“When you marry, you’ll be marrying at a very good time. Yes, a very good time – and it’ll soon be an even better time.”
A large number of people will recognise these words from J. B. Priestly’s successful play ‘An Inspector Calls’, once described to me by Tom Baker as “more of a dreary sermon really.” Studied by thousands of young pupils across the UK for KS3 SATs (until they were done away with – the SATs that is, not the young pupils), the tragedy emphasises to the audience our duty of care to others regardless of social pretensions, playing host to Priestly’s own communist sympathies. Arthur Birling’s prophetic words, set in 1912, remind us of the unexpected nature of the events which were to follow: the sinking of the Titanic, the death of Captain Scott and the start of World War One. The long term fate of the characters is unknown, apart from Eva is dead (unless Priestly planned a Kill Bill style sequel), making it possible that similar fates befell the remaining Birlings. Priestly rightly sets the tone for the dreary future which was to follow, emphasising Arthur’s ignorance and the necessity of change.
In comparison to the grim world depicted by Priestly, Disney took a different approach with the 5 time Academy Award winning film, Mary Poppins. Set before 6th May 1910 (based on the line in “The Life I Lead” song: “It’s grand to be an Englishman in 1910/King Edward’s on the throne, it’s the age of men!”) and aimed at a completely different audience, Disney produced a wonderfully happy film, celebrating the rich kids of Edwardian Britain. There is little mention of the royal commission the previous year declaring children should not live in workhouses, miners striking on 3rd January 1910 for an eight hour day or the House of Lords’ refusal to pass Herbert Asquith’s “people’s mandate” in February the same year.
Admittedly to go through all 139 minutes and add in social commentary would be an absolute hassle, so in order to place the film in a more historical context I’ve decided the most appropriate thing to do would be to conclude what probably happened to each of the characters after George Banks was reinstated at Dawes Tomes Mousley Grubbs Fidelity Fiduciary Bank, and Mary Poppins flew away.
Warning: A fair amount of artistic licence has been used and little historical accuracy.
At the end of the film we see George informed that despite the joke he told earlier on killing Mr Dawes senior, the younger Mr Dawes would not be pressing charges for murder against him and was in fact giving him his old job back. Assuming this wasn’t some sort of sick joke to force Banks into a corner and beat him to death before placing his body in the Thames and making it look like suicide, George continued as he began. Assuming he was older than 41 by the time World War One started it sounds most likely he continued his work with the bank, making a profit of lending money to the government. By 1930 Banks would be at least 57 and probably holding a relatively senior position at the bank (if we accept he continued his job as normal except with a tiny bit more singing). The Wall Street Crash and American accent of Mr Dawes Senior suggests the bank would have been devastated in 1930s and led to a massive decline in the Bank’s family living standards. It is unlikely George would have still been alive by World War Two, having died of a heart attack induced by the stress of work and his Tory natured concerns over a Labour government.
Assuming Winifred did not run under the King’s horse under a pseudonym quietly organised by George, she was probably arrested at some point before the start of the World War One and spent some time in gaol for taking part in terrorist acts encouraged by the suffragette movement. Spurned by her two children after her release, she continued in her fight for freedom and either stood for Parliament after gaining the right to do so in 1918 (with funding from her husband), or slowly declined into alcoholism after realising her children had abandoned her (or died) and that she was now alone. She either continued to play an active part in Parliament, helping coordinate the female war effort until her tragic demise in the Bethnal Green Tube disaster on March 3rd 1943 or much earlier as a result of her alcoholism.
Assuming Michael was 8 (the age of the actor who played him), or younger in 1910, he would have still been too young to join World War One (being 16 in 1918). As a result of his father’s hard work at the bank, Michael was able to go to university and was sent to Oxford to study mathematics. Initially he followed his father into banking but was later sequestered by the government to help break German codes at Bletchley Park. He despised his mother for his upbringing, but either renewed their relationship after her election to Parliament, or briefly visiting her before she passed away, informing her that he wished Mary Poppins had been his mother. Being exempt from service in World War Two he survived and eventually became professor of Mathematics Queen’s College Oxford.
Died of Spanish flu in 1919. Everyone was a fair bit sad.
Bert initially tried to resist conscription on the basis that he was secretly American and only pretending to be English. He was eventually forced into battle and awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal in 1916 for acts of gallantry and dancing. After writing some mediocre poetry he perished in the Battle of the Somme with 420,000 other soldiers.
After being initially contacted by Herbert Asquith in 1914, she refused to help on the battlefield against the Germans. Instead she spent a number of years as a nurse in a hospital in Scotland helping soldiers suffering from shellshock. After the death of Bert in 1916 she contacted David Lloyd George and commenced bombing runs on the German trenches. She was lost in early 1918 and never heard of again.
Ellen – the maid:
Ellen was dismissed for being ‘far too miserable’ shortly after the events of the film, Ellen played a vital part in the war effort during World War One. Having domestic skills as a maid, she took advantage of the Free Passage Scheme run by the government, sending single women to colonies between 1919 and 1922. She married Fred Irwin in early 1930 and gave birth to Bob Irwin in 1939, the father of ‘Crocodile Hunter’ Steve Irwin.
Mrs Brill – the Cook:
Mrs Brill continued in her service to Banks family until deciding to emigrate to America in 1912. Her trip was ill fated after her ship, The Titanic, hit an iceberg leading to the deaths of 1,154 people.
Admiral Boom – the man with the cannon on the roof
Shortly after the events of the film, Admiral Boom was placed under a reception order emanating from the ‘Lunacy Act 1890’ on the basis he claimed to be firing a canons at chimney sweeps. Mr Binnacle, his first mate, either escaped or was imaginary.
The Secret Service Bureau was set up in 1909 as a joint initiative by the War Office and the Admiralty to catch Uncle Albert. He was tracked down in early 1912 (about the time of ‘An Inspector Calls’) and captured for research purposes.