What Sally Did Next: Greenwood’s Sequel to Love on the Dole (‘Prodigal’s Return’, John Bull, January 1938)

In Love on the Dole (both novel and play) Sally Hardcastle is portrayed initially as an optimistic, vigorous young woman of considerable independence of mind, with her life before her, despite the difficult and worsening situation of the Hardcastle family. She has apparently gone out with Ned Narkey in the past, but early in the novel is attracted by the working-class intellectual Larry Meath, who intrigues her by the way he talks about politics, and introduces her to the pleasures of rambling on the moors – the only cheap way of getting away from Hanky Park, and a popular working-class leisure activity often linked to socialist activism. Their plans to marry are however disrupted when Larry is sacked from Marlowe’s engineering works as the Slump worsens – partly in particular because he is a Union man, and partly through the machinations of the bookie Sam Grundy and his sidekicks, Ted Munter and the jealous and aggressive Ned Narkey. Sally, unlike her brother, her father and then her fiancé, keeps her job in a cotton mill throughout the story, though there are a few rather low-key clues in the novel that she is not always able to work full-time (see p.220, where she refers to when or if the mill starts full-time again). She is thus not herself unemployed, but being in any work will affect the position of her family under the inhumane terms of the Means Test, which will reduce the men’s dole since she is bringing income into the household. However, it is the death of Larry during the protest march against the Means Test which robs her life of its meaning and future, though the conditions of the Means Test also make her situation even worse:

Life? Now that Larry was gone what had it to offer to her? He had been her prospect; whilst he had lived everything was, and anything would have been bearable. For he was there, here at the end of the day.

What remained now? Bleakness; daily slaving at the mill: ‘clack-clack-clack-clack’, the hideous noise of the shuttle’s traverse seared her brain with its intolerable dinning . . . Brother a pauper . . . Parents dependent on her (pp.240-1).

Her job at the mill is wearing, and the Means Test rules makes the pay merely a way of sustaining her whole family at a level of subsistence poverty with no end in sight. Her only alternative – or rather her family’s only alternative – is to take up Sam Grundy’s often repeated suggestion that she becomes his ‘housekeeper’ – clearly a euphemism for mistress or ‘kept woman’. Alienated from herself, Sally makes the decision to sacrifice herself for her family:

Sam Grundy. How long had he importuned her? . . . He had everything to offer, she had nothing to offer. He had money. Money, change of life. Money, the fast conveyance in the search for forgetfulness; money that would give the quietus to gnawing memory, that would heal this aching wound. What was there to hamper her? Compunction pinched her as she imagined what Larry might say to this characterless capitulation to impulse. Larry? Ha! Dead, and so was Sally Hardcastle (p.242).

Here Sally in a state of shock accepts that there is only one value which can actually alter anything for her family: money – a kind of value which has no room for individual agency or integrity. Her former self is apparently no more – though as we shall see her strong character is not in fact wholly crushed.

Her acceptance of Sam Grundy’s proposition is soon known in the neighbourhood, and people react in different ways. Her mother Mrs Hardcastle thinks it will disgrace Sally and the whole family, but is most frightened that her husband will act violently towards their daughter, and even murder her. Mr Hardcastle is indeed angry and after abusing Sally for abandoning the ‘respectability’ the family has tried so desperately and unsuccessfully to retain, he shockingly does hit her. The idea of being ‘respectable’ rather than ‘slovenly’ was an important one in the period, both in working-class self-perception (or its imposition from above?), and in upper and middle-class perceptions of whether poverty was a result of bad ‘choices’. Of course, one of the key points made by Greenwood’s story was that the unemployed soon ran out of any possibility for making good choices: with inadequate material resources choice inevitably became a matter of ‘choosing’ between equally bad alternatives. Indeed, this is what Sally has had to do in making her ‘sacrifice’ for her family. Here is Mr Hardcastle’s final attempt to sustain at least the rhetoric of respectability – the only gesture which he can now afford:

So y’d go whorin’ an’ mek respectable folk like me an’ your ma the talk o’ the neighbourhood, eh? Damn y’. Y’ain’t fit t’be my dowter (p. 246).

