16th June. 1855. ‘Do not look at wine when it is red…’
The quotation goes on: ‘At the last it bites like a serpent and stings like an adder’.(Proverbs 23: 31), and could have been the motto of the founder of the Salvation Army, William Booth, who married Catherine Mumford Today in 1855.
It was Catherine who designed the distinctive red, blue and yellow flag and the poke bonnet, useful against flying missiles.
Whilst evangelicals were converting the benighted abroad, there were some who realized that we had problems nearer home, in an age where thirteen year old girls were sold as prostitutes. An age where woman were stopped in the street by the ‘Morals Police’ and told to present themselves for inspection against venereal disease.
A society of supposed high moral tone in public life, which hid an underworld of hypocrisy, extreme depravity and corruption.
Leaving school at thirteen and apprenticed to a Nottingham pawnbroker, Booth began open-air Gospel meetings, before moving to Walworth in London where a boot manufacturer offered him £1 for serving with the Methodist Reformers ‘splinter group’.
In 1861 the year Prince Albert died and Dickens published ‘Great Expectations’, Booth parted from the Methodists in search of the unchurched beginning his Mission in a tent in London’s Whitechapel, on July 23rd, 1865.
Reformer George Scott Railton later described the Mission as a ‘Volunteer Army’- Booth however preferred ‘Salvation’.
However their ‘enthusiastic singing’ and brass bands didn’t appeal to those of more ‘restrained tastes’, and temperance wasn’t welcomed in the brewing town of Burton-on-Trent.(1)
Then in Basingstoke an intention, ‘To open fire on sin and Satan’, only ended in violence and the reading of the Riot Act.
Opposition also came from the so called ‘Skeleton Army’ in the south of England, from vested interests such as publicans.(2)
Booth eventually realized the ‘submerged tenth’ couldn’t benefit from ‘Salvation’ under the existing social conditions, improvement of which needed a political imperative.(3)
Like all religious groups the ‘Sally Annes’ are in decline: uniforms are not mandatory, except for bands and songsters. For full membership, as opposed to ‘adherents’, one has to: ‘to uphold sanctity of marriage and to abstain from alcohol, tobacco, hard-drugs, gambling and pornography’.
(1) Burton’s Citadel opened in 1886 under Colonel Elijah Cadman, only to be met by a hostile crowd of 10,000, though many soon converted.
(2) It had its own gazette at 1d. ‘The Skeleton and the Honiton Branch copy of December 2nd 1882, ran an article: ‘War Cry’, sir said a newsboy to a farmer. ‘Dang the War Cry’, said he, ‘I want a Skeleton.’
However the Bethnall Green, East Post, of November 1882 said: ‘Among the Skeleton rabble there is a large percentage of the most consummate loafers and unmitigated blackguards London can produce’. The Movement faded by 1892.
(3) ‘In darkest England and the Way Out’. 1890.
Ref: wikipedia.org/william_booth. Also Image of Booth.