Dispute – May 1st – Arrival of New Workmen – Unprecedented Scenes

May 1885

The Denaby Main Dispute
Arrival Of New Workmen
An Unprecedented Scene

Mexborough, Tuesday. 11 p.m.

The first batch of workmen arrived about half past nine at Denaby Main, and were accorded a reception which, though no stronger than vocal powers were used, will long be remembered by all who heard it.

Throughout the evening colliers, their wives and children, have thronged the approaches to the colliery. There were present a largely augmented force of police, and everything betokened that another acute crisis in this unfortunate struggle could not be long delayed. Altogether there were about one hundred police from the Sheffield, Barnsley, Rotherham and Doncaster divisions, and they were under the command of Major Hammond ( Rotherham ), Superintendent Sykes ( Doncaster ) and Inspector Gunn ( Barnsley ).

Half the force were in readiness at the colliery offices, while the remainder were in reserve in the school about five hundred yards away. The colliery gates were kept closed, but the crossing on the railway afforded a point of vantage which could not be interfered with, and especially at the gate on the Mexborough side there has been a large though a frequently changing crowd. The evening was agreeably favourable for any out-door proceedings – mild and a full moon shining.

At times the crowd varied considerably in numbers, but towards nine o´clock it seemed to grow thicker and larger. The women were extensively represented and if anything they seemed more determined than the men to wait patiently until it was clearly too late to expect anything.

About twenty minutes past nine o´clock those nearest the gates and best informed to passing trains, were surprised to see pass through the colliery an engine, one passenger carriage, and a guards van. After it had gone quite some distance in the direction of Conisbrough, it returned on a siding into the pit yard, and stopped at a point well out of the view of the majority of the crowd.

Notwithstanding this precaution, the movement was observed, and a cry rapidly spread, ” They´ve come.” This was followed by a general stampede, but even those who had got closest there was nothing to be seen. From the size of the train it was clear but few men had been brought, and these on alighting were quickly placed in safety.

Various rumours prevailed as to the number of men who had arrived, but the best authority which can be obtained puts them at thirteen – said to be a most unlucky number.

The men came from Staffordshire via Manchester, and six of them proceeded as far as Barnsley, when they were made better acquainted with the exact position of affairs, and three of the number left the train to return home. Another is said to have shown the `white-feather´ at Barnsley, – but was persuaded to go on. The train which conveyed the men to Denaby Main was in charge of Mr. J.E. Halmshaw, district superintendent, and Mr. Richards, station-mater at Mexborough, and the men were accompanied by MR. Chambers, the manager of the colliery. They are said to look as though a good week´s work would be beneficial to them.

On the trains arrival, the crowd commenced booing, catcalling, yelling, and making other noises more or less human. The crowd, which numbered at this point of the proceedings nearly 1,200, surged too and fro, but no attempt was made to interfere with the police, about a dozen of them were drawn up in line in front of the huge colliery gates.

Women shrieked, men `booed´ and, if the truth must be told, swore, and even little children, catching the contagion, were to be heard yelling, with shrill voices, their hatred of the `black-sheep´ who had flocked to their colliery. In the midst of the tumult a huge tuft of grass fell on the head of a woman standing near the police, and immediately afterwards a heavy stone was thrown with some force struck a hard felt hat on top of a miner´s head and crushed it way through. Instantly the injured one pounced on the offender, and a rush was made to the Mexborough end of the colliery.

Some farthest away from the spot thought that a `black-sheep´ was being captured, made for the spot, but the mistake was quickly discovered, and the crowd surged back upon the gates again. The uproar continued, and the most bitter aspersions were cast upon the newcomers. The men were housed in the new wagon shed, which had been lined with canvas to protect them from the cold, straw had been provided for their accommodation, and so on after their arrival the men were supplied with tea from the colliery offices.

Moonlight Meeting.

About a thousand men, women, and child ren attended a meeting held in a field close to the colliery about half past ten o´clock. A miner acted as chairman.

In opening the proceedings he alluded to the fact that a number of men had arrived at the colliery who were `obnoxious´ to them. The miners of Denaby Main had suffered `plenty´, they had been thrown out into the street, and they could not stand the new miners taking their bread from them. It was more than human flesh could bear. He did not think it wise to start fighting that night. – A Miner excitedly shouted that they `ought to go in´ while they were warm – the chairman, resuming, asked what was the use of getting themselves into prison. He was in favour of allowing them three days in which to get their way. ( Shouts of ” now´s the time.”)

A Miner chimed in with the remark, ” Let´s stop `em now,” and this sally meeting with much applause from the crowd, the chairman told the interrupter that he had better go and do it himself, and not to lead others into mischief. They should do the business in a right and proper way. Let them meet the

`black-sheep´ fairly. ( A Voice : ” Let´s look before we leap.” )

He hoped every man would be orderly and keep himself respectable, and not interfere with the police at all. ( A Miner : I´ll second that.)

The police could not help themselves, and they were no doubt sorry to have to come to Denaby Main. – Several women called out in a shrill treble that the

`bobbies´ were not to blame. A scene of fierce excitement followed, threats being

freely used.

Resuming, the Chairman said the wisest thing they could do would be to go home, go to bed, and get up at half past four the next morning, and march to Denaby Main as a body, women and all, with the tin-whistle band and the banners flying. This suggestion was put as a proposition, and seconded by two or three score voices.

The Chairman said they would try to get at the men quietly and ask them to go away. If they had no means the men of Denaby Main would try to help them to go away, even if they gave away what little bit of pay they had to live on that week. They would promise them that they would not interfere with them if they would come to them.

A proposition to the effect that the meeting disperse quietly was carried nearly unanimously. – Cries arose at this point of the proceedings of ” Let´s stop `em now,” but a miner from the rear of the crowd quelled the uproar by shouting,

” Order, you Bashi-Bazouks.”

The meeting then dispersed.