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Feather's Miscellany: Hypocrisy And Meanness

...Many a man small in stature and in mind, once he gets behind the wheel of a Rolls or Mercedes becomes puffed with pride. By their dresses and cars ye shall know them. But what goes on inside the minds and hearts of these people is often allied to hypocrisy and meanness....

John Waddington-Feather’s story reveals how money can divide a family, but also can serve as a measure of good-heartedness.

I can’t understand why hypocrisy and meanness weren’t on the original list of the Seven Deadly Sins. Certainly they’ve resulted in much misery in the world and there was a lot of hypocrisy and meanness about in Keighworth when I was a lad.

Perhaps there still is. Two or three generations back, Those twin evils were rife even in the Church; so rife that in Keighworth an Anglican clergyman would cross the road to avoid meeting a Methodist minister or the Roman Catholic priest; while for their part, the Catholics wouldn’t admit fellow Christians to their Mass, and the Methodists kept themselves very much to themselves in their chapels. Thankfully, times have changed in the present ecumenical climate, when Churches have to work together much more to survive as the Western world becomes more atheistic. However, hypocrisy and meanness weren’t limited only to the clergy in the old days.

In the world outside the Church, neighbour looked down on neighbour, for Mammon ruled folks’ hearts much as he does today. Wealth gives you status and makes you acceptable – or unacceptable – in society. Women vie with each other wearing the most expensive dresses, and their men-folk buy expensive, flashy cars to be one-up on their neighbours. Many a man small in stature and in mind, once he gets behind the wheel of a Rolls or Mercedes becomes puffed with pride. By their dresses and cars ye shall know them. But what goes on inside the minds and hearts of these people is often allied to hypocrisy and meanness.

Take Cecil Philips, for example. He didn’t drive an expensive car nor did he live an expensive lifestyle, but he was wealthy compared with those who were under him at work. He’d come up from humble stock and scraped and saved all his life till he was worth thousands when he died. He was a staunch Primitive Methodist all his life and lived austerely; a real Puritan. He didn’t drink, he didn’t smoke and he was dead against any form of gambling. So when the grandfather on his mother’s side (a lapsed Anglican) won a fortune on the football pools, he was well and truly shocked and wouldn’t speak to the old man again. He was even more put out when the old man having invested his winnings wisely died a millionaire. In his heart of hearts Cecil envied him, but to give him his due he stuck to lifelong principles and wouldn’t touch a penny of his inheritance. As far as he was concerned it was tainted money, which duly went to his brother Samuel, who wasn’t so scrupulous and pocketed the lot. Cecil cut him off and like the grandfather before him never spoke to his brother again.

But though Samuel and his wife lived a good life, with a splendid bungalow on the sunny side of Keighworth and villa in Spain, but they also gave money to charity. They were as they say in Keighworth “good sorts.” They died childless and before they died, set up various trusts including an educational trust to help Keighworth students get on in their careers. When he read about it in the paper, Cecil declared firmly that no good would come of money that was tainted, no matter where it went. But he was wrong.

Time passed and Cecil’s two grandchildren grew up and began making their way in the world. They went to university, but when money became tight and the government stopped giving grants, they were desperate. They were offered post-graduate courses on condition they could raise the money, so they approached their grandfather to help them out.

Now Cecil had left school at fifteen to enter the office of Driver’s mill. From the start he was a firm believer in never lending or borrowing. If you couldn’t pay for what you wanted, you did without had been his maxim all his life. He started work as an office-boy and worked hard to better himself. He also buttered up old Driver, the mill-owner, and as result rose quickly up the ranks to the top.

By the time he was twenty one he was assistant to the senior clerk. Nobody in the family had got that far before. And by the time he was thirty he was appointed manager in the mill, second only to Mr Driver. He ruled the place with a rod of iron. He doffed his cap to his boss as he’d always done, but he made certain that those under him doffed their caps to him. He was always referred to as Mr Philips or sir, never by his first name. He sacked anyone who didn’t meet his standards in the mill and also paid them minimum wages. “Save the pennies,” he said, “and the pounds will take care of themselves.” And that certainly applied in his personal life. His poor wife was never given a penny too much for the housekeeping and had to account for all she spent.

If he did give anything away it was always done with pomp and ceremony. Like the Pharisees in the temple he made sure everyone knew when he was giving to charity. He didn’t have trumpets blown when he gave, like the Pharisees did, but he blew his own. For example, the whole family had to know how much he gave his two grandchildren at Christmas. When they reached eighteen he made a great palaver about giving them twenty quid when they reached their majority – and a lecture to go with it on how they should spend and save.

Came the time when those two grandchildren graduated well and were offered post-graduate courses. They approached him for a loan. They were desperate for cash. But would he help them? Would he hell! He kept the purse-strings pulled tight.

Their tutors advised them to try various charities and pointed them in the direction of a year-book where every trust and charity was listed. They wrote to them one by one without success, until they contacted The Samuel Philips Educational Trust” – and bingo! They hit the jackpot. The money left by the great-uncle they hardly knew, who’d been cut off by the rest of the family, came to their rescue and they were awarded full grants.

When Cecil heard about it he sulked. That ‘tainted’ money of his grandfather had come good and it irked him, the more so as he’d turned it down all those years ago. It could have been his and he was very put out; so put out that that night, like Jonah, he grumbled to God in his prayers.

John Waddington-Feather ©

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