Thursday, 7 April 2016

Bonnets and Batter in Part Two of this fun and informative series about the Salvation Army.

Paul O’Grady is back .His previous employment with social services had brought him into contact with the Sally many times. This year is the 150th anniversary of the Charity and Paul is joining them as a very special New Recruit. He was not put off by the feet washing exercise with the homeless  so returns to continue his special training so he can play that Big Base Drum  down Oxford Street, leading the band and fulfilling a childhood dream.

Paul is impressed ,he can see why they called themselves an army. They move in they deal with the problem and the move out!

Captain Jo wants to give Paul some  encouragement and incentive in his challenges this week. A Bespoke outfit has been made to give him a uniform that falls in with the aesthetic of the Uniform without him actually having to sign the Articles of War. This is a faith first organisation. Paul is thrilled, but is worried the hat makes him look like a bus conductor.  The Salvation Army shield has been a powerful symbol since the war when the Tea wagons would be tending to the troops.

There have  been many changes in the visual identity of the Salvationists but the Salvation Army bonnet, is one of the most identifiable was first seen on Wednesday 16 June 1880 at William and Catherine Booth's silver wedding anniversary celebration Its design was due, in part, to the fact that one of the cadets training at the Salvation Army's Hackney college in 1880 was a milliner from Barnsley called Annie E. Lockwood.She trimmed a bonnet chosen from straw designs supplied by local companies – initially the ribbon chosen was blue, but later this would become black. In 1881, the Salvation Army even published some general rules prohibiting alteration of the distinctive bonnet. 

The design which  became popularly known as the 'hallelujah bonnet' and came to symbolise the Army's work. The bonnet's purpose was not only to identify the wearer, but to protect the head from cold and – in the early days  a lady’s bonnet served a dual purpose , to protect against the elements, but also to protect the face against , missiles from people protesting the Salvationist’s stance on temperance. The Army was a strong advocate of a teetotal life style.

Paul’s first challenge is to go out onto the streets to Sell the Salvation Army  newsletter “The War Cry”  on the streets of London. In days of old it contained many treatise on saving the sinner from the Demon Drink and it was very popular in the 1940s and into the Second World War . Intrepid  Salvationists would  go into pubs to sell it  and does a pretty fair trade.

Today  The War Cry costs the princely sum of twenty pence. And contains  current army news , crossroads and even recipes. He meets up with Captain who was part of the team doing the feeding and foot washing in Bournemouth last week. Also getting involved is  Lauren an Eighteen Year Old  Cadet who has been in a Salvationist  family all her life.

Paul is not convinced that the War Cry is relevant for the average shopper in the precinct, but he soon realises it is  is a wonderful way to start a conversation , to get to talk to folk about why  they do what they do and who they are.  Lauren is a great example of a youngster who has values in line with the Articles, she does not drink  Alcohol and is slightly nervous about the reception she will get when she goes to University from peers, but I think she will do admirably. She has already withstood peer questions from college friends who saw her on the Bus in her uniform. They thought she was an Air Hostess!

It is estimated that at any given time there are 300,000  16 to twenty four year olds sleeping rough or  in unsafe places. There are about  35,000  youths living in shelters the Salvation Army offers accommodation to 16- 24 year olds in their ten British  “Life houses”,  communal accommodation  for up to forty people. The aim is to assist them to break destructive cycles , to escape the stigma of the Care system to noble them to move into homes of their own. 

Time in a life house gives an opportunity for them to  learn new skills.

Paul Visits  Springfield lodge, one such Life House in South London. On average young people stay  on average 16 months.

Here he meets  Sarah (19) and Chad ( 18) who are youngsters escaping the confrontations and other potential dangers of Gangs. Chad was expelled from school and fell in with a bad crowd.They and the other inhabitants are overseen by Helen, a  kind of House mother who says they cannot discount the power that gangs have over young people in today’s society. She tells Paul that they have had youngsters arrive with parts of fingers and toes missing or parts of earlobes because they have sought to leave a gang or just as part of Gang initiations. This is shocking and something I too was pretty much unaware of. Thankfully Springfield Lodge is a safe place where youngsters can learn to trust and interact again without the fear of violence.

In the Life skills classes, the youngsters are taught basic DIY, How to budget properly, proper interview skills and basic cookery in an effort to get them ready to enter society again with a degree of confidence and self reliance so that they are not drawn back into that life.

Paul decides to impart the glorious secrets of “Uncle Harold’s lemon drizzle cake” this descends into chaos, but before the flour starts flying he manages to get some passable lemon cake batter out of them all and talk about their hopes and dreams for the future. They all have worthy ambitions, so if nothing else the Life House has at least given them hoe that the future will be better.

Paul is no stranger to the issues that the Salvation Army addresses daily.Thirty years ago, before he became Lily Savage  and retired her to become beloved  TV presenter Paul O’Grady, he worked as a care officer who would move into a family home to care for the children if single mum went into hospital for instance, that way the family would remain together and not go into the care system.

Paul next goes to one of Twenty five All -male life houses called  Cambria House to meet Forty Three year old Jonas, who has been at Cambria for a year. He is  helping him move to council housing Flat in Hampstead. Jonas’ troubles began when his partner  ended their three year relationship three weeks before he was due to marry. He had  used all of his savings to pay for the wedding day and had been out of work. He slept on a bench on Hampstead Heath for six weeks. Jonas’s Whole world  had collapsed. He even finds it exceptionally Hard being back up on the Heath for filming.

Jonas had fallen in a period of Depression, was trying to get work, but told he could not be living out of Bin bags , and really needed to find a home first. Thankfully with support from the Salvation Army he had a flat lined up so Paul helps him load up his belongings  and make the short trip to Finchley to start his life anew. He has no bed and no Iron, but he now has his own front door, a roof over his head and knows he is safe and secure, infinitely preferable to a bench on the Heath.
As he says his final farewells to his temporary room, the staff tell Paul how much he will be missed, not least to keep the garden spick and span. Another life given hope again thanks to the intervention of the Salvation Army.

Paul’s final challenge is to engage with the youngsters at Spring field Lodge one final time and add a speaking track of a sample from a  famous Speech given by Booth to add to a Rap that they are making to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the organisation.

“While women weep, as they do now, I'll fight; while children go hungry, as they do now I'll fight; while men go to prison, in and out, in and out, as they do now, I'll fight; while there is a drunkard left, while there is a poor lost girl upon the streets, while there remains one dark soul without the light of God, I'll fight, I'll fight to the very end!”

Again the programme was a joyous celebration of the work of a charity that is a little bit a part of the wallpaper and not often given much thought, but more interestingly, I think; a change is starting to occur in Paul, from his opening Gambit at the top of the programme that his only interest is the social care aspects of the Sally Arm’s work, he says his Soul is a bit past saving, he says his soul is starting to tingle a bit. That spirit is starting to bubble up, you never know, maybe full dress uniform may well be beckoning!


  1. A great background into the bonnets worn and also youth spending time baking with lemon cakes. Yes, Bonnets to Batter is a fitting title and another in a series of informative and well written articles. I thoroughly enjoyed my dear friend. Emma, this was a very enjoyable read!

  2. Lauren isn't a Cadet, as in full time training to be a Salvation Army Officer.