Food rationing in city... 80 years on
JANUARY is traditionally a lean month. as families recover from the excesses of the festive season by choosing to diet, drink less and live more economically.
But 80 years ago this week, those living through the Second
World War had no choice, as food rationing was introduced.
In Glasgow, just as was happening across Britain, queues of people waiting to hand over their ration books in return for their allocation of sugar, butter and bacon became commonplace.
Margaret Wallace, 79, who grew up in Scotstoun, recalls her mother’s tales of queuing outside the local shops.
“You’d take along your book to the shop and come home with your allotted rations,” explains Margaret, who lived with her mother Margaret, father Bob – a clerk at Albion Motors – and younger brother Jim. “The women got so used to it, they just made the best of it. I recall things like cheese and eggs and meat being rationed, and petrol too – we didn’t have a car, so that didn’t affect us.”
Even sweets were rationed – Jim Ferguson, who came along to a Glasgow Times Thanks for the Memories event at Possilpark Library with his sister Anne and cousin Linda, recalled: “We’d go to the cinema with the sweeties you got with your ration book all wrapped up in a wee cone.”
Rationing was introduced on January 8, 1940. Everyone in the country was given a book full of stamps which were handed to the shopkeeper in exchange for certain foodstuffs – at first, sugar, butter and bacon were rationed, but gradually more were introduced
as imports were disrupted by German U-boat attacks on British ships.
Meat was rationed from 11 March 1940; cooking fats and tea from July 1940, and cheese and preserves in 1941.
Compassion in Crisis, an exhibition at Kelvingrove dedicated to the Royal Voluntary Service, reveals the organisation’s role in wartime Glasgow, where it helped to hand out ration books.
The service was founded by Stella Reading in 1938 to help recruit women into the Air Raid Precautions movement and assist civilians during and after air raids.
Since then the charity has evolved to tackle some of the biggest social challenges of the day.
The exhibition, which runs until January 31, explains how in 1941, the service helped the Ministry of Food to distribute 45 million ration books in one week.
The Glasgow Times’s sister newspaper The Herald reported the start of food rationing with a stoic stance – and some relief.
“If the advent of rationing serves daily to bring home to the public that the nation is at grips with an unscrupulous enemy, the experience may have a salutary effect on the public generally,” it said.
“There is no sacrifice involved in the scale of the rations and the fact that the Ministry of Food have arranged that no coupons need be surrendered yet for bacon and ham ordered in restaurant meals removes for the time being perhaps the most irksome aspect of rationing.
“We may consider ourselves fortunate that such disciplinary experiences were postponed until after the Christmas and New Year holiday periods.”
A benefit of rationing was that many people were better fed during the war than before, because it allowed poorer people a fairer share of healthier foods, and things like butter and sugar were less available.
Rationing continued well beyond the war and finally ended in 1954.
Everyone in the country was given a ration book when they were introduced in 1940
Jim Ferguson and family, from Possilpark, recalled rationing when he was a youngster
Glasgow’s RVS helped distribute ration books