Dispute – May – Correspondance – They all have a say

May 1885

Evicted Miners At Denaby Main

To the Editor,

Sir, – Kindly allow me, as a reader of your paper, to send a line to qualify the Rev. T.J. Leslie´s letter which appeared in last week´s Christian World. Rev. Leslie says that the ” men are willing to meet the directors at any time, and supposes that some of the directors are willing to starve the men, their wives and children into submission.” I venture to say, Sir, this is a most unfair statement, and one calculated to mislead your readers. The real state of the case appears in this morning´s Sheffield papers.

A meeting of the miners was held on Saturday, when the men distinctly refused the masters´ terms, which, in the present depressed state of trade, may be considered very fair.

The following was the proposal of the company :-

” The list of prices agreed to be paid by the Denaby Main Colliery company, limited, as submitted to a deputation of their late workmen on May 15th 1885. Prices for getting coal to be separated into three kinds, namely `hards´, `softs´, and `slack.´ The price for getting and filling hards and softs to be 1s. 3d. per ton ; slack 6d. per ton ; colliers to pay fillers for filling hards and softs 6d. per ton, and slack 4d. per ton. No percentage to be deducted from prices. The company agree, until the whole question has been reported upon by Mr. Burt, to guarantee colliers´ wages to be 5s. 6d. per day, and fillers 4s. per day, of eight hours. Drivers and datallers to be engaged as before.”

The chairman, a Mr. Peter Hatton, said they were not going to accept the first part of the statement. They would accept the terms offered to the deputation viz.

” That the colliers be paid 5s. 6d. per day, and fillers to go in as they came out. ” That did not refer to sorting. They would draw no hard and fast line that all men go back to work at their own places. Day workmen are offered 5s. 6d. by the company. Those who work by the prices can earn considerably more ; but, by the advice of their leaders, the men refuse to work.

I write as an impartial observer. I know neither masters nor men, but have no motive in writing than the desire that your readers should know the whole truth. The fact is, that many more thoughtful men would be glad to resume work on the masters´ terms, but does not. For their present unhappy position the men have only their leaders to blame.

My lot is cast among working-men, and I will give way to no one in my sympathies for the working class and my desire to help in their social and spirit-ual welfare.

A Sheffield Vicar,

May 18th 1885.

To the Editor,

Sir, – In your issue of the 21st inst. you publish a letter from the Rev. T.J. Leslie, of Mexborough, in which he charges me with giving some expression to a `profane jest´ in saying that the miners were ” praying to the moon.” The sentence to which he alludes is contained in a letter which I sent to The Daily Telegraph, and is as follows :-

” The rev. gentleman who appeals to you has ( doubtless with the best of intentions ) caused a great deal of the misery he deplored by helping and en- couraging these people in their crying for the moon.”

Thus by striking out half my words and substituting his own, and sending you the result in quotation marks, Rev. Leslie affords a happy illustration of what can be achieved by a gentleman of ingenuity and purpose

Yours, faithfully, J. Buckingham Pope,

Temple, May 26th 1885.

Mr. Beaumont And His Critics.

To the Editor,

Dear Sir, – It is well that the last copy of your paper remained unsold at the Barnsley station last Saturday, as in it I saw Mr. Marshall´s attempt to upset my home-thrust words. I say advisedly attempt, for to my mind ( and I believe that His sight who penetrates beneath the surface of either affirmation or argument, or even denial ) this effort to remove only makes my plain state- ment the plainer, viz. that he did say the masters did not back up the Papal bull, with it´s Denaby horns. True he did not say he would burn it ; it promises to extinguish itself. Moreover and further, I do not and did not ask Mr. M. to obtain me a hearing from the coalowners be they steam or land. But I do say, as I did, that I have in the eyes of common sense and right :-

1st. as interpreted by more than one mineral master, and as certainly admitted by himself in the railway when we, I repeat, providentially ( ! ) met ; and

2nd, and from my family connection ( personally through my father having left me that which Yorkshire coal and other sources contributed to accumulate, but with it´s lasting responsibilities ) in days gone by, and

3rd, by reason of that part given me, without the coal and Pope´s cardinals either being consulted or considered ( since their lordships spurn plain speech and do not like clear facts I find proven, and enforced publicly and privately, though they be ) by the miners and their executive or representative officials, union and non-union in great measure.

