‘The British Workman’ magic lantern slides

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Some of you may recall the popular, talented, comedy duo Flanders and Swann who were regularly on TV in the 1960s (when there were just two channels …. yes, really, just BBC and ITV) and made records which were clever, witty and memorable.

One of their songs was called ‘The Gas Man Cometh’ (you can see it on YouTube) which tells the story of a workman doing a domestic job which then needs another one to sort out the mess he has caused and so on. Sounds familiar doesn’t it! Each verse tells of a particular tradesman visiting the house and the chorus always ends with the line ‘and it all makes work for the working man to do’.

I have in my archive, a set of Victorian magic lantern slides called ‘The British Workman’. They are hand tinted illustrations and probably date from the 1890s. Victorian audiences enjoyed a joke, be it a one-liner or a story and, as with today’s comedy, it is funnier if the audience can relate to it through their own experiences.

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Well, surprise, surprise, the theme of this comical set of six slides is the same as Flanders and Swann’s ditty but with a different twist at the end. It goes like this.

Slide 1 – The party who does the gutters undoes the slates. 

Slide 2 – The party who does the slates undoes the garden. 

Slide 3 – The party who does the garden undoes the paint. 

Slide 4 – The party who does the paint undoes the furniture. 

At this stage, the householder reports the workmen’s poor performance to their boss. 

Slide 5 – The foreman says “Bless my soul, they ought to be ashamed of ‘emselves,

    disgraceful ….. ain’t it!” He’ll let ‘em know what’s what! 

Slide 6 – Letting ‘em know what’s what!

My photos show slides numbers 1, 5 and 6. This set still works with audiences today!

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