1917 court: Hotel managers fail to keep food record

editorial image

Kate Lawless, manageress of the Ramshill Hotel; Edith Mary Taylor, manageress of the Cambridge Hotel; Cecilia Yates, manageress of the Balmoral Hotel; James Jackson Busby, Victoria Hotel, were summoned, respectively for having failed to keep a register of the number of meals and the quantity of food used at the hotels between August 25th and September 14th.

Mr Tasker Hart, solicitor, appeared for Miss Yates. Miss Lawler did not appear.

In the case of Miss Yates, which was taken first, defendant pleaded guilty subject to whatever her solicitor had to say.

The chief constable explained that the proceedings were taken under the Public Meals Order, which set forth that persons like defendants should keep a register in the form prescribed. They also had to keep invoices and other documents relating to food used.

At the end of the order was a form of schedule. The register had to be made up to the Saturday night, and persons were given up to the following Wednesday in which to make the register up. A register had to contain the maximum quantity of meat, flour, and sugar permissible, and used. It had to be open to the inspection of an authorised officer so that the maximum quantities used, “rationing in bulk” as it was called, should not be exceeded. He (the chief) had summoned the defendants for failing to keep the register entered up. When PC Nalton, directed by him (the chief), called, he found the register not kept up. It had been established, showing that Miss Yates and the other defendants knew the register was necessary. The plea given was that on account of the shortness of staff there had not been time to enter up the register.

Mr Hart asked PC Nalton if he could tell him when 1,229 meals were served in a week what would be the quantity of sugar permissible.

The constable replied: I could if I worked it out.

Mr Hart: Can you do it now?

The chief: Surely this is not necessary?

Mr Hart: I want to show that it takes a little working out.

The mayor: I can tell you: 22lbs, 15ozs (laughter).

Miss Yates, in the box, said she told the officer, which he had stated in evidence, that if he called in the afternoon she would have the book made up. He did not call. The bookmaker had been upset by the submarine incident of September 4th.

Mr Hart: It was a raid, not a police raid, but nearly as bad (laughter).

Witness also said that she relied on the chef for the meat used and the storekeeper for sugar. During August they had been very busy, and the register had not been kept up to date.

The magistrates found the case proved and reserved decision until the other cases were heard.

The other cases were very similar, except in Mr Busby’s case, he had told the officer that the book was not made up as the man who did it for him had been ill. Defendant had certain figures on cards.

Defendant said the book had been kept up regularly until his assistant was ill and then, on account of shortage of staff, defendant got behind.

The mayor, after the magistrates had retired, said the bench would impose a fine in each case of 10s. The magistrates wished to impress upon those who had regulations to observe how important they were. One could scarcely imagine a more important matter than that which had to do with the food supply of the whole country, and it was only by people, like defendants, doing their best, as they appeared to have done to a certain point, and then neglected the matter - it was only by their continuing to do their best that they could back up the Food Controller, who had an extremely difficult task.

If other defendants came before the bench the latter would deal with them more severely.