Dispute – June 12th – Alleged Intimidation

June 1885

Mexborough & Swinton Times June 12, 1885

Alleged Intimidation At Denaby Main

On Tuesday, at the West Riding Court House, Rotherham, the twenty-one summonses issued at the instance of Mr. W.H. Chambers, the manager of the Denaby Main colliery, came up for hearing, after several adjournments.

Previous to the appointed time, which was one o´clock, the miners from Denaby Main held a demonstration in front of the Court House, they having walked from Mexborough for the purpose.

The magistrates on the Bench were Mr. W.G. Cambers, in the chair ; Mr. J. Kelwick and Mr. E. Robinson.

The men summoned, all described as miners, of Mexborough, were the following :-

Peter Hatton – Chairman of the miners´ lodge ;

William Cooper – Treasurer of the miners´ lodge ;

Thomas Wood ; Alfred Hatton ; Benjamin Hatton ; Patrick M´Hale, John Briggs ; William Wrigley ; William Robinson ; Thomas Hall ; Thomas Farnell ; Andrew Finlan ; Thomas Barker ; Michael Dugan ; Henry Hatton ; John M´Hale ; Alfred Stevenson ; Joseph Edwards ; Joseph Watkinson, and William Wathey.

Andrew Finlan was the only one of the defendants who did not appear. It was stated that he was in Monmouthshire. They were charged with intimidation.

Mr. F. Parker Rhodes appeared on behalf of the prosecution, and Mr. W.E. Clegg, defended.

Mr. Rhodes explained that the summons charged the defendants with intimi -dating a person named Thomas Leeming and others, with the object of compelling them to abstain from work, and the defendants followed them in a disorderly manner contrary to the form of statute.

The offence took place on the 12th of May last.

Evidence would duly be taken in the matter relating to the man Leeming. This would very much simplify the case and shorten the evidence. There appeared to be a growing notion that it was possible to intimidate men by following them in a disorderly way and uttering cries, the persons thus acting bringing themselves within the meaning of the Act.

It was very desirable that that it should be distinctly understood throughout the district that when a strike, or anything of that kind was going on, persons had a right to go to work if they chose, without any molestation, and without being followed about, also without the place in which they worked or their houses being beset and watched, and without being intimi-dated in any shape or way from doing that which they had a right to do. Not only was it for the benefit of the prosecution in this case that that should be distinctly understood, but it was for the working men as a whole. If it was once admitted that men might be intimidated a state of tyranny would be introduced in the district far worse than that which had existed. He need not enter into the merits or demerits of the dispute, because that did not affect the question. The facts were as follow :-

On the 12th of May, Thomas Leeming was going to work at he colliery, and he had a perfect right to go and get coal if he chose, and to work for any wage he chose. But he was not a coal-getter.

On that morning a crowd assembled near the colliery premises. The tin whistles and the big drum were there and there was a big disturbance. The crowd met the men who were going to work just as they were coming out of the cottages. ” Black-sheep ” was called, fists were upheld, and sticks were shown by the bulk of the crowd.

After two men had been escorted to the colliery gates, there was a rush and the gates were partially forced open, one of the men was pinned in a corner and could not get away. There was a cry of ” Throw `em in´t cut,” and other like expressions. If he could prove, or even if he only proved a small part of it, the Bench could not possibly come to a conclusion other than that the object of these persons in following them in the way he had described, and making use of these words, was to intimidate the men from working, and doing that which they had a right to do, at the Denaby Main colliery. His task would be simply confined to prove the case which he had opened, and when he had proved it, and the Bench had come to the conclusion that it was fully and fairly proved against any or all of the men, he was bound to say on behalf of the prosecution, it was no slight matter. Unless a thing of this kind was put a stop to it was perfectly hopeless to expect that there could be any freedom of labour in the district ; and on the other hand, the whole of the orderly working class must place themselves under the heal, if those who chose to be disorderly, and must be prevented from earning their livelihood. He took it that this was a serious offence with which those men were charged, and he asked the magistrates to deal with the case in such a way as would as would put a stop to it, and take care that they would not be troubled with, events of that kind again.

