Daisy and boots.
The PRATT family was large but rarely received charity they were no worse off than most of their neighbours and Ria was practical. She owned a treadle sewing machine and made most of the family’s clothes. The girls soon learnt how to darn and patch.
Boots for the family were a huge expense and the children were often chosen to receive charity boots. Daisy told how on one occasion she received Police charity boots. The children all lined up and were given the boots which were stiff leather and hard to get on. Each boot was embossed “Police Charity” on the outer ankle but they did have the lovely new leather smell and were shiny. When they had all got their boots on the grateful recipients had a group photograph taken.
With boots being clearly marked as charity boots they could not be pawned by parents who were short of money.
This way of marking charity items is described in an article written by John Noakes when he visited Claines in 1826. See our Claines page.
Kathleen DAYUS describes the area where Daisy grew up in her autobiography “The Girl from Hockley”. (Virago 2006) Kathleen Dayus was born twelve years before Daisy into a similar situation. Daisy’s account of receiving charity boots is similar to the situation recalled in the book.
“Each winter our parents put in applications for boots and clothing...Our teachers inspected us ... giving us a form for our parents to fill in”. On the day of the distribution Kathleen and her brother had clogs which they preferred and their sister had boots. ”These articles all had to have holes punched in them or be marked with an arrow so that our parents couldn’t pledge them” If such items were pawned the parents were liable for a fine or even imprisonment. So perhaps Daisy’s boots had been marked for this purpose rather than to boast of the charities benevolence.
Kathleen’s mother is portrayed as hard and unloving while Maria Pratt was a very practical and caring mother but she too was still strict with her children. With thirteen boys she needed to be a disciplinarian. Like Kathleen's parents Daisy’s father enjoyed visiting the pub perhaps too often and sadly this often resulted in angry outbursts. Like Katie DAYUS Daisy had a good singing voice as did her father. One of her brothers once remarked “Hark at our Days yer thinks yer’s Gracie Fields yer does”.