Local historian Terry Ainsworth takes a look at The Co-op dividend.
The idea of co-operative trading revolutionised food retailing with the dividend, often known as ‘divi’ and the ‘divi number’ became a part of British life.
The dividend was a financial reward to members based on each member’s level of trade with the society. Historically, members’ sales would be recorded in ledgers in society’s stores and at the end of the collection period a proportional payment would be made to the member.
Members collected stamps on a savings card and, when the card was complete, would use it as payment for goods or deposit into their share account.
Bill Smith’s sister, Margaret, was sent by her mother to the Co-op shop on Coulston Road, Lancaster and couldn’t wait to return home to Alma Road to stick the stamps into the dividend book. Joe Sherrington’s excursion was not as successful as he was sent by his mother to the Co-op in George Street and returned home to Ripley Street with the shopping but no “divi” so he got a clip round the ear and had to go back for the stamps.
In February 1938 a battle for a greater dividend took place on the Giant Axe when Lancaster Co-op played Morecambe Co-op to decide who would be champions of the Wednesday League.
Last season Morecambe Co-op had made a “clean sweep” by winning the Wednesday League, the League Cup and the Gardner Cup and were confident of repeating this success and it seemed that only Lancaster Co-op stood between them and another hat-trick of trophies.
All the expected elements of keen rivalry figured in the clash of the “titans.” For the first 20 minutes the game was cleanly fought but when Morecambe took the lead there was a suspicion of rough tactics from the Lancaster team and when they increased their lead after 30 minutes play referee Mr J A Lottey kept firm control of the game and promptly penalised all infringements.
Although Lancaster reduced the arrears they were severely handicapped by the absence of centre forward and top goal scorer, Wilf Cornthwaite, and Morecambe successfully retained the League Championship 2-1. The medals were presented by Mr. R L Dilworth, a Lancaster City director.
The teams lined up were as follows: Morecambe: Fryers; Lambert, Sterland; Wallbank, Rogerson, Binnie; Kitching, Burrows, Burgess, Bracewell (captain), Siddle. Lancaster: - Salisbury; Jacobs, Sharples; Baxter, Jackson, Fell; S Wilson, Beeley, Duffin, Riley, Gore.
A few weeks later these two clubs met again in the final of the Wednesday League Cup at Christie Park and what a thrilling encounter it turned out to be.
Lancaster Co-op were winning 4-1 with half-an- hour to play. Morecambe Co-op, fighting grimly, drew level 4-4 by scoring 3 goals in 12 minutes and snatching the winner in the 88th minute. That is the story of the thrilling cup final between the two Co-op teams when spectators saw a truly exciting tussle between two evenly matched sides.
After the game the Cup was presented to the Morecambe captain, Syd Bracewell, by Reverend J W Marsh of Shireshead, a former First Division referee.
Star of the Lancaster side and arguably of the match was Wilf Cornthwaite who turned every chance that came his way into a goal and ended the game with all four.
Burgess (2) and Burrows (3) were the marksmen for the Morecambe Co-op. The league started the season with 10 clubs and 230 registered players but the Butchers dropped out in October 1937 owing to organisation difficulties and the County Mental Hospital resigned before they had played a game as the hospital authorities, recently re-organised, refused them permission to play in the league.
Individual merit was spread fairly evenly through the clubs with Wilf Cornthwaite of Lancaster Co-op heading the list of scorers with 37 goals including 4 in cup matches.
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