Dispute – April 24th – Miners Demonstration at Brampton Bierlow

5 April 1885

Miners´ Demonstration At Brampton Bierlow.
The Denaby Main Miners And The Barnsley Association.

A meeting, which was attended by 2,500 miners from Houghton Main, Lundhill, Wombwell Main, Cortonwood, Mitchell Main, and Denaby Main, was held in a field adjacent to the Bull´s Head on Wednesday afternoon.

The Denaby Main miners marched in procession from Mexborough, headed by a tin whistle band, which played ” Wait till the clouds roll by.”

A Miner from Mitchell Main occupied the chair.

A delegate from the same colliery expressed the pleasure it gave him to see the Denaby Main miners present. He had received information to the effect that the men on strike at that colliery had passed unanimously a resolution to again associate with the old ship. (Cheers)

He proposed ” That this meeting of Yorkshire miners heartily sympathise with the miners of Denaby Main in their present struggle, and congratulate them on the discression they have exercised in the severe conflict they have had to battle with up to the present. Further more, that we use every means to get them support in the present struggle.” (Hear, hear)

He for one looked on the Denaby Main men as fighting a great battle for the district. Some were of opinion that they were fighting their own, but it was really a battle for the district. (Applause)

There were pits where they had not always worked on the same system as that in force at Denaby Main, and consequently there was a great deal of small coal, and if they had to hand-pick that coal, it struck him very forcibly that they would have no money at all, because the filling of slack all day would mean nothing after they had paid their trammer. Some people said it was a question of packing and a 10% reduction, but it was a bad system which the owners were bringing about, and one which they ought to resist to the utmost.

If they did not help to keep off that state of affairs they would be in the same position as they were once previously, in the case of Monk Bretton and Carlton Main.

He hoped it would not be said of Denaby Main, as it had been said of those collieries, that if they had supported the men, the other collieries would not have to work on the same system.

Houghton Main´s delegate seconded the resolution. He said the Denaby Main men ought to be fully supported. Ever since they received notice to leave their employment, the district knew that it meant a reduction of from 20% to 30% on their wages, and that the system the owners wished them to work at was one which would be ruinous to any colliery, not only Denaby Main, but every mine situated in the South West Riding.

They were present that day to congratulate them on the manner in which they had used their powers of discression after being evicted from their homes. By reason of the men´s living under the employers, the latter had had power over them in two ways ; they could give them notice and likewise evict them from their tenements.

The miners of Denaby Main had shown the police force that there was no necessity for their services ; they had behaved themselves with a decorum worthy of the sympathy of a meeting such as that.

They understood the policy of the employers at the Denaby Main colliery. Mr. Buckingham Pope had said that he would rather see his colliery stand for ever than allow the men to go to work at the reasonable price asked by the Denaby Main men. The men had done everything possible to obtain a com – promise but they could do nothing to meet the demand of the owners who were trying to make the miner sink lower than ever he had been in his life.

The resolution was carried with enthusiasm.

The following resolution was proposed by a Mitchell Main miner : ” That this meeting is of opinion that the action of the employers in the matter of a reduction in our wages of 10% is not warranted and that we use every legal means to resist the same.”

A Houghton Main delegate seconded. He said it was not a question of a reduction which the owners were demanding. They were to a great extent men who had become possessed of a great deal of wealth and had speculated with that money for high rates of interest, so that they might be enabled to go to the South of France or other parts of the Continent two or three months of the year, while the miners were delving for coal all the year.

When the coal owners said they were disorganised they would fire the shots and they knew how many miners there were in the association as well as the Messrs. Pickard and Cowey. Their success depended on organisation. He advised the men to join the association, to pay their sixpence per week, and by doing so they would nerve themselves for the struggle. The owners if the association was stronger, would never ask the men to hand over 2s. in the £.

