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George Bernard Shaw condemns pay given to soldiers at war
George Bernard Shaw drawn by William Strang in 1907 Photo: © National Portrait Gallery, London

George Bernard Shaw condemns pay given to soldiers at war

Published: 30 October 1914

George Bernard Shaw has condemned the level of pay given to soldiers who are currently serving in the Great War.

In the course of a speech, the public was represented as saying to a soldier: ‘My friend, your heroism is going to be its own reward. We will not insult you by talking about such a dirty thing as money; we will give your wife £1 a week and, if you are killed, we will give her 5s.’

Mr. Shaw made the comments in a lecture in London - the first in a series of six lectures that he is to give on the subject of ‘The redistribution of income’.

Commenting on Mr. Shaw’s remarks, The Irish Times remarked that it is largely accurate, except that the soldier’s wife only receives £1 per week if she has at least three children.

The newspaper wondered who would pay for Mr. Shaw’s suggestion that the Widow’s Pension should be increased to £1 per week.

It noted that the was already projected to cost about £300 million per year and that in order to pay for it through taxation, it would be necessary to raise income tax by at least 8s in the pound.

In the course of his lecture, Mr. Shaw made a general plea for the equalisation of incomes all around. He noted that judges, for example, were paid 77 times more than policemen ‘yet no one would maintain that he was 77 times as virtuous’.

In a somewhat barbed aside, The Irish Times noted that Mr. Shaw was paid at least 100 times as well as the average young dramatist and therefore constituted in his own person an argument for his plan that there is an 'overwhelming necessity for equality of income'.


Century Ireland

The Century Ireland project is an online historical newspaper that tells the story of the events of Irish life a century ago.