Hello folks! It’s blog time once again. With me is the entrepreneur and social enterpriser, Duncan Johnstone! Duncan (better known as my lovely husband) is eager to dictate a tale for us tonight. He wants to let people know about another entrepreneur who lived hundreds of years ago, and who – like Duncan himself and the ‘Cook-Inn’ team – did his best to give a much-needed boost to the people of Scotland.
The Scots are famous for many things. We are very modern-thinking but our traditions and our past are extremely important to us. Like a historian might say, we learn from our past so that we don’t repeat our mistakes. This is mostly true. At least, we try. One ancient tradition, much more prevalent in the Highlands and the Isles, dating back many hundreds of years – is Scots hospitality. The ethos of ‘Cook-Inn’ is based on a modern version of this tradition. If someone knocks on your door (friend or foe) as long as the person is not holding a weapon, they are invited across the threshold. The moment the door closes, they are respected as an honoured family guest. They get the best seat in the house, by the fire. Dry clothes, if needed. Food, drinks and entertainment. A bed for the night and breakfast in the morning. Only upon leaving the dwelling might they revert to being a foe (assuming they were foes at the beginning).
If not for the Scots, many of the things that we take for granted today – television, telephone, pneumatic tyres, tarmac, various medical advances – would not exist.
Now I will talk about a little-known Welshman nevertheless famous throughout Scotland. This man is one of my personal heroes. His name is Robert Owen.
Mr Owen came to New Lanark in the late 1700’s, to manage a cotton mill. He was a very religious, moral and ethical man. Also a pioneer of social change. Not only did he change Scotland for the better; he changed the world.
Imagine a Scots village in the late 17th century which actually had social care! In a time when life was cheap, if you made it to your forties you were lucky. People were treated like slaves, and they lived in abject poverty. A family of twelve to twenty people could end up living in a single room. This was the state of affairs at New Lanark before the coming of Robert Owen.
Firstly, Robert built proper homes for his workers. The families were still huge, but now they were living in three or four-room houses with inside toilets! He built a school which included a kindergarten. No child under ten worked in the mills. Robert preferred children to stay at school until they were fourteen – a ground-breaking philosophy.
Workers worked six (not seven) days a week. Sunday was for church and family. Health and Social care was provided in the form of a free doctor and pensions for the elderly or injured. Also for their families. There was even a subsidised shop. One thing many people do not know about Robert Owen, is that he is one of the founders of the Co-operative Movement (the ‘Co-op’). Outside the Co-op head office stands his statue.
Robert Owen had strict rules, both at work and at home. While working, a multi-coloured cube hung over your workspace. The colour showing denoted that day’s performance. Your home had to be kept clean and tidy. Fines would be imposed if these chores were not carried out. Robert believed that physical and mental health and wellbeing was connected to productivity. Workers earned slightly less but their housing, social care and schools were all subsidised. Their life expectancy and their quality of life improved immeasurably. The productivity of New Lanark Mills greatly increased.
Learning was of vital importance. Maths, geography, music, dance, philosophy, botany, biology and history were all core lessons taught to children at the school, and also to adult workers after finishing their day’s labour. Staff had the chance to ‘better themselves’ by going to these night classes. Lectures and dances were also regular occurrences. Robert wished to expand the mind as much as he wanted to increase the lifespan of his workers. During the industrial revolution, factory owners from across the globe came to visit and to learn Robert’s practices. These practices they returned to their homes to employ, hoping to improve their own businesses as much as he had improved New Lanark. The best thing about this is that, in doing so, it improved the lives of an untold number of families across the world’.
Well, now we know a lot more about an aspect of Scots history than we did before! Fascinating true tales from a Master of Scots lore add colour to the blog. Please everyone comment when you ‘like’ us on Facebook, or on the website. What type of stories do you wish to read?
Today, as you might expect, we collected nine crate-fuls of fresh produce from the helpful staff at Morrison’s. We sorted and bagged it all up, still being without a kitchen. We then gave it out to the referred families on our list. Thanks go to George, Duncan of course, and to Feston – who drove for us today. Also to Fred, who helped sort and bag the food. Fred also acted as second man in George’s car. To Adele, the pedestrian powerhouse, who waited as usual in Musselburgh to help and direct Feston with his cargo when he arrived to make deliveries. Nobody knows the bigger Musselburgh run like Adele. So as you can see, the work still goes on, and the stories in the blogs keep on coming.
Lastly, Romany the elderly-but-very-cute cat visited the vet on Friday! His tests are not great – his thyroid is getting a little worse – so his meds were upped. Other than that he survived the encounter very well, and even transpired to have put on a tiny amount of weight! How he managed this while living with his brother Reiver astounds us. Also cute, also quite senior, ‘the Foodface’ lives to eat all that is edible – and that includes Romany’s food. Also yours, if you didn’t guard it well enough. Feeding time in our house is like a feline boxing match. We are indeed, as the saying goes, thankful for small miracles. Cat watchers can relax this week in the knowledge that their favourite two furry pets are still reasonably fine, and even on speaking terms. I will keep you informed, as I have been requested by some of our readership. Yes, Romy still howls in the night. Yes, you can probably hear him if you are this side of Glasgow(!) But he’s still quite alive and kicking.
Lots of love to all of you out there. Next week will see me back on the blogs again, and who knows what we’ll learn?