And here is Sally’s response which devastatingly critiques the logic of respectability for those who in the Depression can no longer live even at a subsistence level:

Yaaa! Who cares what folk say? There’s none I know wouldn’t swap places wi’ me if they’d chance. Y’d ha’ me wed, wouldn’t y’? Then tell me where’s feller around here as can afford it? Them as is workin’ ain’t able to keep themselves, ne’er heed a wife. Luk at y’self . . . [ellipses sic] an’ luk at Harry. On workhouse relief, an’ ain’t even got a bed as he can call his own. Ah suppose Ah’d be fit t’ call y’ dowter if I was like that, an’ a tribe o’ kids like Mrs Cranford’s at me skirts . . . [sic] Well can y’ get our Harry a job? I can an’ Ah’m not respectable (p. 246).

This Faustian bargain does deliver for her family – Sam Grundy quickly finds jobs for both Mr Hardcastle and Harry on the Salford Corporation busses. They are overjoyed, and never spare a thought for how Sally has achieved this feat (Mr Hardcastle does not even raise the question of ‘respectability’ at this point: he knows he has failed in his role as ‘breadwinner’).

While Sally’s parents are shocked by her ‘choice’, other neighbours, especially the chorus of older women who are dubious (or at best ambivalent) ‘helpers’ of the poor in Hanky Park, take a more optimistic if largely amoral view. Thus Mrs Jike without any further reflection envies Sally for being able to get away from Hanky Park, thinking of her sacrifice as that much desired thing a ‘holiday’: ‘I wouldn’t turn me nowse up at a fortnight’s holidiy where she’s gorn. Strike me pink, I wouldn’t!’ (p.252). Mrs Bull is much more thoughtful in her response, though it still skates over much of what is likely to be involved for Sally:

‘The lass has done best thing she could . . . She’ll tek no hurt. She ain’t the kind. She’d ha’ bin a sight worse hangin’ abowt here doing’ nowt but thinkin’. . . Allus she wants is summat t’ mek her forget . . . Let me tell y’ this: if she’d ‘ad much more of it Ah’m certain that she ha’ done what yon poor soul i’ next street did yesterday, cut his throat’ (pp.252 and 253 – Mrs Bull’s advice to Mrs Hardcastle is very extensive so I have omitted a good deal to try and emphasise her main line of argument).

I have never been much convinced by Mrs Bull’s arguments here. What we certainly see almost nothing of is how Sally herself interacts with Sam Grundy after she has accepted what is plainly his exploitative and abusive proposal. I argued in my book that the novel tried to evade casting Sally as a victim and to show her as still exercising agency, even though she is clearly submitting to a gross ‘choice’ in order to save her family from sinking even lower into poverty (see Walter Greenwood’s Love on the Dole – Novel, Play, Film, p. 69). The novel – and the play – can sustain this double view largely by not representing in any way the relationship between Sally and Sam Grundy ‘on stage’, as it were.

However, there is a short sequel looking again at Sally’s ‘choice’ at the conclusion of Love on the Dole, which had been completely forgotten and unnoticed until I rediscovered it in one of Greenwood’s press clippings books in the Walter Greenwood Collection at the University of Salford Archives in 2016 (WGC/3/3, pp.148-9). The story was called ‘Prodigal’s Return’, and Greenwood presumably wrote it in response to a commission to contribute to a series of short story ‘Sequels to Great Novels by Famous Authors’, as the periodical John Bull put it, adding this further explanation:

This complete short story ‘sequel’ introduces to you the familiar human types that made Love on the Dole memorable both as novel and play. Their creator Walter Greenwood shows you his characters as they are today (29 January 1938, p. 23).

In fact, the story focuses almost solely on Sally in the present, with some brief reference to her brother Harry, an appearance by her mother, and the introduction of a new working-class male character, Chris Evans, who lives in Manchester rather than in Hanky Park. We do now see a snapshot of Sally and Sam Grundy’s ‘relationship’ as it currently is (though it can hardly be said to have developed).

