John Henry Staddon, former Mayor of Luton [Z49/261]
Saturday 12th February 1916: The Mayor of Luton himself has been involved in an errand of mercy for a distressed Belgian refugee family. He appeared at a meeting of the Luton Education Committee to explain the circumstances which had caused one of the children to come to the notice of the School Attendance Sub-Committee. The mother of the family had been ill for some weeks and the child, an eleven year old girl, had been looking after both her mother and four other little children. The father was working at Messrs. Balmforth’s until about 9.30 p.m., and when he returned home each night he cooked the next day’s food for his wife and children while the eleven year old did the housework. The mother had now been admitted to the Infirmary and the Mayor had made arrangements for a nurse to look after the children until something could be done for them.
The Committee agreed that no action would be taken and the matter would be postponed. No pressure had yet been exercised in the case, although a letter had been sent to the father calling attention to the girl’s absence from school. The Mayor pointed out that the official notice had “frightened the life out of them”. Alderman Arnold pointed out that it could be assumed that the father was earning a fair amount and despite the labour shortage it should have been possible to get someone else to look after the children so the girl could go to school. The Mayor said that one lady in the neighbourhood was so distressed by the situation that she had said she would go and live in the house and take care of the children herself if necessary.
Source: Luton News, 10th February 1916