While the Sixth Commandment Still Holds
PROVOST LEATHAM ON THE POST OFFICE
Presenting medal-bars and certificates to members of Turriff Post Office staff for a year’s immunity from car or cycle accidents, Provost Leatham, speaking in the sorting hall on 20th May, said that was the fourth time he had come there on the same errand, and he had great pleasure in coming, first because of the occasion itself, and secondly, because of the admiration he had for the Post Office as an institution.
They received these decorations for obeying in the course of their work the Sixth Commandment, ‘Thou shalt not kill.’ There were thousands of death on the roads in a year, but nobody had had to put on mourning or even be taken to hospital for any act of omission of theirs. This was the very opposite reason for which a military decoration was given. Most of them were ex-Service men who had been trained in the bayonet exercise, and they knew that when instruction was given, the Sixth Commandment was not in the picture except in reverse. In war, evil became good and good evil; but to Post Office motormen and cyclists the old rule still held good, and they had once again been successful in complying with it. To save life and property was a natural instinct, and, necessary as it might be to ‘straddle a ship with a stick of bombs and leave it in a sinking condition,’ it was against human nature. Thomas Carlyle had added to the Eighth Commandment, ‘Thou shalt not steal, the natural corollary, ‘Thou shalt not be stolen from.’ A similar addendum was necessary in the Sixth Commandment. It would be ‘Thou shalt not be killed.’ The breach of the commandment lay with the aggressor.
There was great complaint as to the hold-ups practised by bureaucrats, Government officials who interfered in other people’s business; but the Post Office had its own workmen, and the surveyors who came around were practical men, servants of the Department, who knew what was wanted, not outside inspectors all of them with different views. Eighty-one years ago William Ewart Gladstone had started the only State Bank we had, the Post Office Banks, which now had over £400.000,000 of accumulated assets, and not a penny of it went in directors fees or dividends to share-holders. Those were the lines on which he wished to see all business conducted.
There were complaints also about the rise in postal rates. But they evidently hadn’t yet been raised in proportion to the rise in working costs, for the annual surplus used to be £12 ¾ million, but now it was down to £10,000,000. It was still the cheapest service in the community, with no overlapping duplication, competition, advertising or commercial travellers.
Provost Leatham was presented with a smoker’s outfit – pipes, tobacco, and matches – the local postmaster, Mr J.B.Clark, handing over the gift in name of the staff.
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