This valuable addition to Greenwood’s oeuvre was part of a number of short story sequels commissioned by John Bull from several writers in what seems a very creative idea, and one likely to attract and engage readers. As far as I can see by searching the British Library National Newspaper Archive, there were five such commissions in January and February of 1938. The first was by Louis Golding, the second by Sheila Kaye-Smith, the third by Walter Greenwood, the fourth by George Blake, and the fifth by Major F. Yeats-Brown. Each was accompanied by a newly commissioned illustration, each by a different illustrator. (1)

Here is the illustration – or rather the two illustrations – for Greenwood’s sequel to Love on the Dole in John Bull. The two images represent two very different places and perhaps also two very different times, from Sally’s point of view. The smaller picture clearly represents the industrial landscape of Hanky Park, with no less than eight factory chimneys by my count, as well as a gasometer. The chimneys (if fewer – just three!) are also present in the dust-wrapper design for the first edition of Love on the Dole, though in a more abstract design than in this detailed and realist miniature. Where the first edition dust-wrapper featured only Marlowe’s engineering works, this illustration also includes the streets and housing around the works. While the first edition cover is notably free of any of the industrial smoke and smog to which the novel refers in its text, this image shows Hanky Park dominated by a pall of smoke. There is no mention of a gasometer in the novel or the play, but one is represented in the cover design for the 1958 Four Square paperback edition of Love on the Dole (see https://waltergreenwoodnotjustloveonthedole.com/longer-articles-2/ ).

In contrast to this small but thoroughly thought through image is the larger picture showing Sally in her highly up-to-date and even daring one-piece swimsuit on the Welsh beach outside Sam Grundy’s ‘holiday home’, together with the handsome Chris Evans, a Manchester carpenter and friend of her brother Harry. This is a holiday world swiftly characterised by sun, sand, sea and what looks like a single yacht sail, a sharp contrast with the world of work in the smaller picture. However, Sally of course is not here only on holiday, but perhaps longer term – though as Sam Grundy’s mistress she is not exactly on holiday. The single line of dialogue under the image reinforces Sally’s absence from what was her home, and perhaps too the ambiguous question of whether she is working or not in her current situation as Sam Grundy’s ‘housekeeper’ (the inverted commas are there is the story text): ‘Do you think you’ll ever get a job back home again, Sal?’ (The British Library Online National Newspaper Archive states that the ‘successor rightsholder is unknown’, presumably for the John Bull periodical as a whole; the illustration is signed, but unfortunately the signature is so small and dark that I have so far failed to decipher it – I will keep on trying so that I can if possible properly seek permission to reproduce).

The story itself fills two full pages of John Bull and occupies some five columns of print. It opens with narration which directly picks up the beach and holiday setting, though not with the same scene pictured. Instead, the setting is reinforced and the reader is swiftly reminded of the events at the end of Love on the Dole, through Sally’s current perspective on them:

The tide was coming in and the merry shouts of a party of bathers from the hotel floated across the sunny sands to the ears of Sally Hardcastle, who sat in the garden of Sam Grundy’s Welsh retreat writing a letter home.

She stood up to look over the hawthorn hedge. The bathers were young men and women who laughed, splashed water in each other’s faces. threw seaweed or chased one another over the sands. They were young, glad to be alive. (p.23).

The scene Sally sees over the hedge again reinforces the sense of this as a place of holiday and of freedom (if temporary) for young people, but of course that is not entirely what it means to Sally while staying in Sam Grundy’s ‘Welsh retreat’. The next paragraph goes on to recall how much Sally enjoyed the visit of her brother Harry two days previously, and that turns her mind to thoughts of home:

Often she had been tempted to go home for a few days to see her mother and father, but having to expose herself to neighbourly curiosity discouraged her.

Then there was that disquietude at the thought of meeting her father and mother . . .

Would it have been better for her to have stayed ‘respectable’ in Hanky Park with her father out of work, her mother a listless drudge, her brother also out of work and father of the child of Helen Hawkins, whom he had had to marry? The thought of such respectability was revolting.

