Dispute – May 8th – Great Distress amongst Families

May 1885

Great Distress amongst Families

A crowd of between three hundred and four hundred persons attended the Rev. T. Horsfall´s residence yesterday evening for the purpose of obtaining a share of the loaves of bread announced to be distributed.

Before commencing with the work of distribution the Rev. T. Horsfall said he should like to say a few words. In the first place he was sorry to say that his funds were quite ex- hausted, and that the bread that would be given out that afternoon would be the last which unfortunately he would be able to distribute that week. He did not know for what reason the funds had not come – the fact was that he had not received any money of late. He knew that there was much distress among them and there were persons present who were suffering extreme poverty and want. He would like some of those who were very badly off to come forward and state their case, so that the public might know the real state of affairs, when they would not be misguided or misled, and would have the true statement placed before them. They would then perhaps receive some help in the way of carrying on the work of relieving the helpless women and children until the heads of the families were enable to start work. He had tried to distribute what the public in their generosity had given him. Some had said if he had never distributed money sent by the public the men would have been at work long ago. If he thought they would go to work tomorrow provided that he gave up the work of distribution he would be pleased to retire from that work that afternoon.

He had nothing whatever to do with the dispute between the masters and the men. He did not understand it. He had to work hard like themselves, but he had never been a collier, and he had never been a coalowner, so that he did not understand the technical terms used in their employment, and was unable to give any information either one way or the other. He knew as much of business as to let it alone when he did not know what he was talking about.

He simply attended to the work of distributing the bread and other necessaries in order that the wants of the people might be supplied.

Yesterday, at a very large meeting, Mr. Piggford was deputised by the committee of the Denaby Main lodge to convey to him a vote of thanks. He was grateful to them for the compliment. He could only say that he had tried to do a little – through the generosity of kind Christian friends – to relieve distress, and he had done it for the reason that he was in charge of that part of the parish called Denaby Main, and he knew so many of the miners and their children. When he saw them homeless, without food and with but a limited amount of clothing – for he had seen little children some there almost shoeless – what could he do as a Christian man and a clergyman but endeavour to defend the poor and father -less and deliver the outcast ? He could not do less, and if he had done less he would have considered that he was not doing his duty in relieving the bodily as well as the spiritual wants of the people committed to his charge. ( Hear, hear )

He thanked them heartily for the vote of thanks accorded him, and he could assure them that if the public forwarded him money he would be only too happy to distribute amongst them and their children. He hoped and prayed that there would be an understanding speedily between them and their employers, so that the heads of the families could again support their little children and their wives and they might get back again to their own homes and out of the large rooms where they are huddled together. It could not be unhealthy and unfit for them to live under such conditions. He asked those whose cases were the worst to come forward and state their circumstances. The Rev. gentleman concluded amid loud cheers.

As the bread was being distributed several persons were questioned, and the following accounts were given :-

I was evicted yesterday, and I had no bread until I got this today. There are some worse than me. – A poor forlorn looking woman complained with a sigh, that her family were ” very short of food.” – Another said : ” My circumstances are very `middling´ I have seven children, you know, and cut up a loaf at one meal.” – The next stated ” I can´t say that we´re `clamming´ but we have nothing to boast about. I find it very hard sometimes to get anything to eat ; we should be `clamming´ if we did not get it here.” – A Mexborough applicant said : ” I have a family of ten, and there is none earning `owt´ we should be `clamming´ if we did not get this. In answer to a query as to whether he obtained much beef, the applicant, with a longing look, wished he could get some.

Many of those who were waiting expressed an opinion that they would `clam´ if they did not get something from the public.

One of the worst cases was a weak sickly-looking woman from Conisbrough, who had waited throughout the day for a loaf of bread, and who stated that her children had had nothing that day, and would be looking anxiously for her return.

Another applicant from the same place said she had journeyed from Conisbrough many a time for something to eat, but had had to return disappointed. She did not know what they would have done had it not been for the exertions of the Revs. T. Horsfall and T.J. Leslie.

The worst case of all was that of a growing girl of about fourteen years of age, who burst into tears on being questioned. She said on many occasions she lay on the hearthrug crying for something to eat. Yesterday morning she had for breakfast some stale crusts, which were so hard and dry that she had to soak them in water before she could eat them. In lieu of coffee the family had water sweetened with sugar. A day or two ago they had 6d. worth of butter, which had lasted for some time, but that now had gone.

Many tales of distress were told, which showed that poverty among the evicted families is great. – The supply of bread was not large enough to suffice for the wants of the gathering, and many persons had to go home without receiving any relief.