Whingeing fathers? You've never had it so good!

Fleet Debtor's Prison, from A Rake's Progress, Hogarth
Over the years I've had many comments on this blog from absent fathers complaining bitterly about the unfairness of the child support system. This recent example from 'Lee', responding to the new child maintenance proposals (under which absent fathers will have to pay more, according to The Telegraph) may seem somewhat extreme, but is not untypical:
"If this goes through I'd probably take to beating up me ex and he [sic] new boyfriend out of frustration and annoyance out of being treated in this appauling [sic] manner. I'd rather live in the gutter than pay it and wish it doesn't happen."
Well Lee, if you think things are going to be bad, then perhaps you should spare a thought for absent fathers two hundred years ago, who faced the prospect of a spell at His Majesty's pleasure if they were caught.

In an article about the British Library's online newspaper collection, the BBC reports a story in the Manchester Mercury of 1811 with the headline: "Runaway Husbands from Bury, Lancashire", which goes on to name four men: Thomas Crompton, George Booth, Robert Wardle or Leach and William Kay. The story continues:
"The above persons have left their Wives and Families Chargeable to Bury. Any person apprehending any of the above persons, and lodging them in any of his Majesty's gaols shall receive Two Guineas reward for each on application to the Churchwarden or Overseers of the Poor of Bury."
Things did not get much easier for absent fathers as the nineteenth century progressed. The BBC article goes on to tell us that:
"The issue of runaway husbands was one that became so prevalent during that century that newspapers in the 1870s started to report incidents of lashings being meted out as punishment."
Certainly makes the new child maintenance proposals seem a bit tame.

Right, I'm off to turn in a runaway husband I know and claim my two guineas...


  1. I wasn't talking about runaway Husbands. That's just spin. The reality is a lot more complex than that. Just blaming men is over-simplistic and counter-productive.


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