Our top columnist Geoffrey Shryhane takes a look at the very personal "Personal" columns of yesteryear!
A long time ago – and I mean a VERY long time ago – little notices often appeared in the “Personal” column of this and other weekly newspapers here and across the land.
Readers, to their little shame, read them and then stifled laughs and said things like “Oh isn’t it awful” or “Well who would have thought it.”
They had just cast their eyes over notices with were always worded exactly the same, except for the names,of course.
They read: “If I, Mrs such and such a body, hear any more slanderous statements about my moral characters, I shall have no hesitation but to take immediate legal action.”
I often thought that putting such ad in the Observer saved on the costs of seeing a solicitor and taking out a injunction for libel.
It also resulted in thousands of additional folks knowing that awful things were being said about the advert placer.
Anyway, resorting to the law would have cost a king’s ransom and would have certainly been out of the question. The ladies who gossiped and smirked over these personal adverts had their own views, of course, some saying there was no smoke without fire. And they even suggested she was no better than she ought to be.
My favourite local “anonymous letter” story is told by Ted Akin of Gidlow Lane.
His latest book contains a cracking “personal notice” which I’m glad to reproduce here.
Apparently the lady who received the letter had noticed that her singer husband sometimes had lipstick on his collar and as that old pop song said “it told a tale on him”.
The anonymous letter read: “Mrs Crabtree. Please heed this warning. Your husband is a womaniser. I go to most of his concerts and like many others, adore his singing. But some women have no shame. One, a hussy if ever I saw one, sits at his reserved table and leaves with him. Beware Mrs Crabtree and take immediate action.”
Oddly enough it was always women who were so infuriated by the gossip against their moral characters they resorted to placing the little adverts. The chaps in similar circumstances just laughed criticism against their morals. Or were they simply thick-skinned?
The decades have gone by and the little character assassination notices are no more.
Good thing too.