‘Ragamuffin horde’ pelted Salvation Army members with rubbish and potatoes

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They are a sight – and a sound – that gladden the heart at times like Christmas.

The Salvation Army also does immense good work, so you would think that 
they have never been met with anything but approbation.

Well, not so – or at least not in the case of one grumpy Jarrow man.

Let me explain. This is another picture from Kevin Blair, showing the old headquarters of the Salvation Army in Jarrow.

There is no date for it, so I have to speculate that this is what was being called the ‘Salvation Army Barracks’, in Chaytor Street, at the turn of last century.

In delving for more information, however, it was interesting to discover that some Jarrow folk weren’t always sympathetic to the Army.

There is a note in 1882, for instance, of a mob pelting members of it on parade with “stones, potatoes and pieces of rubbish.” But a letter to the editor of the Shields Gazette in 1895 was in a different league altogether.

It came from a William Carter, who lived in Clyde Street, and who wrote asking if the Chief Constable could do nothing about “the intolerable nuisance committed in the always quiet neighbourhood of Clyde Street every Sunday morning by that ragamuffin horde known as Booth’s Salvation Army.”

He continued: “I was busy writing this morning when they came as usual almost opposite my front door and yelled, screamed, shouted and did their genuflections, danced, roared, beat drums, blew trumpets and cadged for money...”

His response?

He threw a bucket of water over them!

In the event a comment from a magistrate was secured, to the effect, bluntly, that “the Army was doing good work.”

I suppose what the latter is, is an illustration of simply one man’s upset at having a quiet morning’s work disrupted by the sound of an organisation whose character, at that time. still reflected the evangelism of the early meetings, organised by William Booth in the east end of London, out of which it had grown.

But the former hostility is more interesting, as it appears there were opponents to the Army as it developed in the second half of the 19th century. Members called themselves the “Skeleton Army” and would disrupt meetings by throwing stones, even rats and tar.

Behind this, often, were pub owners who were losing business because of the Salvation Army’s opposition to alcohol.