THE "STAR" COMMENTS.
SATURDAY, JULY 14, 1888.
HOW TO MEND TRADE.
Above the din of party warfare and the noise of all babblers, there is a cry rising up from the middle and humbler classes of society that is increasing in volume and must soon arrest the attention of all thoughtful men.
The cry of the people we speak of is, "How shall we live?" It is a very searching and earnest question, and one that cannot be easily answered. We are a commercial people, "a nation of shopkeepers" as the French love to remark, and we all know the meaning of having "trade good" and "trade bad." We know what the difference is, and we know that our comfort and happiness increases or diminishes just as our industries languish or thrive.
When the memorable "flush times" were on fifteen years ago, and the iron and steel and coal trades were in the hey-dey of prosperity, Workington was a very Paradise for the tradesman and the commercial traveller. Money was so plentiful that it was thought very little of, and the bank directors of the district were on the point of insanity because nobody needed overdrafts. In the shops, tradespeople had only to ask and have, anything would sell at any price, traders built themselves fine houses and bought themselves costly pictures and in every quarter of the town, the mantle of prosperity was spread thick and soft.
That was fifteen years ago. Is it so today ? Nay, the reverse is the case now. Our town has trebled its population, we have new streets by the dozen, and new shops by the hundredh, but we have pinching in place of plenty, and if the truth were told, nine shopkeepers in every ten in the town to-day are actually struggling to make ends meet.
"Ichabod" has been written up over our town, and the glory has departed.
We are just now busy with the question of incorporation, and devising means of adding to the burdens already borne by the long-suffering ratepayers, but would it not be infinitely wiser and better if we seriously tried to improve the stagnant commerce of the town, and made some attempt to provide ways and means by which the population might be kept rather further from starvation point than they are now?
We pointed out some months ago in another place, how a considerable measure of comfort and benefit might be brought to Workington, and we will now briefly return to the argument. We proposed that there should be local industries started, especially for women and girls, and for such men as through age or other infirmities could not do heavy manual labour and yet had to work or become paupers.
At present we depend almost entirely on the iron and steel works, and it is a common thing to hear business people say what a vast difference they feel in trade when this or that works is "off". Now, we are too large a community to be depending almost solely on one particular industry, and our suggestion is that the capitalists of the town neighbourhood should promote a number of small factories (or large) for the manufacture of various goods in common use, and that these factories would pay.
THE "STAR" COMMENTS......Part 2
SATURDAY, JULY 14, 1888.
HOW TO MEND TRADE.
For example, take brushes. Many thousand of brushes of all kinds are in daily use in Workington, not one brush is made in the town ! Why ?
Because the industry has not been attempted. To our knowledge, there are brush mills that pay well in such towns as Ulverston and Kendal -- why not here ? Of baskets the same may be said. Mats again are largely used, none are manufactured. Thousands of tins of biscuits are continually coming into the town by rail, that could all be easily made here. Earthenware is in immense demand and is constantly needing renewing, but with a very small exception, it is not made here.
A paper mill we have, but we could do with one or two more, as a great deal of money is yearly paid out of the town for paper and bags of all kinds. We have no soap manufacture, not even a tallow candle can be made in Workington. No cloth fabrics of any kind, no jam factory, no large confectionery manufactory; in fact nothing but the iron and steel industries.
We have an abundance of water, good railway facilities, plenty of old buildings that could be utilized as factories, and in our opinion it would be a grand step towards making the town prosperous and happy, if a number of these manufactures could be set going and two thousand idle hands set to earn wages.
We confess we are ambitious for the towns good, but our ambition is surely reasonable, and there is nothing wild or visionary in the scheme we have propounded of beginning to make at home the various goods in common use that now come to us from towns at a distance. All the goods we have specified (and many more) could be made here, and the wages paid to the workpeople would not only benefit them, but would go round more or less amongst the whole community.
This is our proposal for mending trade in our own town, and if put into operation it would beyond doubt answer the question of "How shall we live?" in many a case.
Our theory is that all towns should as far as practicable make what they consume, and we think it is a theory that is worth consideration. It is an old saying the "charity begins at home," and we certainly think that when a town like this is suffering so greviously from stagnation and is yet sending many thousands of pounds to other places for goods that could be made with great advantage on the spot, it is doing itself a serious wrong.