Dispute – May 15th i – Mr Leslie and the Rotherham Bench

May 1885

The Rev. T.J. Leslie and the Rotherham Bench

# Prior to the distribution of a large quantity of bread on Monday afternoon the Rev. T.J. Leslie said he was very sorry to have to meet them again on that painful business of relief, but he was glad to have the opportunity of saying a few words to them, especially as he had been told that there had been a large number of policemen taken down to Denaby Main that afternoon in anticipation of the arrival of other workmen.

Should the company bring in other men that evening he urged them to do as they had done before – respect the law. Hitherto they had used lawful means to gain their rights ; he advised them to walk in the same path. They had passed through great suffering and had shown a brave and enduring spirit. He prayed that God would help and bless them in that conflict. ( Hear, hear )

If they looked to Him, He would be there to help them. Mr. J.B. Pope had said that he ( Rev. Leslie ) had created and prolonged their distress by helping them ; he also said that they ” were crying to the moon.” He did not know what Mr. Pope meant – their cry had gone to God, not to the moon. ( Hear, hear )

If Mr. Pope prayed to the moon he was godless.

Mr. Pope wrote a letter a few days ago to a London newspaper, and that had been followed by another upon what they had been pleased to term, ” an unfortunate dispute.” That letter had been written by a citizen of London who said he had personally inspected the company´s books for 1884. It night be that he himself was one of the officials of the colliery, and no very great credence could be given to his report

The writer further said the Denaby Main men had houses to live in of a superior character, where the sanitary arrangements were all that could be desired. All he could say to that statement was that the report of Dr. Wilson given in January, and also the report of their own Medical Officer for the Local Board, gave a blank contradiction to it. ( Hear, hear )

The writer made a further statement – he said the rents charged were lower than the rents charged in the immediate neighbourhood for house of a much inferior character. ( Sensation )

The letter continued, ” these houses are let on a weekly tenancy, and the agree -ment is made that the house is to be vacated when the occupier quits the company´s employment. In the present case the men brought out their tools from the workings about Christmas last. They have had, and still have the option of resuming work on terms more remunerative to the workmen than the terms originally paid.” ( Laughter )

Was that the truth ? ( Cries of “No” and a voice : ” I should think not.”)

Such was the remarkable letter of ` a citizen of London.´

He thought if those men intended to fight they ought to fight with the right weapons, not with the weapons of falsehood and mispresentation. If they fought they must fight justly and for the cause of righteousness. ( Hear, hear )

It was quite evident from the conduct of Mr. Pope and such writers as the writer of the letter he had read to them that they were simply determined to win by any means. It was a question of might not right. But whilst they might have social position and wealth at their command the men had still a mightier power in the presence and in the love of their God and Father. ( Hear, hear )

He wanted them in that great conflict still to keep looking to Him and trusting in Him, for His Word distinctly declared ” the Lord heareth the poor.”

He would not detain them, as he knew from the cases that had been brought before him that some of them were in great need of bread. He was sorry that such should have been the case. He had been greatly pained by some specially extreme cases of suffering. One family came that morning stating that they had had no bread, no fire, and no food since five o´clock the previous day, and other families had visited him in a similar condition. Such things ought not to exist. Those were the wives and children of British workingmen. He had come to know a great deal of the Denaby Main men, and whatever others might say concerning them, he was there to say that he had found them to be a superior class of men.

He was told by those who knew and could speak with the authority of knowledge that they had as good workmen, as good colliers´ at Denaby Main as were to be found in any other pit in the United Kingdom. He though the wives and children of those respectable workingmen ought not to be brought into the position in which they were today. He hoped that state of things would soon come to an end.

He thought Mr. J.B. Pope ought at once to grant a meeting of the directors with their own men. He said in a letter which he wrote to the papers the other day that a gentleman in Mr. Pope´s position could either be a great blessing or a great curse to a neighbourhood, and that was so. ( Hear, hear )

He ( the speaker ) asked through the public Press that if Mr. Pope was what he professed to be – a good man – let him become the friend and saviour of his own workpeople. ( Hear, hear )

Referring to the new arrivals at the colliery, he hoped the Denaby Main men would do as they had done before when the former workmen were brought – to respect the law.

With respect to the case heard before the Rotherham Bench that day, a woman, he said, had been summoned for assault. After the case had been tried, the chairman, who was a coal-owner, called the husband into court, and asked him if he had heard the evidence. He said he had not. The chairman then addressed him in these terms, ” What we propose to do is to bind you both over to keep the peace. You will be bound over in the sum of £5 each.” There was a man bound over to keep the peace who had not broken the peace. ( Laughter )

If that were ” justices justice ” it was time it came to an end. He would tell the magistrate through the Press that he ought not to have been upon the Bench, and that he ought not to have done that very unwise thing. He hoped the public Press of the country would speak out strongly against such unfair doings in the Rotherham Courthouse. ( Applause )

A vote of thanks was accorded to the Rev. T.J. Leslie and Mrs. Leslie for the part they had taken in the work of distribution.