Child in their Midst – February 1919

(I’m no historian so am not sure what strikes Margaret will be referring to here. However a quick check on Google suggests that this column was published shortly after the Battle of George Square , in Glasgow, in which strikers rioted over shorter working hours. The unrest was probably wider spread than Glasgow. Margaret would have been acutely aware of the industrial action and the privations suffered by the strikers and their families)

I passed a group of excited strikers arguing, gesticulating, laughing, swearing, and punching each other on the breast in friendly persuasion. At their feet I caught a glimpse of a little child with tear-wet cheeks, looking up pitifully into the face of the most voluble. Then they closed round the tiny figure, and hid him from me.

The silent, pathetic entreaty of the child moved me to turn back, after I had gone a few yards and manoeuvred to see if the little one was really crying. He was apparently frightened, chilled, and tired, but quite comfortably dressed outwardly. Had the father taken him out of the mother’s way?

The unhappy little face looked so out of place in that group of idle disputants that I was scanning the men to decide which would be the parent, and was on the point of approaching them to say, “This poor little chap’s cold and tired; couldn’t you lift him up in your arms a bit?” — when I became aware that two or three men turned to look curiously at me, and my courage failed me.

All day, afterwards, the child’s face haunted me in a ridiculous way. For, after all, had I gone straight up, and said, “Poor little chap!” the men would have been as friendly as possible, probably told me his age and cheered his little lonely heart with some attention.

Perhaps they think they are fighting for the betterment of their children’s lot. But I could not help feeling that the little tearful child in their midst was symbolic. While they are arguing and demonstrating, the child, on whose behalf the whole battle of life is fought, inevitably suffers.

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