Mass Meeting Of Miners At Mexborough
Mr. Chappell Vindicates His Action
Between 1,500 and 2,000 miners attended an open air meeting on Tuesday afternoon, in the Market Place, Mexborough, for the purpose of hearing Mr. Chappell´s explanation of the action he has taken during the struggle at Denaby Main.
A large number of Mexborough and Swinton tradesmen also assembled. Mr. J. Rouse was voted to the chair, and he was supported by Mr. Vincent, secretary to the Miners´ National Orphanage, the Revs. T. Seruton and G. Barrow, Mr. G. Aitcheson, ex-town-councillor of Sheffield, and others.
The Chairman, having stated the subject for which the meeting was convened, called on Mr. Chappell to address the assembly.
Mr. Chappell said having heard the Chairman on former occasions he knew he could rely on his fairness in such a matter as that. Questions like that which they had met to decide were very important. That was not the first case of the kind he had been mixed up in during the last thirty years. Whenever a great question had arisen similar to the one which arose at Denaby Main in 1869 and at Thorncliffe, Tinsley Park, and Nunnery collieries in the same year, the matters under dispute were referred to the Council meetings of the Miners´ Associations by the men, and were dealt with. Every man acquainted with the workings of trades union organisations must admit that when a Council had deliberated on a certain question in dispute and had come to a conclusion on that question, that body elect must of necessity be consistent with itself. The members of a Council could not be passing a resolution one day on a great question like that of Denaby Main and rescinding it the next. When a Council met and formulated an opinion and sent men to the owners to represent the miners, and those men discussed the question with the owners, and, after discussing it, came to the con – clusion that certain things were equitable and those things they were prepared to do, when such transactions were completed they could not go the next hour and undo those transactions, but as honourable men they should be prepared to stand by them. ( Hear, hear )
He had not come there to agitate anyone. Men who had been put into the street as they had been, with their families, did not require to be agitated and exasperated, and he had not come to do that.
The general public, however, would like to hear him explain how the rupture which existed had taken place. He was not there to aggravate them, his sympathies were with the men of Denaby Main none the less that day because he had been jostled a little bit. That was not the first time he had had to endure that kind of thing, as he remembered being tapped on the back of the head with hard snow which had been taken from the men´s clogs. ( Laughter )
There were men standing in that crowd who deliberately stated that all the business which had been transacted at Rotherham at the Council meetings was nothing else than a concocted thing or a fabrication of his own. One person said that to the treasurer of the association. He did not believe that there were a dozen men in that assembly who believed such a thing.
On December 27th a Council meeting was held, when the Denaby Main men were under notice. They were expecting to send a deputation on the Saturday prior to the 29th, and the Council determined in the event of a settlement not being arrived at they would bring the district committee to Denaby Main in order to consult with the deputation after it had met with the manager. That deputation met the district committee and every point which the deputation had dealt with at the office was placed before the Denaby Main committee, the dep – uatation and the district committee jointly. Every resolution passed at the time was taken and read over to the joint meeting. A resolution was passed approving of what of what had been done, without a single dissent. The minutes were put on record and circulated throughout the district, and had never been rescinded, and what was more they had never received a request from the Denaby Main lodge to rescind any one of those resolutions. On the 12th of January the delegate, Mr. Beardsley, said the lodge felt certain that no fair conclusion could be arrived at unless it was arrived at by practical arbitration. They recorded that resolution at the time, and the resolution, along with the other conditions, were on record and had not been rescinded, nor had they been asked to rescind them.
The Council met on the 7th inst. and confirmed that business. All the delegates declared that the business had been properly conducted and that the minutes were a true record. Last Thursday night he called the committees together again and invited the Denaby Main committee for the purpose of reconsidering and reconfirming the resolution, as he thought under the circumstances he should be supported by the body of men in whose hands the case had been laid and in whose hands it had remained for three months.
