‘Good to look at, but bad to live in’— rural slums in 1934

Derelict cottages in England

          Copyright alamy.com (many thanks).

Today, most rural slums have either fallen into ruin or been gentrified by second home owners. In the thirties, however, some of the terrible privations characteristic of the urban slums described by George Orwell in The Road to Wigan Pier , were equally true of many rural slums. In an article entitled ‘Clean Up Our Country Slums’ in the April 6th 1934 issue of the news weekly Everyman, Orwell’s contemporary, the journalist Hamilton Fyfe (1869 – 1951), who was also a man of the Left, went behind the façade of a pretty country cottage inhabited   by some agricultural tenants and was shocked to find damp walls, cracked plaster, peeling wallpaper and a shared sink.

‘All their water they have to fetch in pails from a farm a couple of hundred yards away. They have no drainage, no light, no indoor sanitation ( as the house agents delicately put it); they enjoy none of the amenities that so may of us consider absolute necessities of life. And these cottage are not exceptional, They are typical of the homes in which our country folk mostly live…I could take you to a house where in two small rooms father, mother, grown-up son and four children ( thirteen to nine) sleep. I could show you rows of houses on the outskirts of little towns, where except for the fresher air, conditions are every bit as bad as in the black spots of London, Liverpool or Glasgow’

According to Fyfe, two Acts of Parliament:

‘make it possible for owners of cottages to borrow money on easy terms so that they may “ reconstruct and improve” their property, put in water supply, baths, light and more wholesome sanitary arrangements. Owners have been very slow, however, in asking for loans. The truth is that the farmer was badly stung over the purchase of his farm from the local viscount and is really not able to spend money on repairs. And he owes his bank so much that he shrinks from the idea of borrowing and more. The right solution, the only solution I can see, is that the community should take over the cottages and make them fir to live in. But most councils are as unwilling as most individuals to take advantage of the Acts of Parliament. 

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The Suicide of Henry Symons—-bookman of the British Museum

“There is a Museum story that when a member of the staff committed suicide in this room ( the Cracherode) by shooting himself his superior’s first reaction was : ‘Did he damage the book bindings ?”

It sounds like one of those apocryphal remarks that are handed down from employee to employee through the decades in great institutions , but according to Barry C Johnson, author of a booklet entitled, A British Museum Legend (privately printed 1984), it was probably a genuine expression of concern by the Keeper of Books for his valuable  charges. The suicide in question had taken place in 1922, but as Johnson remarks in his account of the events leading up to the tragedy, no-one he spoke to about the event could recall the name of the unfortunate Assistant Keeper.

His name was, in fact, Henry Symons, and it would seem that he was a well liked and respected figure both at work and at home, though contemporaries agree that he was very reserved and essentially a loner. His low profile at the BM combined with the fact that he doesn’t seem to have published anything of note, or left any personal diaries and only a few letters, made the job of Johnson as biographer, a challenging one, though his own post at the BM, doubtless proved of great value.

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Sir Fred Schonell

Found in the papers of L.R. Reeve (see A.J. Balfour for background on him) this piece about the Australian writer and educationalist Sir Fred Schonell. He was also the author of several books aimed at teaching children to write and spell. The site Old School Reading Books suggests that some of these have become collectable. Reeve, having met the great man, had presentation copies of some of these...

SIR FRED SCHONELL

Professor Hamley once stated that the late Sir Fred Schonell was the best secretary the education section of the British Psychological Society had ever had. How right he was.
  Hamley, like Schonell, was an Australian, but there was no exaggeration in his assertion, for although Schonell’s unruffled manner was rather deceptive I also, whose knowledge of earlier secretaries is possibly greater than Hamley's, can announce that he was nearly perfect, and his professional career is a record of almost unbroken success. Moreover, although he and I were mutual members of three societies in London and frequently used to have a chat, I have to admit that until I read an obituary appreciation in The Times I was unaware of a great deal of his unusual career. I knew he was born in Perth, but it was news to me that he was one of the first graduates of the University of Western Australia to achieve a Hackett overseas scholarship.
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William McDougall, F.R.S.

From the L.R. Reeve papers (see A.J. Balfour).

William McDougall*
I repeat my belief that H. G. Wells is the most quoted writer in my reading life, but the late William McDougall, F.R.S., must surely be the most mentioned author in the realms of British psychology. The great Lancastrian's name is also prominent in educational and social psychology, not only in Great Britain but in Europe, America and Australia.
  The well-known behaviourist Watson may be in the running for supremacy in America, for I believe his reputation is growing, and probably Freud's profile is becoming blurred. McDougall however, has a substantial following in the United States, partly because he was lured across the Atlantic to Harvard University, then to Duke University, Durham, N.C., and due to his authoritative well-written publications. Moreover he was a magnificent lecturer: a man whose attractive voice, commanding presence and deductive powers were irresistible to most people. When I wrote about W. H. R. Rivers and his two assistants, William McDougall and C. S. Myers joining an expedition to the Torres Straits in 1898, I could have added that each of the three men deserved first-class honours in Elocution.
  Having asserted that McDougall's reputation is so strong I have to admit that in 1969 Professor Hearnshaw of Liverpool, stated that the great psychologist's influence has almost if not completely vanished. I have no figures to fortify my theory, but if Hearnshaw is right how is it that recently one of McDougall's publications, An Introduction to Social Psychology once out of print, has been reprinted and re-published? Besides, did Hearnshaw forget America? Furthermore, did any other Englishman do more to establish British psychology on an experimental and physiological basis? Before I leave the three young adventurers I must refer to the fact with which I agree, that Rivers and McDougall were both critical of some of Freud's conclusions on the human race. Although I saw Myers scores of times in London, I never knew his opinion of the notable Viennese psychoanalyst. Usually his contributions in my hearing concerned industrial psychology.
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Dr Charles Samuel Myers