Coal owners never took into consideration the fact that the miners´ employment was different from that of the outdoor labourer. The agricultural labourer earned so little wages because he had no association behind him. If the miners had fresh air, if the sun shone on them as they worked they might grant the owners were right in asking them to give some of their hard earned money back. They all knew how unhealthy and dangerous their employment was. The owners had not considered the hazardous nature of the miners´ occupation. The miners must see to their own pockets ; they must look to their own families and to their interests. When the working men of England felt the great power they might possess no capitalist would ever think of crushing them in the future. (Loud cheering)

A delegate from Wath Main said he worked under the proprietors of a colliery where it was considered that a reduction of wages was not necessary. Some of the persons seem to have strange ideas about those who happen to be working. There was no man in the district who sympathised more with the men out on strike than he did. He referred to the `unnecessary correspondence´ which had taken place during the last few says in the Press on the wages question, and which he said did not in the least degree tend to heal the breach which exists between the employer and workman. Men who had no interest in the coal trade, had no interest in mining matters, dared to enter into the Public Press and then dictate to men on the brink of starvation calling them the hardest names it was possible to imagine because they were not prepared to submit to unreasonable demands from the coal owners of the district. It would be far better for those men to stay at home and rock the cradle, ( Laughter ) and learn common sense. There were many faces in that assembly of men from Denaby Main. He paid a visit on Friday to some six families which were housed in one room. When it served the purpose of the employers they were turned out into the streets.

(Shame) He was sorry that they had to wage the warfare in the district for the sake of the Denaby Main men.

They were of the same opinion that day as they had been for many years – viz. that as a body of men they wanted one society – ( Hear, hear ) – and one society only – ( Hear, hear ) – and if the leaders in the district were prepared to differ let them differ, but at that same time the men in the district should say in a body to those leaders, if they were not prepared to advocate their cause with unanimity and justice ” Stand aside.” (Applause) The men should be quite prepared to say to them, ” Our cause is a common cause, our interests are very much identical, every one of us will work together ; if leaders prefer to differ let the men be united.” (Cheers)

His heart had yearned with sympathy for the Denaby Main men. One thing which cheered him more than any other was the calm, quiet attitude of the men at the colliery under the most trying circumstances in which men could be placed. The had the employers on the one hand who had resorted to physical force but they had resorted to physical force under the cover of the law. He was pleased that the men had up to the present refused to yield to the provocation, and as a consequence of their calmness they had opened up avenues of support in the shape of public sympathy which, if violence had been resorted to would never have been the case. The men of Denaby Main had a just cause in hand, and the miners of the district should support them. (Applause)

Not only had the Denaby Main men a just cause, but they claimed for the whole district that there was no necessity in trade for a reduction in wages. (Applause)

There were certain owners who had taken a very prominent and leading part in the matter, whose sole object was to `smash´ Mr. Pickard and the Yorkshire Miners´ Association.

Mr. Ellis had said that was not their intention, but in spite of that, or of what any other coal owner might say, the miners contended that the action of the owners showed their intention was to smash the miners´ association if they could.

He urged on the men the necessity which existed for banding themselves together in the bonds of union and thus preparing for war in times of peace. He did not believe in coercion and in putting the screw on the men, but when it was necessary to use all the moral force in their power, in order to bring the men to their senses, it was their duty to do so. Men by their indolence and indifference were damaging not only their own interests, but the interests of the district. (Hear, hear)

There would be privation existing amongst them but he asked them to be as calm as possible. The present was the time to act, and from that moment they should they should take the matter in hand thorough, earnest, and determine that every man who rode a rope should be a man who belonged to the Yorkshire Miners´ Association.

Again referring to the Denaby Main evictions, he said the employers had forgotten that they lived in the nineteenth century. He sympathised deeply with the men of Denaby Main in the present struggle, and he would do all in his power to help them

The resolution was carried and the meeting terminated.

A collection on behalf of the Denaby Main miners, was taken at the close of the meeting.