The committee all confirmed the business and said they had had it before their lodges, and that it was a true record of what had taken place. Anyone would see that as far as he was concerned he could not listen to outside expressions of opinion, but could only follow the instructions given to him by the Council. The men who contended that they would not have the hand-picking system were doubtless in true sympathy with the general opinion at Denaby Main, but it was only an outside opinion and those men had no power to give advice, and those who had committed their case to the Council meeting had no power to listen to such outside expressions and begin to black -ball someone who was not to blame at all for having recorded the transactions of a Council. He said it was unfair, and no doubt a great deal of the disturbance which had arisen was to be attributed to what he termed outside opinion. That he was not responsible for, but he was responsible to the Council. The Council ordered him what to do and he had to do it. The Council who had deliberated on the matters in dispute had ordered him to do certain things, and those things whether they were fully in harmony with other people´s opinions or not, he was pledged to carry out. ( Hear, hear )
He asked every member of the association not to abuse him because he had carried out his instructions. ( Applause )
On the 29th December the committee consisting of Messrs. Hatton, Cooper, Davis, Evans, Beardsley, Crowcroft and others, waited on the managers and left the following propositions for their consideration :-
” The men´s deputation are prepared to recommend that the work be continued at 1s.6d. per ton for round coal and 10 ½ d. for small, all the small to be filled together.
The deputation are also prepared to recommend 1s.6d. for round coal and 1s. for small coal.”
There was a postscript to say that the two conditions did not include the 10% paid in the district.
The third condition was :-
” They are also prepared to settle the points in dispute by setting aside three or four stalls with a view to ascertaining the quantity of round and small coal. That two men on behalf of the owners and two on behalf of the workmen shall be appointed to watch the proceedings, and the rate fixed according to the results found by the parties hereinafter referred to.”
These three conditions were left with the manager. He wrote them out and read them over to the deputation, which sanctioned them. If any one of the deputation had protested against leaving the conditions being left at the office, he, for one, would not have ventured to have left them. Every member of the deputation gave his consent for them to be deposited with the manager for his consideration.
Afterwards, the district committee, with the local committee and the deputation, considered the matter, and the following resolution was passed :-
” That this committee along with the deputation which waited on the manager regret that the suggestions which have been made by the deputation and reported to the committee have not been accepted, as they show a strong disposition on the part of the men to avoid a rupture between the owners and the workmen of the Denaby Main colliery.”
The second resolution passed was :-
” That this committee is of opinion that there is no way by which the questions at issue can be settled so equitably as that suggesting that the differences should be put to a reference of four men, two to act on each side, the rates for round coal and small to be fixed by the results found by the parties hereinafter referred to.”
These two resolutions were passed without a single dissent. They went straight to Mr. Slater´s room where one of the largest meetings he had seen there was held. Mr. Hatton was the chairman of that meeting. If any gentleman would trouble himself to look over the newspapers and did not find Mr. Hatton´s conditions there as falling from his ( Mr. Chappell´s ) lips, he would throw up the sponge.
At Mr. Slater´s rooms, after an hour´s talk the following resolution was passed :-
” That this meeting strongly approves the action of the deputation and endorses the suggestions left with the manager.”
They were endorsed in a very cheerful manner, there was not the slightest grumbling or murmuring on any point which had been dealt with.
On the 15th January Mr. Beardsley stated that any of those resolutions taken single handed would mean a reduction in wages. He believed so himself. It was decided :-
” That this committee is of strong and unbiased belief that there is no way so equitable and likely to produce reliable information on which to proceed to the adjusting of the rates of payment for the changes which the Denaby Main company seek to introduce, as arbitration.”
Arbitration was what the men wanted and he believed that nothing would bring fair results except an honourable trial. ( Applause )
On the 7th inst. a certain resolution – or recommendation, it was nothing more, as it could not become a resolution until the meeting had adopted it – was put before the meeting. He might say that not one, two or ten men, had ordered him never to go near Denaby Main anymore and there were other who were trying to incite violence against him. He was not afraid of violence being used, but it was a fact that such a thing was being attempted.
He wrote to Mr. Dixon the same night, saying he thought it was only fair that the Council should be called together to say who was right and who was wrong before any action was taken, and on the 7th inst. he wrote again to the effect that he could not again interfere with the question until the Council had decided what should be done.
Messrs. Hatton and Cooper informed him that a resolution had been passed to the effect that he was not to go near the place again. He was not the man, and never had been, who, when he had notice to leave a place, asked to be set on again. ( Applause )
Whether they ordered those two men to inform him of that resolution was another matter.
