‘After tea, we played “Postman’s Knock” which always seemed a daft pastime to me – why kiss someone you didn’t love?’
The Cowpers were very much a religious family, as evidenced by the church visits, religious literature and numerous instances of Daisy talking about God, church and Christianity. There appears to have been a rift at the family’s Church of England establishment, which sister Agnes elaborates on in her work. She explains that because their father used an umbrella rack fitted to a pew at a patron’s expense, and was consequently berated for doing so, that he felt it not ‘Christian-like to complain of such a trivial thing’ (Agnes 25-26). As a result, their father found the family a new, non-conformist church in the shape of the Church of Christ, which Daisy describes as ‘a focal point in our lives.’ Both Agnes and Daisy attended Sunday School, and this may have in some way helped towards Daisy’s decision to become a teacher. No doubt the extra education helped both sisters in their careers, though it came at a modest weekly fee. Agnes even taught at Sunday School, so both sisters had some experience in the field.
With the exception of reading and general childrens games, few pastimes or hobbies of Daisy’s are personally listed. Although she recalls playing music with her siblings, she does not list herself as playing any instrument – though does later in her work explain that she had piano lessons which she later gave up. Also going so far as to say ‘I had no love for songs or singing’, so ruling out any vocal musicianship. She remembers how she would play in the streets and the local (Princes) park with her friends, always without mention of toys or entertainment other than their imaginations. Daisy recalls how in Winter, when ‘Outdoor fun was limited’, her and some friends would ‘be allowed to go off for half an hour after tea, to see the shops.’ Again Daisy’s working class status is cemented by the very fact she and her friends took delight in merely ‘seeing’ the shops as opposed to shopping itself. Nevertheless, Daisy remarks that ‘Present day youngsters would scorn what we adored, and the loss is theirs!’. She certainly holds no bitterness with regards to having no money for shopping, or owning few to no toys, as she and her friends coped very adequately in finding their amusements out of nothing, like so many other working class children in Liverpool.
Daisy attends the Band of Hope, a Christian temperance movement and playgroup of sorts for young working class children. Here Daisy and her friends would ‘sing a hymn, listen to a very brief prayer, sing another hymn, generally of a bright and narrative nature, and then be entertained.’ Lectures about the values of temperance were also given, and Daisy remembers the joy of the children at a projection of a ‘picture that really moved!’ onto a screen. The ‘making and burning of Judas on Good Friday’ was also a celebrated event with local boys, and young Daisy begged her mother to allow her to join the fun, only to have the boys desert her before she left. It is easy to see how the Cowper family’s Christian beliefs spill into their hobbies and interests, with most extra-curricular activity of Daisy’s being church related in some way, be it Sunday School, the Band of Hope, or church itself.
Respectability does appear to be a concern of Daisy’s. She does not make a point of recording any incidents which portray the family members in a negative social light, and any hardships are countered always with how they were overcome. While speaking of her brothers, she explains that ‘you will have seen from what I have told that boys belonging to respectable people were almost always in the home during winter evenings – not knocking about in groups, looking to make trouble’. She is keen to emphasise the good natures of her family and friends, but whether that would have been the truth all of the time we as readers may never know.
Cowper, Agnes, (1874 – 1963), ‘A Backward Glance on Merseyside’, Burnett Archive of Working Class Autobiography, University of Brunel Library, Special Collection, 1:181
Cowper, Daisy, (1890 – 1985), ‘De Nobis’, Burnett Archive of Working Class Autobiography,University of Brunel Library, Special Collection, 1:182
Image from: ‘Streets of Liverpool.’ http://streetsofliverpool.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/Band-of-Hope.jpg 21 March 2013. Accessed 6 January 2014