Sometimes initial reactions upon starting to catalogue a folder of material can be so wrong! A recent expereince i had when cataloguing would be a case in point. The first letter in the folder ‘Films Resolution – Supervision of Children’ contains the wording of a Resolution ‘The NUWT is of the opinion that there should be a greater degree of supervision of children attending cinema performances, and that the management should be required to provide at least one adult to each fifty children present’. My immediate reaction was one of surprise – why is the NUWT concerned about children going to the cinema alone, surely there’s more important things to worry about, why should children require supervision. I thought it was a moral crusade about the type of films they would go and see at the cinema on their own.
Silly me, the minute I read a few more letters I realised the issue was of course, child safety. One particularly heartbreaking incident, referenced in a reply to the Resolution from Renfrewshire Education Authority, was the Glen Cinema tragedy in Paisley in 1929 where 70 children lost their lives.
On 31st December 1929 during a children’s matinée performance there was a stampede to leave the cinema when smoke started bellowing in from the projector room. The cellulose nitrate film stock had ignited. Fire wasn’t what caused the deaths of all these children though, it was the panic to get out the cinema which caused crushing and a pile-up of children at the exit. In the enquiry it was asserted that the fire doors were padlocked shut to ensure children didn’t try to sneak in without paying. It’s just too awful really, that concerns over money would outride safety concerns (it reminds me of another horribly similar outcome, where money concerns being valued over human lives, in a factory in New York, which I blogged about here).
Paisley Museum has a display about the disaster and there are two memorial plaques and a memorial in the cemetery where many of the children were buried. The building survived the fire and is now a furniture store.
So the NUWT concerns were that if there was ever an accident, or an emergency such as a fire, that adequate adult supervision was essential. Well, it all makes perfect sense now. It just goes to show that with cataloguing, as with life, jumping to conclusions does nobody any good.