( A Voice : ” We don´t want thee,” and another, ” You have wanted him.”)
The same morning they passed a resolution that they would not have the hand -picked system. He informed Hatton that resolutions had been passed behind the back of the Council not to have the hand-picked system, which was directly against the orders and wishes of the Council. Mr. Hatton denied that, and said they had not passed resolutions. He could not contradict him, but one of the delegates did so and said the resolutions had been passed. He asked whether the Council were to authorise the owners that they were prepared to resume work on some terms to give the hand-picking system a trial, and Mr. Hatton said,” Yes ” and he was authorised to send the following resolution :-
” That the workmen of Denaby Main are willing to resume work on the old system of prices for one month, and that two stalls be set apart in each district in order to test the hand-picking system, the prices to be fixed so as to cause no reduction on wages paid formerly.”
He asked Mr. Hatton three times on behalf of the deputation if that could be sent to the owners, and he said ” Yes,” and at his insistence he sent on behalf of Mr. Chambers.
On the following day he waited until nearly one o´clock for the answer, and afterwards came to Mexborough, where he heard that evictions were taking place. He at once arranged for ten houses, and went to Sheffield to see about some tents. He afterwards went to the post-office and wired Mr. Dixon to say that he had arranged for coal to be supplied to the miners who would inhabit the Swinton houses, and that he would look out for other houses in the morning.
On Thursday morning Mr. Hall came down with some money for the men, but on the way he met a messenger going to Barnsley for Mr. Pickard and Mr. Parrott and he came back with the money.
On Saturday Mr. Hall took £15 to Mr. Beardsley, and the money had been handed over to the committee, and afterwards £10 was handed to the same person, and this sum had likewise been handed to the committee.
He also wired Mr. Dixon telling him that seven houses were at liberty in a certain place, six at another, and three at another, and also made arrangements for supplies of coal to those families which might be located there. He did not take into account what had been said, and other things which were being attempted but emptied their coffers and left themselves penniless in order to help the Denaby Main people. ( Applause )
With reference to the resolution of April 6th , the ejectments would have taken place if it had never been moved, so that whatever had occurred since then had not arisen from any action on that particular day. He wrote the resolution in haste, and it was altered at the insistence of several persons who were present.
Not one of the conditions named was absent from the resolution he had been dealing with. The resolution was :-
( 1 ) ” That the packing be not taken from the men ; ( 2 ) that we resume work at 1s.6d. for round coal for one month, and 1s. for small with 10% added ; ( 3 )
that three or four stalls be set apart for testing and ascertaining the quantity of small coal in order to fix a price which will not mean a reduction on the wages paid formerly ; ( 4 ) that two men be appointed on each district to watch the trial.”
If there had been the slightest objection raised he would not have taken it, and the resolution was read over no less than five times and altered.
Mr. Hatton said he ( Mr. Chappell ) wanted to sell the men over packing. But knowing the propensities of Peter Hatton, as many of them did, he was the last man in God´s creation he would have trusted. ( Applause )
He never uttered the words attributed to him. He had had much experience at coal – getting and packing, and he said it would be a serious matter for Denaby Main men to lose packing. He had always said so. Mr. Hatton had said he ( Mr. Chappell ) had told him that he would never work at Denaby Main any more. That was an “outrageous lie” ; he never told anyone such a thing. Hatton told him after the stoppage that he had not ventured to go out of his working place to borrow a pick, but had always sent some of his mates, because he knew they were on his track, and that if they could they would never let him work at the pit again. He advised Mr. Hatton to be moderate, and if they were on his track not to play into their hands.
Referring to Mr. Chambers´ letter, he said he had no hesitation in saying that those were terms which no man living could make a wage at Denaby Main. It was utterly impossible for any man to go into that pit and hand pick coal at the rates proposed. ( A Voice : ” Is that the condition – not riddles ?) No riddles were mentioned.
