In response to a baying mob surrounding Beardsley Towers demanding another explanation of a well-known phrase or saying
I bring you the following.
People complain about health and safety regulations these days, and often probably rightly so because an awful lot of it is now appears to be inspired not by a genuine, practical desire for safety but a fear of being sued (thanks, America!). (One place where I worked used to clear a path outside when there was ice on the ground. Then they learned that if anyone slipped on a bit they’d missed they could be sued, whereas if they didn’t attempt to clear any of the ice they couldn’t be. They stopped clearing the ice. But I digress slightly.)
There were plenty of occupations in days of yore that carried hidden dangers for those involved in them. Many of you will be aware of the Victorian match-making girls whose jaws began to rot thanks to the phosphorus fumes in their place of work. Some of the women involved in making shells during the First World War became known as ‘Canary Girls’ owing to the toxic affects of the TNT they handled, which could cause their skin to turn yellow.
Hat making might seem like it was a pretty safe trade to earn a living in. The problems started when it was discovered that mercury helped to produce a superior sort of felt hat, and its use became widespread. Unfortunately, so did mercury poisoning among hat makers, leading to dementia and serious effects on the central nervous system: from which we get the term Mad as a Hatter.