Yes, sir, I do say, therefore, I have and shall ( as God guides )use my vantage standpoint so as to continue as I began ; to say to master and man. ” Fair play all round wins.” Increasing difficulties and slouching opposition, no less than one -sided platitudes and carefully written evasions, are wont o raise the wind and drive the dust against prayerful but bold and clear, if not eloquently expressed, truth and facts.

Starvation, disease and death have, and may do so again, added their horrors. Defection and desertion, and ( it may not be in a few ) all but despair, still con – tribute their dire aggravation to a terrible disaster, ( forerunner of much worse later on, I fear, unless fairly met now in faith ), and collision between employer and employed.

But, sir, right, when truth back´s it, must in the end overrule might, though met by denial, scorn and pride.

Yours, truly.

Walter S. Beaumont.

Morley´s Hotel, Trafalgar

Square, London, W.C.

May 25th 1885.

P.S. – In common fairness will you insert this in your next.

The Denaby Main Dispute.

To the Editor,

Sir, – Having had considerable experience in connection with the above colliery, perhaps a word at this critical juncture of affairs may be of some service.

Much has been said by various correspondents upon the question, and I have watched the proceedings of both parties with great interest ; but for certain reasons I have not troubled your columns with any communications on the subject.

Mr. Chappell has ably dealt with the dispute upon facts as they appear to him

but there are facts of which I am acquainted bearing upon the matter which have never been brought to light, and which affect the question in principal to a very material extent.

Mr. Pickard, on Monday, the 7th inst., in his first attempt to handle the question, made some of the most insulting remarks towards the owners of the colliery it is possible to believe could have been made by any sane minded man. It is not too late to remedy the mischief done on that occasion ; so with the remark that violent vituperation is not calculated to lessen the animus too freely displayed already, I will for the present leave it in abeyance.

Much has been said about a 10% said to have been conceded by the men to the company, bit I am in a position to be able to show that this statement is partially a fabrication and, on the whole, grossly misleading.

In the early part of 1877, the management sought to remedy the evils and loss they sustained by men´s carelessness by the introduction of what Staffs. people called `rakes and pans´ for which extra payment was made. This dis – honest practice of the men, more than anything else, prevented the success of this alteration, which had to be abandoned. The manager, for some cause or other, did not take off the extra price given, but unintentionally left on the ½ d. per ton on the previously-existing rate, leaving the price at 1s. 4 ½ d. per ton instead of 1s. 4d. The first 5%, which only spread over the coal getting department, was taken from 1s. 4 ½ d., leaving the price at 1s. 3 ¾ d., which was only a farthing less than was left on by mistake when the `rakes and pans´ were taken out of the pit.

The second 5% was not conceded, as the men say, to assist the company to fight the railway company, but because other bodies of workmen had made con -cessions to their employers, which up to that date the Denaby Main company had not asked their men to give up. Railway matters or disputes might be talked about, but they had nothing to do with the question.

Mr. Frith went to Denaby Main on the second occasion, and spoke to the men as they came from their work, and they agreed to 7 ½ % reduction, in view of what had taken place at other collieries. However, this amount was altered next day to 5%.

Reductions, varying in amounts had taken place at the following places :-

Shireoaks – 7 ½ %.
Kiveton Park – 7 ½ %.
Sheepbridge Company, Killamarsh – 7 ½ %.
Unstone – 10%.
Nunnery – 5%.
Wharncliffe Silkstone – 7 ½ % ( off the Silkstone seam ).
Thorncliffe – 5%.
Manvers Main – 4%.
Wath Main – 4%.
Thrybergh Hall – an average of 6%.
Rawmarsh ( Warren Vale ) – after a short stand 5%.
Roundwood also revised their list of payments, and
Holmes, which afterwards closed – 5%.

