our brave soldiers and the ‘little things they’ve left behind them’ ”.

Cornishman 30th November 1899 pages 2 and 4

The present-day equivalent of the amount raised by the street collection would be over £3000 according the National Archive currency calculator. (accessed 29 10 2017). This quite remarkable sum – if the conversion is accurate – is a testament to the number of people who must have been out and about in Penzance on that market day, with spare money in their pockets which they were happy to put towards providing a good Christmas for service families.

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Penwith Local History Group
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Growing Up in West Cornwall. A Publication by the Penwith Local History Group

"Growing Up in West Cornwall"

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Sally Corbet

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