Pit Lads Strike – Refusal to Work – Meeting with Mr Wright

Mexborough and Swinton Times May 14, 1897.

The Boys Strike At Denaby Main.
Condemnation By Mr Parrott. Official Advice Rejected.

The discontent which exists amongst the pit lads broke out at Denaby last Thursday, when the lads on the afternoon shift refused to work. Many of the lads on the day shift stopped on Friday, but a few having descended the pits early, in ignorance of the decision to stand, and the charmers, who were sent to drive the pit, though inconvenienced, continued to work.

Much excitement existed on Friday, which was increased by a number of police appearing on the scene. The lads held a meeting themselves in the morning, when it was decided to obtain other assistance. A deputation was sent to Mr W. Wright, of Mexborough (the author of “Nationalisation of Mines”) asking his advice and assistance. Mr Wright, was not at home. But they awaited his return, and stated their case. Mr Wright referred them to their leaders, when several asserted they did not try to remedy their wrongs.

It was next pointed out to them, however great their trouble was by suddenly ceasing work they had broken their agreement with the company, and were liable; that if they wanted the help sought they must not continue to defeat themselves by acting unlawfully. The lads replied they did not know what to do. Their grievance increased; nobody took any real interest in them; the branch officials either couldn’t or wouldn’t help them, and they could bear it no longer.

Mr Wright consented to see the lads in the afternoon on two conditions:

  1. That order was maintained, remarking that he was a ”peaceable citizen”; and
  2. that every effort was made to resume work at once.

About noon on Friday, a telegram from Barnsley reach Mrs Dixon, Saying Mr Parrott was coming to see the lads. Many men and lads had congregated near the crossing. Mr Dixon told the lads Mr Parrott was at the lodge room, but they declined to see him .Mr W. Wright had gone down, and, mixing amongst the lads, urged them to harm nobody, but ask them to withdraw from the highway, and get the meeting together they wished him to address, and acting on his suggestion, they adjourned to the canal side, near Don view, where they sat on the bank. A number of men gathered on the outskirts of the meeting.

Mr Wright said they were aware he had been waited on that morning by a deputation from the Denaby Main lads, asking his advice and aiding the present dispute. This he had, on certain conditions, consented to give. He should not ask any lad to preside, because, even in this free country, they might suffer for doing so. They had asked his advice, and should permit him to speak plainly to them. They had done wrong by thus taking the law into their own hands, and were defeating themselves, and those who were willing to assist them, by refusing to work. He wished them success in their effort, and he knew they had real and just cause for complaint, not only at Denaby, but in common with the lads throughout the country, but that was not the best way to remedy them. He knew a time came when nothing but revolt would help them, and they had been driven to do this, because there is such a thing as a just revolt to fight a powerful company who would do their best to defeat them.

His first advice was, send a deputation of lads to meet Mr Parrott. He was their leader, and in a serious question like this. If it should lead to a stoppage, they would want strike pay. Therefore, he advised them to keep up their contributions, and sent for Mr Parrott.

A resolution was put, and a deputation of eight lads appointed, with Mr Wright at their head, to see Mr Parrott at the Lodge room.

Mr Wright, continuing. said the next business was to resume work. Those who valued his advice and wanted his help would listen to reason, and however hopeless the task appeared, they would not like to lose, but fight to win, by seizing work thus, they violated their agreement with the company, were liable to be summoned, and would ultimately be defeated.

Work would have to be resumed, and the sooner the better. To delay would be against his advice and against their interests.

A resolution was then put in favour of resuming work on Saturday, a small number of lads voted for. And a large number against.

Mr Wright told them that they had acted against his advice. He urged them to see Mr Parrott, and meet again at 6 p.m. to report proceedings