Dispute – May 29th a – The Cornishmen go back

May 1885

The Denaby Main Dispute.
Departure Of The Cornishmen

A meeting of the Denaby Main miners was held on Monday morning at the lodge-room, the Mason´s Arms, Mexborough. Mr. P. Hatton in the chair.

The Chairman said the meeting was called to give the men an opportunity of considering their position. Already the men at several pits had fallen away from the conference, and had resumed work at a reduction of 10% on their former rate of wages, and several others were in a `shaky´ condition. It was for the Denaby Main men to consider what their action should be respecting the 10%. Were they going to accept the 10% reduction ? He would move that they abide by the district.

A Miner, in seconding the motion, said they should show the country they were willing to settle the dispute by any reasonable means.

The Chairman said the general public were watching their action very closely. The Denaby Main men were willing to concede everything which the remainder of the district had conceded. If the matter had been left in the hands of the unionists the reduction would have been successfully resisted, but the non-unionists were in a majority, and the masters could see it. The only thing for the men was to join the association and make the employers ” toe the mark,” again next September. If every man had belonged to the union at Denaby Main that strike would not have occurred.

A Miner said a great many collieries had resumed work at the reduction be-cause there was no alternative. The collieries which had been at work had been whipping those that had been at play. Some of the pits had been working full time while others had worked double shifts, which whipped them more severely still. If the other pits remained out two or three weeks longer they would have to accept the reduction in the end. Seeing that Manvers Main had agreed to sacrifice 10%, there were many miners at Denaby Main who were in favour of bringing about a peaceable settlement of the dispute by offering similar terms.

A Dataller asked if the reduction would affect the dataller´s wages, as the rate of remuneration paid at Denaby Main was already 10% below the remainder of the district´s prices.

The Chairman said there were only twenty datallers in the association, and if there had been a larger membership there would not have been such low wages paid at Denaby Main.

The Secretary of the Lodge said, regarding the closing of the Denaby Main colliery, he would not be surprised at all if Mr. Pope were to do that. The men never thought at one time that the evictions would have taken place, and no doubt if he had known then, as much as he knows now, Mr. Pope would not have adopted that course. In the first instance he evicted a certain number of tenants, and many of them thought he would not evict any more ; but he did so, and repeated this action. If an employer would turn his tenants out, lose his rent, and a great many other things, he would not be against closing the pit for a short time The mine might probably be closed for a few months. Mr. Pope is probably of the opinion that the miners would find employment elsewhere, so that he would be able to throw open the pit at a certain price when foreigners and their neighbours might occupy their places. It behoved them therefore, to try to prevent the pit being set down by offering satisfactory terms to their employers.

The following resolution was carried unanimously :-

” That this meeting of Denaby Main miners is willing to submit to the reduction accepted by the district ; that every other matter in dispute be referred to arbitration ; and that Mr. Burt M.P., is appointed umpire, if needed.”

The Chairman said if Mr. Pope would not accept those terms there was no doubt that the colliery would be closed for a short time. They would have to pass the old resolution to stick firmly together. They should not run away now that they were in the thick of the battle. They never sought the fight, but now they had entered on the struggle they would not retreat. The Denaby Main men would stop in the neighbourhood until the pit was re-opened, even if it were to be closed five more months.

If the district resumed work while Denaby Main was playing, they would have a larger share of support than at the present time.

It was proposed, seconded, and carried unanimously, that, in the event of the manager not accepting their terms, the men stick firmly together, man to man, until thought fit to accept them.

A question arose concerning the Cornishmen who had been imported into the district.

The Chairman said so far as could be ascertained the Cornishmen were ready to depart from Denaby Main. The `poor men´ had been deluded, and he hoped the Denaby Main men would let them leave quietly. From what conversation he had had with them, the `poor fellows´ had been deceived..

There were some, however, who were close neighbours of theirs who knew what they were doing.

A Miner, who had been sent to Cornwall to advise the men of that county to keep away from Denaby Main, said the men had `unbearable tales´ stuck into them. The men were running in by sixes and sevens to give in their names to go to Denaby Main. He had a thousand circulars printed, and issued them, and afterwards many miners in Cornwall they had had no work to do for a long time, but before they would go to Denaby Main they would enlist as soldiers, as no doubt they would have to do.

A messenger arrived at this stage of the proceedings, stating that the Cornishmen were leaving the colliery and the meeting dispersed.

The Cornishmen Depart

On Monday morning the Cornishmen departed from Mexborough station for their homes. A large crowd of miners watched their departure but no attempt was made to molest them, the strangers having shown themselves of late to be very amiably disposed towards the Denabyites.

The miners of Denaby Main are beginning to believe that the colliery is to be closed. But there are hopes that a compromise may be effected, even at the eleventh hour.

Some of the men state that they have good grounds for belief that if they were to offer to work at Mr. Pope´s first terms – 1s. 6 ½ d. per ton for round and 8d. for small – the pit would be re-opened. They argue that if this were the case the colliery would be worked, after the expiration of a month, on terms which would not mean a reduction of wages.

Mr. Burt, M.P., has it is said, accepted the position of umpire in the dispute between the Denaby Main colliery company and their workmen. On the other hand it is confidentially asserted by a few miners who are usually well informed that the company have decided to accept the men´s offer of Monday morning to resume work at the district price ( presumably a reduction of 10% on the wages last obtained ) and to submit the remaining differences for adjustment at the hands of Mr. Burt. The difficulties in the way of a settlement are, it is stated, by no means insurmountable. For some time past the men have abandoned the untenable position they adopted at the commencement of the quarrel – that they would on no consideration work on the hand-picking system – and have tacitly agreed to accept the altered mode of filling provided no reduction is made on the prices paid previously. While they hold firmly to the opinion that a reduction of wages is unjustifiable, they are fully alive to the fact that their employers have the right to say on what system their coal shall be filled.

This material alteration in the attitude of the men may tend to the amicable arrangement of a dispute which has already lasted twenty-two weeks, and inflicted a great amount of misery and suffering on the mining population of Mexborough and Denaby Main.