Thomas Leeming, a hanger-on at the Denaby Main colliery, said he was employed at the pit before the strike, and continued to work after it commenced. All the defendants worked at the colliery before the strike, but ceased when their notices expired. On Tuesday morning, the 12th of May, he left his house to go to work. Jesse Brook, a deputy, was walking with him. They were escorted by the police. Near the Reresby Arms there was a large crowd of men and women, who followed them. Wathey first shouted, ” Here comes the ——- black-sheep.” Alfred Hatton put his fist in his face and said, ” Come out, you ——– black-sheep, and go back.” He ( witness ) was pushed about by the crowd, which then followed him to the pit gates. Here he was `baa-d´ at and called names. The railway gates were partly forced open.

Peter Hatton, Stevenson and Wathey pushed some of the men into the wicket gates in order to prevent Brook from going through. Most of the crowd carried sticks. Peter Hatton also had a stick. Some person called, ” Hold on,” but he could not say that it was Peter Hatton. The effect of this disturbance was to make him afraid, and he
was glad when he got in to the pit yard.

Jesse Brook, a deputy at Denaby Main, said he was with the previous witness on the day named. A large crowd followed them and uttered cries. When at the railway gates he was `pinned´ in a corner and had to be relieved by some police. He spoke to some of the defendants being active participants in the disturbance.

Police constable Kendal, cross-examined by Mr. Clegg, said when he first saw Henry Hatton he was talking to someone near the Reresby Arms. He `saw´ the defendant shouting. Witness saw Cooper ; he was opposite his ( witness´s ) door in the front of the procession. Robinson was opposite the Reresby Arms when witness saw him about ten minutes to six, when he was taking the men to work. Witness heard him shouting. Thomas Farnell, when witness first saw him was near the colliery gates, he was following with the band. He heard Hatton shout,

” Come on lads,” and saw him wave his hand. He had been to open-air meetings, but he had not heard that he had advised the men to keep quiet.

By Mr. Rhodes : There was no meeting on the morning when Mr. Hatton was walking about with a stick.

Police constable Midgley stated on the 12th ult. he was stationed at Denaby Main. He was on duty on the morning of that day escorting Leeming and Brooks to work, and saw a crowd near the Reresby Arms. The crowd followed Leeming and Brooks down to the colliery gates. The were shouting, ” Baa! Black-sheep ” hooting and yelling. He saw in the crowd several of the defendants, among whom were Hall, Cooper, the two Hatton´s, Stevenson, Dugan, Watkinson, and Wathey. He saw Alfred Hatton, when the deputy was near the highway, come from the footpath adjoining the road and use bad language towards Leeming, calling him a “——- fathead,” and a ” ——– blackleg,” clenching his fist and threatening him along the road from the Reresby Arms. M´Hale and Benjamin Hatton were with Alfred Hatton, but they did not say anything to Leeming.

Witness spoke to him and told him to keep away, but they would not do so. All the defendants took part in the shouting for a considerable time. When they got to the railway gates a crowd of women and children had collected there. As they went through the wicket gate Alfred Hatton prevented them from going in. He seized Hatton and spoke to him. Witness heard Peter Hatton give a signal to the crowd to follow the deputy. The persons who appeared to be leading the were Stevenson, Peter Hatton, and Edwards. The crowd were making a lot of noise and acting in a disorderly manner.

Cross-examined by Mr. Clegg : He was perfectly acquainted with all of the defendants. When he first saw Cooper and Peter Hatton they were standing near the Reresby Arms. Witness was escorting the men to work. When they got to the railway crossing there was a stoppage. When he heard the cries he looked round. The man whom he understood was William Watkinson was present. He knew Mrs. Walters, and saw her at her house that evening.