The terms left by Mr. Hatton on the 7th were £8 7s 6d. for 100 tons. He ( Mr. Chappell ) had always said that the owners terms meant a reduction of no less than 30%, and he had nothing to withdraw from that. The terms he suggested were :-
60 tons of round and 40 of small out of 100 – 60 at 1s.6d., £4 10s. ; 40 at 1s., £2 ; and 10% added, 13s. – total. £73, or 5s. 6d. per 100 tons more than the rate suggested by Mr. Hatton.
There was always more difficulty in dragging prices up than to let them go down.
With reference to the statements made by him, up to the very last he never had a wrong word, but was lauded to the skies for the way in which he was fighting the battle.
He referred to a statement made to a man named Hy. Gettings by Mr. Frith at Conisbrough. Mr. Frith said if the Denaby Main men would go over to Barnsley they would fight their battle and pay them. That did not matter to him. He was not much surprised after he heard that, at the action which had been taken. In their condition it was a very tempting thing. If those gentlemen were prepared to take them over, fight their battle and support them, he questioned if he would have raised his finger or voice against such a thing. It mattered little to him whether they went or not. He was not going to pander to everyone, and if the people wished to go to Barnsley they were at liberty to go, and if they did not go to Barnsley they would not alter his opinion at all. He would always tell men what he thought, and when he was delegated by a committee meeting to do a thing, he would try to do it in spite of all that might be done or said against him. ( Cheers )
If the society were ready to meet and wind up it´s affairs and honourably discharge it´s liabilities, as a registered society was compelled to do, they were quite at liberty if they though Mr. Pickard´s policy was better than his, to go to Barnsley. Let them do it of their own free will because they believe it to be best, and not as a matter of spite, because he, as a servant of the Association, had done nothing but carry out the business of the Council meeting.
Mr. Aitcheson corroborated that portion of Mr. Chappell´s explanation which referred to what was done in the lodge-room at the Mason´s Arms. He urged them to behave fairly in the matter, and not act hastily at the bidding of a man who wished for an office the duties of which he could not fulfil. ( Applause )
He contended that if the union had been stronger the masters would not have taken the step they had. He referred to a statement made by Mr. Styring of Rotherham, who met three miners on a highway , who informed him that
” Chappell had robbed them of hundreds of pounds.” He asked the men for their names, but they refused to give them. Men who could be so cowardly and so miserably dastardly as to traduce the character of a man who have served them faithfully were unworthy of the name of men. ( Applause )
Mr. S. Hall, treasurer to the association, said everything had been done by the district to which Denaby Main belonged to help the men on strike. He stood there among them as a miner, and he defied anyone to make any imputation against his character without any semblance of truth. A woman had asked for a portion of the £2,000 which Chappell had robbed them of ! He would say fear – lessly that the Denaby Main men were treating the district in the dirtiest and shabbiest manner. ( Loud cheers )
After taking the last penny they possibly could, and when the funds of the association were disposed of, they proposed to go somewhere else and leave the district in the lurch. Let them be Englishmen and act in a manly way. ( Cheers )
He had been told by Mr. Hatton that Mr. Chappell would not have a hearing, but he had told Mr. Chappell that Mr. Chappell would have a hearing.
He contended that Mr. Chappell had acted solely at the dictation of the Council, and that the business of the Council had been lawful and above board.
He hoped that commonsense would reign and that justice would take place ; if they did not act in the interest of justice they were cowards. His treasure-ship did not keep him, and if they liked they could throw him off. He feared no man or woman either who sought to cast imputation on him.
His character was called into question by Mr. Pickard one night. He was one of the trustees for the Miners´ offices, and Mr. Pickard asked him to resign his position. He told Mr. Pickard he would not resign to suit him or anyone else.
( A Voice : ” Keep hold of the keys.”)
Mr. Pickard told him he must no hold himself up as an example of a Christian man, but he informed Mr. Pickard that his character would stand as much investigation as Mr. Pickard´s, and if it came to be tested very likely a little more. ( Hear, hear )
The Rev. Geo. Borrow proposed a vote of confidence in Mr. Chappell, which was seconded by a Miner, and supported by Mr. Benj. Chambers.
On the motion of the Rev. J. Scrutton, seconded by a Miner, a vote of thanks was accorded to Mr. Pease for his conduct of the business.
The meeting then terminated.