A Life in a Year – 11th January, Free School Milk and Margaret Thatcher

It is not absolutely certain when the first milk bottles came into use but the New York Dairy Company is credited with having the first factory that produced milk bottles and the first patents for a milk container is held by the Lester Milk Jar on January 11th  1878 US patent number 199837, filed on September 22, 1877.

When we were young milk was delivered to the house everyday in bottles to the front door by the milkman Brian Anderson and thanks to the 1946 School Milk Act crates of it were delivered daily to schools across the country.

After morning lessons there was break time with play and a bottle of milk for every pupil courtesy of the County Council.  The 1946 School Milk Act had required the issue of a third of a pint of milk to all school children under eighteen and this was a nice thought if not always a pleasant experience.

School Milk YUCK!

In the summer it stood outside in the sun and it was warm and thick because this was full cream milk, not the semi-skimmed coloured water that we have today, and in the winter it had a tendency to freeze and pop through the foil cap in an arctic lump that had to be sucked away before you reached the semi-liquid slime underneath.  But no one knew about lactose intolerance in those days and it was compulsory for everyone and there were always teachers on hand to make sure that everyone finished their drink of milk.  Free school milk was discontinued in 1970 by the future Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and which earned her the unflattering nickname of ‘Thatcher, Thatcher, Milk Snatcher”, but I think she was called far worse than that later on!

Actually however she only stopped free school milk for eight to eleven year olds because Harold Wilson’s labour government had stopped free milk for secondary schools two years earlier in 1968 (notice how Wilson, Wilson milk snatcher doesn’t have the same newspaper headline appeal) so perhaps Oxford University was a bit mean when in 1985 it prevented her from receiving an honorary degree because of her history of education spending cuts.

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