Found in the L.R. Reeve papers (see earlier postings) - this piece on Dr Charles Samuel Myers (1873-1946) psychologist, anthropologist and musicologist. Among other things, he wrote the first paper on 'Shell Shock' (1915.) Many of Reeve's subjects were connected to psychology which, with education and politics, was a life long interest. He attended many meetings of the industrial section of the British Psychological Society where he first saw Myers. He gives much good detail about his appearance, voice and character...

DR C. S. MYERS

"He was a remarkable man," declared a well-known psychologist soon after the decease of Dr C. S. Myers, F.R.S. He was; and the tribute was, if anything, an understatement, for few who knew him would challenge the description 'remarkable'. One day, if the event hasn't yet materialized, a well-documented yet fascinating biography will insinuate itself into bookshops and public libraries, and thousands of people who have never heard of him will learn of a man who might well be described as a determined investigator into the innate possibilities of the human race.
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J. H. Wimms

Another piece by L.R. Reeve, this on the writer and psychologist J.H. Wimms (Joseph Henry.) He is unknown to Wikipedia and his dates are also unknown but a remark by Reeves that his children must by now be grand parents or great grand parents (written circa 1970) puts Wimms birth date at about 1870. He published a paper in the British Journal of Psychology on The Relative Effects of Fatigue and Practice produced by Different Work in 1907 and earlier in 1903 Elementary Biology (Pilgrim Press). Wimms is mentioned in an earlier jot on D. W. Brogan where Reeve describes him as 'the finest lecturer I have ever known' - no mean compliment, as Reeve was a constant attender of lectures throughout a long and busy life. The Brogan piece also has background on L.R. Reeve.

J. H. WIMMS

The finest lecturer for any university is the man who can maintain an unbroken interest on almost any occasion. Trite, but true; and the greatest I have ever known was J. H. Wimms, M.A., of Goldsmiths’ College. He was one of those rare scholars who can maintain the attention of students who, even with no desire to learn are, in spite of themselves excited by the magnetic presentation of the lecturer, and find eventually that they have quite a fair knowledge of one or more specific subjects.
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Professor C. W. Valentine (Psychology)

From the L.R. Reeve* collection of short sketches of people he had met - this affectionate piece about psychologist C.W. Valentine (1879-1964).  He wrote many books on psychology and was the  editor of  The British Journal of Educational Psychology for its first 25 years. Wikipedia (so far) knows him not.. Reeve saw him lecture several times...

Professor C. W. Valentine

Forty years ago I used to believe that Professor C. W. Valentine was one of the most reliable psychologists in England. Time has never changed my opinion, for on the many occasions when I have listened to him, or read about him he has always left me with the same impression of steadiness and sense of proportion so that one always felt that any declaration from him was the result of an objective mind which had arrived at a conclusion after exhaustive study.
  I can, however, express a decided opinion on one of his books: an early volume on intelligence tests. Years ago an elderly colleague of mine was pestered by his newly qualified daughter to advise her on the best intelligence tests. He came to me. I took Valentine's book to school. We went into a huddle. He gave the tests according to instructions. Because I didn't know his boys I marked and assessed the results. A few days later he came to me beaming. "I have known every boy for at least six months and your marks are perfect." Salutations to Professor Valentine. And if the book in question is now out of print so much the worse for intelligence tests and education in general. No doubt the usual gibe 'old-fashioned' will be objected by superficial minds. Well, eating, drinking, breathing, speech and many other things are of ancient custom; when, therefore, the phrase ‘old-fashioned, is presented one can usually suspect a feeble argument, something like a lawyer's dictum, "When you have a weak case attack the man."
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May Smith O.B.E. Industrial Psychologist

From the L.R. Reeve* collection of short sketches of people he had met - this affectionate piece about psychologist May Smith O.B.E (1868-1968). There is a very brief entry at Wikipedia but a lot more in an article on early women industrial and experimental psychologists which details sleep privation tests she performed on herself in her study of fatigue amongst workers. Our photo is from the Science Museum and is of a Dotting Machine made by Edgar Schuster. It was used for testing accident-proneness in industrial workers by May Smith and her fellow psychologist Millais Culpin while she was at the Industrial Fatigue Research Board. This was  a body originally set up to study the health of munitions workers during World War I. As often with L.R. Reeve, an assiduous attender of lectures, he evaluates oratorical style - in her case 'compulsive' and '..much more unassuming than she ought to have been.'

