During October 1905, at a meeting of Blantyre School Board, a rather amusing anecdote about the late William Small was heard. As the Board members fondly remembered Mr Small, one told a story which had never previously been circulated and was perfectly described here.
Mr Small had been a man of many interests. This man, who would later have a Crescent named after him in Blantyre in future decades, was a character indeed and for many, it was impossible not to admire him. In the matter of social questions, Mr Small denounced capitalists, upheld Labour values and was champion of miners unions, always taking the opportunity to talk about and fight for miner’s working rights. In the matter of religion, he wasn’t exactly quiet either.
The story goes, one day, a teacher in one of Blantyre’s schools was surprised to see Mr Small simply walk into the school unannounced. Mr Small approached the teacher, reminding him that he was a member of the School Board and wished to pose some religious questions to the children. The teacher felt he had no choice and so permitted the request on the condition that the line of questioning remained appropriate and in context of learning. The teacher was said to have been rather pleased and surprised at Mr Small’s sudden interest in such direct educational matters, rather than his usual frequent rhetoric in support of the miners.
Mr Small’s first question to the pupils was, “What is the 6th Commandment?” For that era where children were versed in religious study, it was an easy question.
“Thou shalt not kill”, came the reply from one of the eager pupils.
“That’s quite right”, said Mr Small, “Well done”, he added expressing his pleasure at such speedy response. He paused to think of the next question.
“And do you know children, except for war, is there any way in which a person can be killed, and yet the culprit cannot be charged with murder?”, Mr Small asked.
There was no reply and a lengthy pause as the answer eluded everybody.
He sat himself on the corner of one of the desks facing the pupils.
“Let me enlighten you all with the answer. There are many employers of workmen in this country who underpay their workers by so much, especially in the mining professions, to such an extent that said workmen and their families starve to death. Such employers are murderers to their deepest core and yet the laws of our land allow it.”
There was silence as shocked pupils took this in. The teacher immediately stepped forward and thanked Mr Small for his time.