Police-sergeant Drake said he saw Leeming and Brooks being escorted to their work. They were followed by a large crowd of persons, who were hooting and yelling. There was a `regular rush´ to the gates, but witness did not get there. Witness was on the highway, and the colliery offices were away from the colliery yard across the railway.

He saw one of the Hatton´s put his fist into Leeming´s face several times and call him to go back, and he saw several others accompanying him down. He took the names of the defendants at that time from P.c´s Kendal and Midgley. He saw Peter Hatton, A. Stevenson, Jos. Watkinson, M. Dugan, A. Finlan, and the other three Hatton´s ( Alfred, Benjamin, and Henry ). There was a stone heap near the railway gates where the deputy Brooks and Leeming had to go through. When Leeming and Brooks went to the gates there was a rush for the stone heap. Witness stood on the heap and kept the crowd off. The defendants did not make their way to the heap. One of the defendants ( Watkinson ) said that they would come every morning if Leeming did not give over, and that if they would not stay away from work they would get the women to come.

By Mr. Clegg : The crowd became so disorderly that the tin whistle band was broken up in disorder. Peter Hatton was in front of the band some of the time ; he called the men together and

told them to start off. The band was near the colliery about four o´clock. They marched up and down the roadway, and then stopped in front of the deputies´ houses. They also stopped in front of the Reresby Arms. He did not hear a man named Birks tell him that if anything happened it would be through the fault of the police. He told the crowd that they only appeared to be trying to kick up a bother.

Inspector Birkenshaw said that he was at Denaby Main on the 12th May, and sent constables to escort Leeming and Brook to their work. He saw a crowd follow these two persons to the colliery. The disorder and noise were very great. Cries were raised of ” Black-sheep,” ” Go back,” and there was some booing and baaing. He identified several of the defendants as being present. Alfred Hatton took a most prominent part in the disturbance ; he elbowed his way through the crowd and made some nasty remarks to the deputy and the other man, he was in a most excited condition. The men who were trying to go to work were pushed about. He made towards them, and noticed that Peter Hatton appeared to have great control over the crowd, and was leading the band. The railway gates were forced open, and Hatton gave an order which was immediately obeyed. Hatton held up his hand, in which was a stick, and said, ” Stop ! no farther.” The crowd obeyed him, and stopped as one man.

By Mr. Clegg : He had not heard Hatton praised by Captain Russell for having kept the men so well under his control. He did not do anything to excite the men, and did not do anything to intimidate the two men trying to go to work. Hatton was at the head of the band, which was marching backwards and forwards.

By Mr. Rhodes : Since the summonses were taken out with one exception the men had been quiet.

Police constable Mearns said he was stationed at Denaby Main on the morning of the 12th May. He saw Leeming and Brook followed by a crowd, which was shooting, hooting, and making a great noise. He heard Wm. Cooper threaten them that if they did not stop going to work they would get their —— heads punched off. There was a great deal of pushing near the railway crossing, and he was jammed against the gates.

By Mr. Clegg : He had been on duty at Denaby Main for three or four months.

Police constable Leitch stated that he saw the crowd which followed Leeming and Brook down to the colliery gates. He identified several of the defendants as being among the crowd.

Police constable Skelton said he was present when the crowd followed Brook and Leeming.

Charles Smith, signalman at the Denaby Main crossing, stated that he saw the crowd on the 12th ult. The gates were partly forced open by the crowd, and he then opened them altogether. He heard shouts of ” Black-sheep.” He saw Brook pushed in the corner of the wicket gate.

Mr. F. Parker Rhodes said he would not trouble the Bench with any more general evidence.

Mr. Clegg, for the defence, said he did not wish to say anything whatever which might in the slightest degree tend to cause further irritation in that most unfortunate dispute, which was still going on between the Denaby Main miners and their late masters.