May Smith

Mr Alec Rodger M.A., of Birkbeck College, London, has recently contributed, in a Bulletin of the British Psychological Society, a well-deserved tribute to the late Miss May Smith, O.B.E., whom for many years I considered to be among the dozen ablest psychologists in this country; and to this day my opinion has never changed. Moreover, Mr Rodger's survey of her career strengthens my previous conviction of her wide outlook, for although I saw her, heard her unruffled, steady speeches, read accounts of diligent research, such as studying, with Dr Millais Culpin, 1,000 people in all walks of life to find 60 per cent showing some sign of mental ill-health, I never knew of her close knowledge of so many of our eminent pioneers in psychology. I knew that she had been associated with William McDougall, Millais Culpin and Cyril Burt; but the fact that she had been influenced by the eminent Samuel Alexander, Lord D'Abernon, Lord Woolton and the steady, clear-thinking Eric Farmer was news to me;  and Mr Rodger’s account of her early days emphasises once again how frequently we meet people for years and suddenly learn that we have both lived in the same locality for a long period, and experienced a human environment of similar interest. Miss Smith and I both knew some of Manchester's leading figures and eminent learned men.
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Hugh Crichton-Miller (1877-1959)

Found among the papers of L R Reeve* this appreciation of the life of Dr Hugh Crichton Miller Scottish psychiatrist and founder of the Tavistock Clinic.

Tavistock Clinic**

DR HUGH CRICHTON-MILLER

  My appreciation of the late Dr Hugh Crichton-Miller is not in chronological order so I begin with an unusual admonition made in the middle of one of his talks to an audience of highly intelligent and respectful graduates: If you can't study the subject deeply leave psycho-analysis alone'.
His advice has never left my memory for two reasons: the very level-headed doctor was one of our greatest authorities on medical psychology, and a few weeks later the matron of a nursing home, having asked my opinion of the new psychology informed me that treatment was beneficial to half the patients concerned and disastrous to the others. Hence I was warned and I feel to-day that the warning is more imperative than ever before, not only to myself but to the increasing number of people concerned.
However, as psycho-analysis is not on my own terms of reference I refer to my next view of the specialist on the platform in Wimpole Street, when he so ably interpreted Dr Montessori's address. I have mentioned him in my reference to Montessori elsewhere so turn to my third episode when I heard him at the seaside.
  
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W.H.R. Rivers

Sometimes now known as 'The Psychiatrist of The Ghost Road' W.H.R.Rivers has a formidable reputation and holds a pivotal place in the development of neurophysiology, psychiatry/ psychology and anthropology - but he is probably most widely known for his wartime association with Siegfried Sassoon and Robert Graves and is featured in Pat Barker's 1995 Booker prize winning novel The Ghost Road. L.R. Reeve* some of whose encounters with famous people we are posting, actually never met him but saw him lecture and, sadly, missed a chance to meet him '…after he had addressed an audience at Cambridge he invited the London contingent to his rooms at St John's College for coffee and discussion. Some of us, I among them, wanted to return by the next train and reluctantly refused. What a chance I missed!' Nevertheless he has a good account of him:

W.H.R.RIVERS

Dr Rivers (1864 - 1922) was one of those rare men who call forth the best generous impulses of anyone with whom they come in contact. No extreme selfish extrovert, no criminal, nobody I should think, could resist his unconscious charm; and he himself, like Harold Nicolson, couldn't hate anybody.
  
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Why do children ask questions?

 Found in Intellectual Growth in Young Children by Susan Isaacs (Routledge, London 1930) this collection of children's questions. Susan Sutherland Isaacs (1885 - 1948) was an educational psychologist. Basically she bellieved that children learn best through play. For her, play involves a perpetual form of experiment..."at any moment, a new line of inquiry or argumemt might flash out, a new step in understanding be taken". This is where the chapter on questions comes in. It was actually written by her husband Nathan Isaacs (1895 - 1961). He was a metallurgist but collaborated on her later work. The piece after the selection of questions goes some way towards explaining their significance.

 Why do ladies not have beards? 

 Why are the funnels (on a boat) slanting?

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The Secret of Time Travel

Found - a booklet from 1984 by David Savage The Secret of Time Travel (Finbarr Book, Folkestone.)

The lines near the start of the book:  'If we have lived on the Earth before, the body cells must ALSO be equipped with, or have access to, all the data about our other lives on Earth' may require a couple of largish leaps of faith, but time travel sitting comfortably at home and without the aid of a complicated Wellsian metal time machine is an attractive proposition, so it may be worth persevering.

The book is only 15 pages in length and the author gets down to the real secret at page 8. Other Finbarr books included: Making Money with Magick, How to Contact God, Winning with Witchcraft, Mindflow and The Secret of Immortality. The booklet came from the vast library of Dr. M. H. Coleman, a writer on the occult and psychic matters. He collected over 4000 books on these subjects but was a confirmed sceptic and  set out to prove that there are definitely not more things in heaven and earth than in Horatio's philosophy...

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