At this date, in consequence of reducing the numbers of workmen in a stall, or making stalls longer, the Denaby Main men, after this concession of 5%, were left in a much better position than before the introduction of `rakes and pans´ in 1877.

The working of Denaby Main is very dissimilar to other places, at the whole of which ( with four exceptions ) the men have to take their tubs a distance of 50 to100 yards for nothing, while at Denaby Main the owners do all the tramming work right from the working places.

The Denaby Main company paid the same price in some cases, and more in others, for coal un-riddled as others pay for riddled coal. The Denaby Main co. have paid 1s. 3d. for slack, while others pay 6d. per ton.

The men here had the advantage of full time for over ten years. The coal is got on the crossway of the bate or grain of the coal, and is much easier got than at many places where it is got on the bord way, as the coal is so inter- sected with lines or vertical partings which cause it to fall without wedging in conchoidal blocks, consequently it is not difficult to break up, and is very handy for the loaders. It is a geological advantage contributed by nature, and is not enjoyed at any other pit in South Yorkshire.

Much has been said about settling the dispute on the basis of other colliery prices, but upon this point the men have, as in other instances, changed front, first saying they would take ten collieries, and then finding, I presume, they were making a mistake, they reduced it to half that number.

The following are comparative prices paid at other collieries :-

  1. – Coal-getting and loading ;

2.- Packing ;

  1. – Timber setting and taking out ;
  2. – Ripping gateway ends ;
  3. – Cutting the main wall when necessary ;
  4. – Main headings.
  5. Coal-getting and loading and tramming, first distance, which varies from 50 to 100 yards without any allowance.

Denaby Main, all tramming done by the company, price 1s. 3d. for un-riddled coal.

Houghton Main, coal got on the `cross-way´ of the grain with clay seam to contend with and riddles in use. All slack sent out to bank.

&In many instances the amount of slack is restricted to certain percentages, which, if exceeded, is, though got, not sent out of the pit, and not paid for. At Denaby Main all was sent out and paid for at 1s. 3d. per ton.

Now taking the eleven collieries, all of which use riddles, with the exception of one, we have an average of 1s. 2 ¾ d. per ton. Denaby Main price 1s. 3d. and no riddles or tramming. The district rate for the use of riddles in the thick coal seams is 2d. per ton, therefore the average for the collieries without riddles, as was the case at Denaby Main, would be about 1s. 1 ¾ d. per ton.

Taking the above into consideration the price at Denaby Main for un-riddled coal as before the stoppage ought to be 1s. 1 ¾ d. per ton, instead of 1s. 3d. per ton.

The price for the new system ought, in my opinion, to be 1s. 4d. for round coal and 8d. per ton for small, filled in with a shovel.

The average for packing in the district is about 2s. 6d. per yard for 6ft. packs. Denaby Main price 2s. 6d. per yard. Cutting ends in stalls average in the district 1s. 8d. per yard. Denaby Main price 3s. 4 ¾ d. per yard. Cutting softs in gateways average in the district 5d. per yard. Denaby Main price 11d. per yard.

I will now leave the facts above enumerated to the consideration of the Denaby Main men, many of whom I know are absolutely ignorant of the prices paid at other collieries, and trust to their commonsense, judgement, and honour whether they will continue to remain in idleness, depending on the public and those now working at the rates mentioned, until they are at last driven by force of circum -stances, after ruining themselves, the colliery owners, and trades-people, to accept work elsewhere at the wages they are obstinately refusing at Denaby Main ; or reassert themselves and try to bring the grievous dispute to an end, as they may be sure no proprietors would consent to close their works, which entails, whilst standing, enormous expenses, if they could afford to satisfy the demands of their workpeople.

I am, sir, yours truly,


May 26th 1885.

Reply To ” Junius.”

To the Editor,

Sir, – A largely-attended meeting of the executive of the Denaby Main lodge was held at the lodge-room yesterday afternoon, to take into consideration a letter which appeared in a local contemporary by ” Junius,” in which he tries to lay before your readers that he has a thorough knowledge of Denaby Main colliery, and of the prices paid at other collieries in the district.