In a good many observations which his friend had made, with reference to the rights of the men and the safeguards round about them, in the way in which they should go on with their work, all the defendants perfectly agreed with him that no intimidation, that no unfair advantage should be used towards those who thought differently. He had never been one, in his professional capacity appearing in most cases for the men, to hold that persons had been justified in using violence. He would not do so in that case but when all the circumstances of that particular case had come before the Bench, it would be seen that there was a good deal to be said in palliation of the conduct of those men on that particular morning, because of the surrounding circumstances.

The men believed that they had been very wrongly used by the company ; they believed that they were willing to make concessions to the company, which the company ought to have agreed to. The company thought differently, and the result was that that unfortunate and prolonged strike was going on. It required very great self-restraint on the part of the men, when they saw others going to work and depriving them of what they thought were their just rights.. In cases where men went beyond calling out to others ” Black-sheep ” and such expressions as ” Baa !” by using personal violence, of course whatever rights there might be in the matter, personal violence would not, under any circumstances be allowed. He was glad to have gathered from the case that had been presented to the Bench that although the defendants strongly believed they were fighting a fair and upright battle and had a right to take the attitude they did, there seemed to be an utter absence of any attempt at personal violence to the two men. It was perfectly true that, as far as the evidence relating to one was concerned, he did put his fist in a man´s face, and went no further than that. There was no evidence to prove that if he had intended to inflict personal violence on that man he could not have done it. The defendant stopped short there, and there was in that case an absence of personal violence to the complainants which he was very glad to find, and the only things the defendants did, according to the case for the prosecution, was to follow the complainants as they said in that disorderly manner, and call after them ” Black-sheep ” and ” Baa !” In the minds of the defendants those people were ” black-sheep .”

When they used strong expressions of swearing their worships might bear in mind that this was unfortunately their ordinary conversation, and the mere prefix of an improper word before another word was nothing. In the men´s minds they considered they had done very little wrong, although when the words come to be delivered in open Court as a prefix to something else, they seemed very much stronger than when the man had used it to the men who heard it.

For the purpose of gathering money the men organised a band. They had nothing to do. They had been in the habit of getting up early in the morning to go to their employment, and it had been mentioned that the band on other mornings besides the 12th May had paraded up and down, and had interfered with no one. It had also been mentioned that on that particular morning, and others besides, those men had congregated opposite the Reresby Arms, and had seen the complainants go to their work, but up to the 12th of may there had been no complaint.

What took place on that particular morning ?

The men had been there since four o´clock, long before Leeming came out of his house, and long before it was necessary for him to go to work. They were on the public highway, and they had the opinion that so long as they occupied the highway, and kept marching up and down the street they had as much right to be there as the men who were going to work.

His friend had tried to couple, to throw on the shoulders of the defendants, expressions which had been used by people in the crowd. When the Bench had in their minds the fact that in the crowd there were women and boys, it would be somewhat unfair on their part to assume that all the cries came from the de – fendants. Probably the cries came mostly from the women and lads, who looked on that sort of thing more in the light of a joke than as a serious offence. Unless the Bench were satisfied that the defendants gave utterance to those cries, he would, with very great confidence ask them to consider, although the defendants were in the crowd, walking along the highway, if they were not satisfied they did anything beyond that, whether they would be justified in finding them guilty under that summons.

He asked the Bench to look at the case as though each man were on his own trial by himself, to sift the evidence and see what particular evidence there was against each particular man. If that were the case he was quite sure that the magistrates would think that what the crowd said or did would not be evidence against each defendant, unless it could be proved that he himself did something in a disorderly manner, followed the complainants in a disorderly manner, with the express purpose and intention of trying to prevent them from going to their work.

That was what the evidence would be if each of the defendants were charged separately, he would have been able to resist successfully any extraneous evidence as to what the crowd did, or what happened to each particular person against whom the charges were made, unless the evidence tended to show that he did something to the complainant himself, and unless that could be shown definitely and distinctly, the defendant would be entitled to an acquittal.