This closely rehearses the issues raised at the end of the novel and play of Love on the Dole, with Sally’s strong critique of the hypocrisies of ‘respectability’ for those who cannot afford what the code requires.

In the next paragraph we get some discreet but nevertheless reasonably clear insights into what life with Sam Grundy is like for Sally:

Living here, until recently, had not been without its unpleasantness. She had never been able to get on well with Sam Grundy, always had treated him with contempt. Rows at first had been frequent, when petulantly, he had complained of her lack of warmth.

The exact meaning of ‘warmth’ is open to interpretation – does he mean affection, or sexual ‘willingness’, or even ‘gratitude’? His complaint of course shows his double standards – he wants what is clearly a transaction to be treated by Sally as if were a more normally consensual relationship. Perhaps the previous occupants of this role of ‘housekeeper’ (referred to in Love on the Dole as a series) have been more compliant in playing along with the illusion which he expects from them. However, Sally, while submitting to some of his requirements, clearly does not accept that she should do so in a mode which makes him feel in any way content. Grundy points out to her that in his view she ‘owes’ him, both because he found jobs for Mr Hardcastle and Harry, and because ‘it’s my money as is keeping you here in this style o’ life’ (p.123). Sally’s response disputes all his premisses – she denies that parting ‘mugs’ from their bets is ‘earning’, and also makes clear that she is still her own woman when it comes to expressing herself as she wishes:

‘And understand this. If you don’t like me as I am, just you say the word, and I’ll go – quick too’.

This may remind us that when she left Hanky Park with Sam, there were some business arrangements put in place – ‘a settlement’ was made so that Sally had some financial independence should she and Grundy part company (see Love on the Dole where Mrs Bull refers to this as a ‘sekklement’, pp. 245 and 253). Indeed, Sally’s account of her life with Grundy here in fact telescopes two different period within it (as the phrase ‘until recently’ signals), in which Sally recognises a transition in the balance of power to have taken place:

He stuttered something while she regarded him triumphantly. She began to feel her power over him: she began to appreciate that her fiery independence was her greatest strength.

Sam Grundy has (surely foolishly) expected a transactional arrangement to include personal feelings, but to an extent this has rebounded on him in that he is the one who feels a lack, and who feels that he is in Sally’s power. Interestingly, the 1971 musical version of Love on the Dole called Hanky Park (surely without any knowledge of this short story) also saw this as the outcome of the ‘relationship’ with a song called ‘Tiger by the Tail’, sung jointly by Mrs Bull, Mrs Dorbell and Mrs Jikes:

By heaven he’d have a tiger by the tail.

She’d battle him, bite and hit him,

He really would have a tiger by the tail

By crikey she’d have a reason to rejoice

He wouldn’t half regret his choice

. . .

Wouldn’t he have a change of heart, a change of voice,

He’d quickly forget to swagger, he’d totter, he’d stagger

In agony from the blows that she had dealt

. . .

He’d really have a tiger by the tail. (2)

Clearly in the short story sequel, Greenwood is still thinking through Sally’s situation and motivations after Larry’s death, and the plot of the story in effect tests whether she would still make the same ‘choice’ given another chance. After Chris asks her if she will ever return to Hanky Park, on the spur of the moment she decides she will go back, though only for a day or two. As soon as she arrives, she sees what seem ghosts of her own past:

A crowd of unemployed mill girls got on [the tramcar] at the Labour Exchange. they all were shabbily dressed – last year’s or last year but one’s coats with bits of diseased-looking fur on the collars, cheap print frocks, one-and-elevenpenny silk stockings with runs in them (their best pair would be put away for use at weekends).

Some wore clogs and shawls and some, hatless, had clip-pins stuck all over their ‘permanent’ waves in vain endeavour to dispense with the necessity of the hairdresser for another week . . .

A year ago she had been like that – working three days a week and ‘signing on’ at the Labour Exchange the other three. That was when she had been ‘respectable’ (p.24).