In the first place, he refers to the 10% which the men have conceded to the company as being a fabrication, and grossly misleading. Now, in the latter part of the year 1878, an arbitration was held in South Yorkshire, in which Judge Ellison was the umpire, and in the early part of 1879 his decision was given that no reduction was justifiable. The Denaby Main men then conceded 5% to the owners, and in July of the same year they conceded another 5% to assist the Denaby Main colliery company in fighting the railway company, on the condition that it should be returned in a few months. The Denaby Main men have made several applications for the return of this 5%, but up to the present it has not been forthcoming. In fact, Mr. Pope at the last interview, said he had but little knowledge of it.

As ” Junius ” seems to have a thorough knowledge of the Denaby Main colliery, he must know that the `rakes and pans´ were not in operation in 1879, as it was December 1875 when introduced, and came out the early part of 1876, and what remuneration was given at the introduction was totally withdrawn when they were withdrawn.

In reference to the second 5% which ” Junius ” tries to enlighten the public about, Mr. Frith came from Barnsley and thoroughly opposed any reduction whatever in the presence of the manager and the men. We do not wish to occupy your space in this matter, as Mr. Frith can answer for himself.

As ” Junius ” refers to several places that were reduced about the same time as the Denaby Main men, it appears, by the averages of thirteen collieries that he quotes, that only 6% had been conceded by them, whereas 10% had been conceded by the Denaby Main men.

We have some knowledge of some collieries submitting to some slight reduction, but not so large as ” Junius ” tries to make it appear. In fact ” Junius ” must have been imported by the Cornishmen, as Wath Main was in sinking operations at the time he states.

As regards the dissimilar working of Denaby Main by trammers, some years since the Denaby Main colliery was worked on the same system as other pits in the district, and when the different system was introduced, arbitration was resorted to as other question were in dispute, and the arbitrators suggested the discontinuance of tramming which the company agreeably accepted.

” Junius ” appears to know a great deal about coal mining, when he says that it is easier got on the end than it is on the bord. We will leave all this to the practical men, and if it be a geological advantage, which he states, why not other collieries introduce the same system ?

We have offered to put the whole question to arbitration, and are still willing to take ten thick coal collieries and not five which he states, but reserve all our arguments for the arbitrator, and not ” Junius.”

He next refers to the prices being paid at Denaby Main as being 1s. 3d. per ton for both coal and slack, and where it ought to be 1s. 1 ¾ d., but if paid the district price for getting coal on end we should be in receipt of 1s. 3 ¾ d. per ton instead of 1s. 3d..

As ” Junius ” proposes the future price to be paid at Denaby Main, at 1s. 4d. and 8d., will he kindly inform us what percentage of small coal will be made.

He admits the price paid for packing is only equal to what is paid at other collieries in the district, but when he states that 11d. is paid per yard for cutting softs in gates, he forgets that the men have to rip 12 inches of clod and shift it, which is not the case at other collieries, which accounts for the extra price paid.

Hoping the public will not be led away by ” Junius ” or any other party who writes under any nom de plume, as we, as working men, have done everything possible to effect a settlement of this unhappy dispute.

I remain, yours,

Junius II.

The Leadership Of The Denaby Main Miners.

To the Editor,

Sir, – The news of the cessesion of Mr. William Chappell our lateleader, from the ranks of the South Yorkshire and North Derbyshire Miners´ Association , forces us to decline positively any further connexion with him, and now for the first time we can definitely say we are carrying on our great struggle with no recognised accepted head ; with no one to whom we can look for guidance and encouragement.

