Dispute – May 8th – Sad Scene – More Evictions – The Encampment

May 1885

The Denaby Main Dispute
A Sad Scene

A sad scene was witnessed at the Mason´s Arms lodge room, where six of the evicted families are located, on Saturday afternoon. The poor woman who was stated to have been in a hopeless condition died about five o´clock, in the presence of the six women tenanting the room, and a number of children. The husband was away collecting money for the support of his family.

It is stated that another woman, living in Woodruffe´s Buildings is in a very critical condition owing to lack of nourishment.

More Evictions

The fourth and last batch of eviction orders against the lock-outs at Denaby Main who occupied the company´s houses were put into force on Tuesday morning.

Although the morning broke cold, there was fortunately no rain, and at an early hour those who expected being turned out were up and busy packing their goods, so as to be ready when the police arrived. For some time very few persons were to be seen about the now almost deserted village, but later a large number of those who had already had their household goods turned out into the street put in an appearance to assist or sympathise with those who were about to share a like state that day.

Of course a great deal was said against the ma sters, and the women in particular did not hesitate to speak freely what they thought, but, taken as a body, they were quiet and evidently determined that no act on their part would lead to strife.

Although on previous occasions it had been thought necessary to have a large body of police upon the spot during the time the evictions were taking place, there had been no sign of the lock-outs interfering or desiring to obstruct the officers in their duty, and consequently only twenty turned up on Tuesday, under the charge of Major Hammond, the whole of them being from the Rotherham district. They arrived at Mexborough shortly after eight o´clock, and proceeded to the colliery yard and immediately after nine o´clock they began the business of eviction.

There was not a large crowd, as Major Hammond left the yard with his men, and after marching some distance up the Doncaster Road, the little band broke up into two sections, one section turning into a bye lane, while the other proceeded to the houses at the top of the hill. There were twenty eight eviction warrants in the hands of the police to execute, and in a large majority of cases the beds had been packed up and furniture stored ready for removal. A few had thought it a better policy to remove without assistance from Rotherham, but at four of the houses there were inmates who were too ill to be shifted, and, of course, in those cases the warrants were not enforced.

Major Hammond, who appears by now to have become somewhat of a favourite in the place, and who was greeted with a smile or a nod from most of the residents he met, having visited the houses under notice and seen that the orders were all right, the work of eviction commenced in earnest, and in a very short space of time there were piles of furniture and bedding stacked up on the side of the roads. It is only fair to the police to say that their anything but pleasant duty was performed with considerable care, and there was not a single instance where a complaint could be made of the way in which they handled things.

They naturally came in for a considerable amount of chaff, but it was all taken in good humour, and the day´s proceedings passed off without a collision between the policemen and the colliers.

Later in the day waggons and conveyances of various kinds were secured, and upon these the household goods were stacked and taken to places of shelter. The evicted tenants found any amount of sympathy, but what they appreciated better still was the fact there was no lack of assistance. There was no need of horses for, as the waggons were filled ropes were attached, and they were dragged off by dozens of willing hands.

Some of the unfortunate families found shelter in cottages at Mexborough, while a large number of them proceeded at once to the camping ground adjoining the Union Inn, Mexborough, where had been erected seven small tents, capable of accommodating one family each, and three double tents, and in these they slept on Tuesday night.

A vigilant watch is kept in all directions for the appearance of strangers, and on Tuesday morning a rumour got about that two or three `black-sheep´ were working. A number of lock-outs therefore assembled near the entrance to the pit about two o´clock, but they were at length convinced that the rumour was ground less, and that their watchers were not at fault.

In the afternoon the wife of the Rev. T.J. Leslie distributed bread to nearly four hundred families ; sugar, tea, and soap to three hundred families ; and potatoes and carrots to twenty families.

The only additional contribution the Rev. T. Horsfall had received on Tuesday morning was five shillings from Sheffield for the children.

In the afternoon the remains of Mary Thompson, who, with her husband and family, was evicted from one of the company´s houses about a fortnight ago, and who died in the lodge-room at the Mason´s Arms on Saturday last, were interred in the Mexborough cemetery in the presence of several hundred people, principally the men who are on strike and their wives. A large number of persons joined the procession from the lodge-room, but the utmost order prevailed, and it was not necessary for the police to put in an appearance.

The Rev. T. Horsfall was the officiating clergyman, and at the service in the church there was a crowded congregation. After the conclusion of the ordinary service at the grave side, the preacher said he trusted that those present would pardon him for taking up their time, but as he looked upon the vast assembly he could not resist the feeling which rose in his breast to address a few words to them, in the hope that a day of comfort would come to those who had lost a friend. The question might have been asked what was the meaning of that long procession wending it´s way to that quiet but beautiful cemetery, and the answer that would perhaps be given would be that one who was homeless, one who was suffering like most of those present, had died, and was being carried to her last resting place. He believed that they had assembled to show their sympathy and pay their last tribute of respect to that dear sister.

That was a case of keen suffering, and he remembered the now widowed husband fetching him to her bedside. There, in a room that contained twenty nine people, lying upon what turned out to be her deathbed, was the woman whose remains had just been committed to the earth.

