Dispute Week 4 – Meeting of Miners – Nothing more to add

23 January 1885

A Meeting of the miners from Denaby Main Colliery was held at the Mason´s Arms, Mexborough, yesterday, Mr. P. Hatton in the chair.

The Chairman commenced by stating that the meeting was adjourned from the Reresby Arms, but they had not much to lay before the audience as there was no news. The only thing he could ask the meeting to do was to urge on their secretary the advisability of saddling `Sam´ with a black bag next week.

Mr. Chappell said it was evident where the thoughts of the men were going. He did not know there was any fear about the funds. ( Applause )

He was not going to speak boastfully on the subject and it was a regrettable thing that money should have to be expended for such a purpose and under such circumstances. ( Hear, hear )

It would perhaps have been better if the men had gone on with their work and received their usual weekly wages. As far as he was concerned he had nothing more to say and nothing new to add. He thought it would puzzle any -one to know the reasons why that course had been taken. The changes proposed in the notices were so extensive and interfered so much with the whole past arrangements, and the whole of the matters which were commingled and out of which they had to make their money, that it was utterly impossible to separate them without a thorough practical investigation.

He had been met with the question, ” It is a strange thing that the Denaby Main men object to this and the other.” They were only sifting for information and wished to know how things really stood. Those matters always looked very awkward and crooked to those who did not understand them. Everyone of them would fight shy of anything which would be likely to aggravate the case, because they did not know the reasons why the company proposed those alterations. He would not like to say that he had a notion that there was something which concerned the whole company and they wished to have a full valuation of the whole thing in order to know where they stood in future. There might, however, be something in that. He had no authority to state, and it was only one flying amongst many. He hoped no one would go to work on the terms proposed. ( Cries of ” Hear, hear.” – A Miner, ” Never be frightened of that.”)

He was not frightened of one section going, and he was not very much afraid of the men who did not belong to the union – that was, on the grounds of principle. There were certain things surrounding the non-union section of the workmen which were leading certain people to strongly speculate as to their future action. This did not come from any of the miners, but from people outside. One person went so far as to say, ” Well of course you know how far some men will be supported.” That meant a good deal. He knew how they worked and about the rates, and what it was possible for these men to do. Under those circumstances, and being in possession of that information, he had no hesitation in saying that no man living could go into the pit and work at the proposed rate and make money. ( Applause )

If they conceded what was asked of them respecting the packing, and if there were no other arrangements, the same number of men could not stop in the place as formerly, because it was like everything else in a colliers working place.

One of the ropes would bear a strain of perhaps 85 tons, which would test it´s utmost. It would not bear any more and so with everything else would fail.

There was a certain pitch to which they could take things, and beyond that they could not take them. One of their places could be worked at a profit with a certain number of men, but beyond that it could not be worked.

It was the honest opinion of men outside the colliery that that particular item of work, if taken over by the company could not possibly be worked at as cheap a rate as at present. It took a reasonable time to hole a web of coal for, five or six feet across, and it could not be holed out by any human means any sooner. Looking at the matter from what was possible to be done under present arrange -ments they ( the miners ) were of opinion that it was so arranged that the utmost possible results were being produced and nothing further could be done.

He had never known anything in his life like the present struggle.

He was speaking with a gentleman of very extensive experience recently, winding 300 tons a day in one shaft in an ordinary shift of eight hours, and he said the whole solution of the question, if they might take what was reported in the press concerning the speech delivered by Mr. Nicholas about the markets being blocked by bad coal, rested on the fact there had been too much night work. ( Hear, hear )

No one he thought, ought to be offended at their defending their own case. It was only reasonable and natural when a serious charge was brought against a body of men similar to that brought against them, that they should ferret about for the purpose of ascertaining whether those charges were well founded.

He believed that better things could be done than what had been the case by those who had charge of the filling, and he strongly hoped, when that dispute was settled, that they would try not how far they could get wrong without being caught, but not to do things behind a man´s back that they would not do if a man was present. ( Hear, hear )

He would ask every man present to try, if the matter was settled, to send out his stuff in as good a condition as possible under the circumstances.

One of the deputies had remarked that he saw a man with a corf and found a hundredweight of softs mixed with the hards, and when remonstrated with, this man said, ” It´s only a hundredweight.” ( This was contradicted with some of the men, who said there were only one or two pieces of soft coal as large as a nut.)

He would not prolong his remarks. He was afraid they would have many more meetings like that during the next month or five weeks.

He hoped nothing would be said by the men to aggravate their present position and that nothing would vex any of the officials for the mere purpose of revenge.

He knew one case just now where there never ought to have been a strike, but the men were out. He felt certain that the strike ought not to have occurred. It was a case which had been aggravated by speeches.

He knew another case where the men went out on strike for fourteen weeks, which had occurred the same way.

He urged the men to be agreeable towards each other, and to avoid being brought before the Rotherham magistrates.

He heard some gentlemen in coloured clothing talking on the Rotherham plat -form the other day. One of them said he would not spend another penny on the M.S. and L. Co., and the other said ” Don´t brag – you may have to go to Denaby Main.”

He hoped there would be no occasion for the employment of an extra police force at Denaby Main, and that the men would keep out of any bother.

The district committee would meet on the morrow to put themselves in a position to draw funds from the bank and get ready for paying the instalments to the men.

At the termination of the meeting the miners were liberally supplied with beer and sandwiches by the landlord, Mr. M. Hobson.