2 MAY 1992, Page 10

One hundred years ago

ON Sunday last, the first mass meeting of London clerks of all grades was held at the Reformers' Tree, by the Clerks' Unions. The speakers asked for higher wages, less hours, and better sanitary conditions. They did not wish to strike, but many clerks with families only got 30s. a week — (A voice: 15s.) Young clerks were kept working till 11 o'clock at night, to the damage of their health. "A clerk," said one of the speakers, "never knew how things would turn, and heaven help the clerk who was out of work. He did not know of a more sweat- ed class." No doubt the condition of many of the unskilled "quill-drivers" is pitiable enough, but this is mainly due to the supply of clerks being so vastly in excess of the demand. We trust that the Hyde Park meeting will be an advertis- ment of the miseries of clerkship, and that the brighter of the poor lads will make it their ambition to become skilled workmen, rather than underpaid clerks.

The Spectator 30 April 1892