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Running a Menage

Parents were always short of money where I grew up in Glasgow. Buying clothes for school or presents for Christmas was always a struggle and often meant getting things on "tick" (credit).
There were a  number of forms of tick, some peculiar to Scotland, some quite common. One way of doing it was to shop at a place that ran its own credit scheme.

Another method popular with working class families was to use "Provident Vouchers". These still exist and work in the same way they always did - you buy vouchers and take them to shops where they are accepted and buy things. You pay the company back a certain amount per week with interest.

Another way to space out your expenditure was to take a turn in a menage. (That word is pronounced "men-odge" It was only recently that I related it to the same word in French!). All Glaswegians have heard the insult, "You couldnae run a menage!"
First, you need twenty people to each take a turn. Then they draw lots to work out the order of the turns. It might be a "money" ménage, or be for textiles like curtains or bedding or clothes, associated with a particular supplier. Every week you pay a twentieth of the total, but you pay it for twenty one weeks. The extra is the organiser's fee. When it's your turn, you get the money, or get the curtains. Some people like to have a turn at the end, so that they have virtually paid in advance. Some people like, or need, to have an early turn because they are desparate. There is a always a lot of swapping of turns. It is quite a worry and responsibility for the organiser, occasionally having to chase up those who are trying to avoid you because they can't afford to pay that week.

Many people got into trouble when they ran the menage (thus the insult). There are many stories of arguements, fights and even court cases because someone ran away with the money.

Last modified onThursday, 22 December 2016 08:43

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