Mr. Pickard´s frequent visits to our district, however, may lead many to suppose that we have extended an invitation to him to consider the advisability of us being admitted into the Barnsley Union, but welcome as that course would be to me and the members of the committee, certain information leads us to the conclusion that it would be distasteful to the majority of the men, not because of any antipathy to Mr. Pickard, but principally on account of the distance of the suggested headquarters, and the feeling which prevails that this district is quite strong enough to support an association of it´s own. Indeed, this latter view finds great favour with the men, and as it is the duty of the committee to carry out the men´s wishes where practicable ( as and ably argued by Mr. Pickard last week ) I for one, should be disinclined to offer any serious obstacle to the fulfilment of their desire.

Having, for argument´s sake, established a new association ( a possibility not nearly so remote as some imagine ) it is clearly necessary to appoint a leader, and I hope when the scheme comes to be discussed at least some attention is to the claims of a gentleman whom I think it my duty to bring before the not ice of my fellow workmen. I refer to the Rev. T.J. Leslie, Congregational Minister, Mexborough, whose untiring devotion to our cause, amidst scorn and rebuffs from all quarters, command our respect and esteem ; indeed, his whole conduct throughout the crisis has shown him to be heart and soul on the side of the oppressed.

I am sure, if the Rev. Leslie will consider his proposal in the spirit in which it is made, he will have no cause to regret it, knowing full well, as I do, that the unanimous consent of the men to his appointment to a position which en- tails such a display of sound commonsense and Christian forbearance is assured.

I may add that from a close acquaintance with the Rev. Leslie, I am satisfied that his business qualifications eminently fit him for the post, and I shall be most surprised if an abler gentleman is to be found within an extensive radius.

Hoping this matter will receive the earnest attention of all parties concerned, and that the Rev. Leslie will see his way to entertain this invitation.

I remain, yours truly,

  1. Collier.

Mexborough, May 24th 1885.

The Rev. T.J. Leslie And The Leadership Of The Denaby Main Miners.

To the Editor,

Sir, – Having been favoured with a proof copy of the inside pages of your issue of today, in which there is a letter signed ” A Collier,” suggesting my name as the future secretary or leader of the miners´ union in this district, allow me to say that I look upon this suggestion as a gratuitous insult.

I am, and I hope to remain so whilst I live, a minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The work in which I have been so busily engaged since the first evictions took place at Denaby Main has been one of pure Christian love. It has had no reference to the miners´ union, as such, but simply providing and giving bread to the women and children, without any reference to either their union, their religious faith, or nationality. The work came to me, I did not seek it, and I do not regret having engaged in it. I have done nothing but what I would cheerfully do again, if I wee placed in similar circumstances.

Such men as Mr. J.B. Pope may object to my work ; others may inundate me with anonymous letters and postcards, but I heed them not. Whilst such as they frown, the people received bread and are thankful.

When the men are allowed to resume work my special labour will be at an end, for which I shall be truly thankful. The poverty and suffering of some of the poor families are extremely painful. It is very undesirable that the state of things which exists in Mexborough should be continued any longer, and I most sincerely hope that the owners of Denaby Main colliery will soon reconsider their position, and allow the men to resume work upon such terms as shall be mutually satisfactory.

I am yours truly.

Thomas James Leslie.

Mr. Burt, M.P., As Arbitrator.

The following letter has been received by Mr. B. Pickard, of the Yorkshire Miners´ Association, from Mr. Burt, M.P. :-

Miners´ National Union.
85 Lorraine Crescent,

Dear sir,

I beg to acknowledge yours of the 21st inst, in which, writing on behalf of the Denaby Main miners, you ask me to undertake the position of umpire, provided that the Denaby Main company are willing to refer the dis- pute now pending at the above colliery to arbitration. I am very busy, and at present far from well in health, and there are other reasons of a personal kind why I would much rather not act as arbitrator or umpire in a case of this kind.

Still, looking at the importance of terminating the conflict, I am disposed to waive my personal feelings and my convenience, and if the preliminary basis of the reference can be agreed upon by employers and workmen, and if both parties wish me to act, I shall be glad to do anything in my power to help to bring this matter in dispute to a satisfactory end.

I assume, as a matter of course, that the arbitration would be real, and both sides would accept the award.

Very truly yours
Thos. Burt

May 22nd 1885