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Showing posts from March, 2007

Inside Marbled Halls by Anthony Masters

This is an excellent book for those who want to find out what working 'downstairs' in one of London's grand hotels was like in the early twentieth century.

Mary Schiffer lived a life of incredible poverty in Dublin. A child from a large family she had to endure a crowded, and fairly miserable existence with a drunken father who didn't hesitate to use force and a compliant mother who put up with this. Her sister died of the Spanish Flu when Mary was very young.

Although she loved her family, Mary hated The Liberties (the tenements where they lived), and decided to leave. When she somehow got the money she took the ferry to England in the middle of the First World War. Almost captured by a white slaver, a Salvation Army lady took Mary in hand and arranged a job for her at the splendid Hyde Park Hotel.

Here Mary worked in the still-room - a sort of butler's pantry where she had to prepare tea or coffee and toast for the celebrated guests. She had to work very long …