Pit Lads Strike – Interview with Mr Parrott

Mexborough and Swinton Times May 14, 1897.

Pit Lads Strike
Interview with Mr Parrott.

Mr Parrott, Mr Dixon and Mr Nolan were awaiting at the Masons Arms the lad’s deputation, information having been sent on of their coming. A message was sent to the official saying they had sought other help, and Mr Wright was their representative. Their representative was then informed that he might enter the room.

Mr Parrott insisted upon any lad having admission, in spite of the protest of these deputed. – Mr Parrott: I want to see all the lads.

One of the deputation: They have decided to send a deputation.

Mr Parrott: I would rather speak to the lads in the body.

Mr Wright: the lads have decided to send a deputation. They are within their rights. This is a very unjustifiable way of doing business.

Mr Parrott then addressed the lads, amid frequent interruptions, as to the serious consequences which might follow their rash conduct, instead of listening to the advice of experienced men. He understood much disaffection existed, but they could not be ignorant of the folly of the present course. They were within a short distance of the time when the question would be dealt with by the joint board – the South and West Yorkshire on the one hand, and the men’s officials in the other, and it would be better to continue working until the decision was known.

The Manvers Main branch of the union some time ago sent to the council at Barnsley and arrangement by which they fought the colliery owners, or managers ought to work, in connection with the lads wages. The owners and leaders would meet to discuss the matter on Monday week.

He had received the following letter on the previous day from the secretary of the Coal Owners Association: –

“May 5, 1897.

Pit lads wages.”

Dear Sir

Monday, the 17th inst., In the afternoon is the first date that will suit our chairman for a meeting on this matter. Will you kindly wire me in the morning if that date is not convenient to your representative?

Yours faithfully,

  1. Parker Rhodess.”

A reply had been wired that this date would be convenient. It might therefore be expected the question would have soon the necessary attention. There would be a Council meeting on Monday at Barnsley, and the matter, no doubt, would then come before the delegates. Under the circumstances he thought the drivers and others at Denaby Main would return to work, and exercise a little more patience.

The statements were made amidst considerable interruption.

A Scene.

Mr Parrott then said: Wright, I think it would look better of you if you would mind your own business.

Mr Wright: Mr Parrott, I think it is about time I spoke now. When lads who “scrape their face (shave frequently) and have a wife and family at home. Come to mine and say they are working for 2s and 2s 6d a day, it’s as much my business as yours.

Mr Parrott: I will not be dictated to by you.

Mr Wright: I am not dictating. I have listened to you. You will now listen to me. This is a deputation of lads. They have sought me, not me them. They would not have come here today to see you, but I induced them, and this is a high-handed manner you treat them. They say they have tried to get this question dealt with by you and the officials, and cannot make headway. You’ll do nothing for them. They are here, and of age. Let them speak for themselves.

Addressing the lads: is that so?

Several voices: that’s it, and loud applause.”

If you men had done your duty they would not have come to me.

Mr Parrott: Are you in the Association?

Mr Wright: that’s not the question. The question is the lad’s wages and other grievances.

Mr Parrott: How long have you been in the district?

Mr Wright: 25 years.

Mr Parrott: Well, seeing you are so wonderfully clever –

Mr Wright: Parrott: I will neither allow you or any other man to sneer at me, if you were clever at your work poverty would not be so common as it is today amongst miners. (Applause)

Mr Parrott: Go out of the room.

Mr Wright: I have as much right here as you. These lads have asked my aid, this is a deputation from the body of lads, and this is the way you treat them. And then you expect them to listen to you. You have ordered me out of the room, haven’t you?

Mr Parrott; No, I have not.

Mr Wright: Well, I never, you contradict yourself – appealing to those present: didn’t he?

Aye, he did.

Mr Wright: I’ll go. You’ll see me on the next deputation I come on to you.

For about an hour longer Mr Parrott had a lively time, the sum and substance of his advice being – patients, wait, and go to work like good boys, don’t annoy anybody in general, and your leaders in particular.

Mr Parrott wanted the deputation to go in search of the whole body of lads, so that he might speak to them at Mexborough. This suggestion they declined, and proposed he should go to them.

Mr Parrott, however, did not consent. Saying no doubt there were some nice lads.” Thus the meeting ended, and the lads, more firmly resolved to strike.

6 PM was the hour. And the canal side the place of meeting agreed upon. To report to the whole body of lads. An orderly meeting ensued. A considerable number of men waited in the distance, discussing the question. The odds being they would not work tomorrow, some 40 or 50 joined the lads, and stood on the outskirts, and listened to what followed.

Mr Wright, in addressing them said they must listen and think. God help those who helps themselves, and he thought they did right in taking up their own question. They must learn to keep still tongues, and he should not ask any lad to speak, as they might be “marked” for it. They must not under estimate the power of the Denaby Main Company. They were very powerful, and many struggles had taken place in the past, not always successful. They must make it a county question. (Here, here.) The question was important, and to embrace many other items than wages, and the lads at every pit had just cause for complaint. But they must fight to win, and if they did that, and wanted to win, they would take his advice and return to work tomorrow. He knew they were opposed to it, but further delay would increase their difficulties, make us work harder, and he could not continue to help unless they listen to the voice of reason and common sense. A strike is not always wrong. Sometimes a revolt against tyranny was the only course to call attention to injustice. There was nothing higher or holier in human nature than the impulse which resists oppression and strikes for liberty. Look at the animal world! A dog will bite, a rat, if pinned in a corner will fly at you, but a human being who will not fight, and if necessary strike, is a coward, and has less courage than the brute creation (applause) but we must fight wisely. We must not take the law into our own hands thus. If so, we weaken our case, and make a rod by which the employer will trash us. We are playing into their hands. No. The men, be gentle, use no threats to anyone. If any lad has worked, do him no harm. Some parents compel their last ago, and the employer will send the father back to the son. Now boys, steady, shoulder to shoulder. You have a just cause. Use no harsh words about your local leaders keep your contribution paid. You may soon want help.

In conclusion, consider two points. First, he proposed a return to work at once, and continue working for the present, and await the decision on May 17, and urged lads that every pit to be prepared to consider the question, if the offer is satisfactory. Secondly, a big meeting of lads, from this and other pits in the district be held on Sunday afternoon, at Mexborough, these two resolutions were putting carried unanimously, after which the meeting quietly dispersed, and work was resumed on Saturday. The decision was anxiously waited for by the men assembled.