The story is notably much more specific than the novel was about the extent to which Sally was working part-time, and the introduction of her ‘signing-on’ is completely new. However, the focus on the material effects of sustained poverty, the inability to replace clothes adequately, is present here just as it was in the novel. Sally though, having been taken out of that environment by Sam Grundy’s dubious patronage, is more than ever aware that she could not bring herself to return to that kind of deprivation of a reasonable level of material comfort. Chris offers marriage, but Sally sadly rejects the idea since it would mean returning to something like her previous life, even though potentially at a better level since he is currently employed and has the trade of carpenter. Sally invokes the spirit of Larry:

‘I couldn’t stay here longer than a day. Oh no, I couldn’t. All this poverty and – well. I just can’t tell you how it seems now. Larry was right – he was the boy I should have married. He knew about nice things. He knew it was all wrong for people to live like I was living until I went away. No’, she murmured, ‘I couldn’t come back to this’.

Neither Sally nor Greenwood have changed their minds: a decent standard of living is not a luxury, or a need which can be over-ridden by idealism, romance, or codes of unaffordable ‘respectability’. There were some objections from British clergymen about what they saw as the underlying morality and lack of religious belief in the play version of Love on the Dole, and an emphasis on the material here and now instead (see: Love on the Dole and the Clergy). But this sequel asserts again that a decent life now, and before the afterlife, is a reasonable expectation for everyone living in modern Britain in the nineteen-thirties. The title of the story is of course derived from the Parable of The Prodigal Son in Luke’s gospel (15: 11-32) and so has a specific religious reference, but one which is used ironically. Where the parable teaches that the ‘sinful’, unwise and improvident son who has squandered his inheritance in advance should be forgiven and allowed to return to his father’s house, Greenwood’s story does not see the ‘prodigal’ Sally returning to Hanky Park (or only fleetingly) or seeking forgiveness, but instead sees her choosing to continue for the present her bargain with Sam Grundy which at least prevents her from returning to poverty. She is though hopeful that Grundy will soon conclude that it is a bad ‘deal’ for him, and that she can at least part company and live independently on the agreed financial ‘settlement’. (3)


NOTE 1. These stories in addition to Greenwood’s were: Louis Golding’s sequel to Magnolia Street (1932) – also simply named ‘Magnolia Street’ – 15 January 1938, pp.23-4, Sheila Kaye-Smith’s sequel to Susan Spray (1931), ‘A Ghost and Susan Spray’, 22 January 1938, pp. 22-23, George Blake’s sequel to The Shipbuilders (1935), ‘A Launch Took Place’, 5 February 1938, pp.22-3, and Major F. Yeats-Brown’s sequel to Lives of a Bengal Lancer (1930), ‘Lancer in Love’, 12 February 1938, pp.22-3. These novels were all considerable successes in terms of sales, but are otherwise something of a mixture. Magnolia Street and The Shipbuilders have, like Love on the Dole, leftist sympathies and interests in working people, Susan Spray has religious and rural themes, while Lives of a Bengal Lancer is broadly an imperial adventure, though actually an autobiography rather than a novel. Each story has a single illustration – with the exception of Greenwood’s which has the two contrasting images discussed above in the caption. For introduction to these four authors see their wikipedia entries: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Louis_Golding ; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sheila_Kaye-Smith; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Blake_(novelist); https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Francis_Yeats-Brown .

NOTE 2. Lyric transcribed from the Just the Ticket Theatre Company CD (JTT-1) of their production of the musical adaptation of Love on the Dole, recorded at the Rhoda McGaw Theatre, Woking, Surrey on 4 and 5 January 1996. The lyrics may not be identical to those in the original 1970 production at the Nottingham Playhouse, since the sleeve-notes remark that for this revival there was ‘much revision [and] some new songs’. However, it is the only extant version of the musical I have found at present. I remain very grateful to the director, Stewart Nicholls, who kindly sent me a copy of the CD in 2016.

NOTE 3. Though there is new material in this article, including the discussion of the title and of the illustration, on the whole its central point is an elaboration of the interpretation of the significance of this sequel made in my book in 2018. I am not therefore giving this piece the asterisk which would signal its status as new and original research (see Walter Greenwood Web-site Development Plan).