He trusted that the masters and men would quickly become reconciled, so that the children might not be starved. He trusted that the fathers would again be soon able by their own labour to maintain their children, and not, of necessity be the recipients of charity which kind friends have placed in others hands to distribute. They knew their children came to them for bread for breakfast, but many of them had to say they had not got it to give them. He described the pitiful case of a girl who came to him for bread that day, and said he could tell of many similar cases ; but why should he tell them of the suffering they all knew so well ?

He urged them all to try their best to make a settlement, let them try their best to give and take a little, for the masters were suffering as well as they, and it would be well for that unfortunate dispute to be at an end.

He assured them of his sympathy with the helpless women and children who could not help themselves, but had to be turned from their homes, and had now to live in tents and rooms which were overcrowded. That day, he said, they had seen more people turned out, and there was likely to be more suffering.

Whatever he could do towards bringing about a reconciliation he should be only too happy to do. He believed that the men wanted to go work, and he believed the wives and children would be glad to see them back at work, and be able to return to their homes.

The address was listened to with much attention and had a great effect upon the hearers, and at it´s conclusion the crowd dispersed quietly.

The Encampment.

The encampment in the field adjoining the Union Inn, Mexborough, is a great source of attraction to visitors. There are nearly a dozen tents, three of which are large enough to accommodate three families. Those who slept in these strange dwelling places on Tuesday night complained much of the cold which they state they felt keenly during the early morning hours.

Women and children crouched around the almost empty grates, shivering with cold, they had no money wherewith to purchase fuel. The interior of the tents is very cheerless, for a floor there is nothing but the soddened earth, strewed with patches of sawdust. In one of the new habitations a woman sat with her infant of seven weeks on a hastily improvised bed. There was no fire and the wind had affected an entrance through the canvas, which loosely flapped to and fro.

Many families have been deprived of their young men, the latter preferring in numerous instances to enlist rather than remain at Mexborough in a half-starved condition until the dispute has been settled.

Some of the beds which have been placed in the tents are almost entirely denuded of covering, the owners having been constrained by the force of poverty to sell or pawn nearly every particle of bedclothing.

One of the tents had been set apart for bachelors, and in this tent furniture is conspicuous by its absence.

At night, when the tents are lighted up, they are picturesque looking enough from the outside.

Some of the deputies on going to and from work on Wednesday, were loudly hooted. They were escorted by police.

Many rumours have been current of late as to a possible settlement of the dispute, which has so long cast such a deep gloom over the Mexborough area, but at last there does appear a probability of the end of the struggle drawing near. Nothing definite has been yet disclosed as to what is intended to be done, it being deemed injudicious, for the present to do so. But certain steps have been taken in connection with the dispute by the Rev. T.J. Leslie, which will have a very significant bearing on the crisis, and it is confidently anticipated that the deplorable distress will shortly be ended.

On Wednesday morning the officials of the Denaby Main lodge held a long conference with the Rev. T.J. Leslie, at his residence, on the work he had in hand, but the proceedings were of a strictly private nature. Subsequently a crowd of colliers assembled in the Salvation Army Barracks, and were addressed by the rev. gentleman, who, however, was particular not to do more than inspire hope that the trouble would soon cease, the `silver lining´ being now very perceptible. This brief intimation was sufficient to arouse the greatest enthusiasm, and some tremendous applause followed.

The Rev. T.J. Leslie acknowledges the following donations :-

Mr. W.H. Leatham, M.P. ( second donation ) – £3 10s. the hon. gentleman observing in his letter, ” I agree with you that the poor wives and the children must not be allowed to perish from hunger.”

Frank Reynard, Peckham, Surrey – £1.
Rev. H.J. Boyd, secretary of the British Temperance League – 5s.
” a friend ” at Bilston, per Mr. G. Makin – 3s.
” Heeley ” – 10s.
Proceeds from concert at Pinxton, per Mr. W. Ramsden – £1 14s.
Riddings Colliery, per Mr. Peach – 14s.
Coats Park and Tunnel Collieries, near Alfreton – £2 17s 6d.
Derbyshire Miners´ Union, per Mr. H. Jarvis – £5.
Messrs. A.M. Crow and Sons, Chesterfield – 2s 6d.
J.K. Swallow, Chesterfield – 2s.
S. Simms, New Whittington – 2s. 6d.
” a friend “, Doncaster – £2.
” a friend ” per the Rev. C.C. Tyte – 10s.
Mr. Richard Rowe, Gleadless – 10s.
” E.J.” Sheffield – 10s.
Dr. Hardwicke, Sheffield – 10s.
” J.O.B.” Sheffield – 9s. 9d.
Boythorpe Colliery, per John Wright – 17s. 6d.
Mr. J.C. Swallow, Sheffield – 5s.
” Ed M.” Leeds – 10s.
Miss Brooke, London – 10s.
S. Woodhouse, Heeley – 17 gallons new milk.

On Wednesday the rev. gentleman distributed bread, tea, sugar, and soap, to the amount of £20 to 421 families, containing 2,082 persons.

The Rev. T. Horsfall acknowledges :-
Derbyshire Miners – £5.
A number of Leeds workmen – 16s. 2d.
Miss Sebright Simpson, Dorsetshire – £1 5s.