The same principal would also apply where the men were charged together. It was only for convenience sake that they were charged together, and for the purpose of saving time. A good deal of the evidence which had been adduced by the prosecution was altogether irrelevant, unless it could be brought home to each particular man. Some of the evidence pointed strongly to one man, and with that exception, there was only, he believed, Wm. Cooper against whom any distinct evidence had been given with reference to a direct threat.

The men Leeming and Brook never said a word about this and only the police officers who had said anything in the slightest degree on the part of Cooper was Mearns.

Mr. Clegg stopped speaking, as the magistrates were engaged in consultation.

The Chairman then, addressing Mr. Clegg, said he knew of course that that was a very heavy penal statute. Of course the Bench had no power to bind them over and he had unfortunately got some little odium from the men for binding a case over without proper authority. He did not however, blame himself in the least for that. He thought it would be the best thing in this case, instead of fining the defendants, picking out the worst of them or making any selection at all, if Mr. Clegg, on their behalf, would agree to their being bound over. It appeared that the men had been quiet since the summonses had been taken out with the ex- ception of one or two occasions immediately afterwards. He thought if the object of the summonses was to keep the men quiet the course he suggested would meet it.

Mr. Clegg, on behalf of the defendants, said he was very much obliged to the Bench.

If they took his advice they would fall in with their suggestion at once. Since the latter end of May the men had been perfectly quiet, and that kind of thing would not occur again. He informed the Bench that the defendants all had agreed to the course suggested.

The Chairman said the defendants had not committed any actual violence. At the same time a threat was liable to the same punishment as if any violence had been used. The defendants were liable to a penalty of £20 each. It was a most serious penalty and if the Bench were to inflict it or pick out any particular man such as Mr. Peter Hatton, who appeared to be able to stop a crowd whenever he held up his hand with a stick in it, it would be a serious matter for them.

Mr. Hatton, he thought, should exert his influence in a different direction and try to persuade the men to try some method whereby they could go to their work instead of clamming. If he would only do that and persuade the men to put up with a little inconvenience at first he thought it would be to their ad- vantage. If they found that they could not make wages at it they could give notice to leave. They had no right to those places.

A master had just as much right to say that his work should be done in a particular way as he had to say he would have his mutton chop cooked in a particular way. If the cook said she would not cook his mutton chops more than two minutes her employer had a perfect right to discharge her, and that cook had no right to say that no one else but her should fill the place. They were bound to work for a master in his way and if he said he wished the men to work in a different way then they must work as their master said he wished, or leave his employment. They had left their employment at the colliery, but that was no reason why they should be continuing that really senseless struggle.

The masters must either stop their pit altogether, which would be of no advantage to the men, or they must have it worked in their own way and get someone else who would do it for them if their men refused. He was going beyond his province, but he was merely giving them a piece of advice. He did not know anything about what wages they could earn under different circumstances, whether hand-picking or shovelling was resorted to, but he knew it meant an immense difference as to whether the coals were shovelled in indiscriminately, or whether they were separated properly. He knew the difference in the value of hard coal and soft coal, especially when it got broken into small, and the difference between slack and hard coal. He wished them to understand that they had no business to say ” this is my place and no one else shall go into that place.”

They really had not the slightest claim on any place or house connected with the colliery. Any owner of a house could turn a tenant out by giving him proper notice, and the miners of Denaby Main had no right, as was the case in Ireland, to say that no one else should try to earn a living at it. If they determined not to work in the particular way which was required by the masters they should give it up, go away and get work else – where. They should let other people have a chance of trying to work themselves.

He was glad that they had consented to be bound over. They would be bound over to keep the peace for three months in their own recognizance of £10.

Mr. Rhodes said, under those circumstances he assumed the defendants would pay the costs.

The Chairman pointed out that such would be the case.

Mr. Rhodes remarked that if any further intimidation took place, either by the following of workmen by means of women or boys, or men, they would bring every case before the Bench, great or small, press it to their utmost ability, and leave the responsibility with the Bench, and he was perfectly certain that under those circumstances they would assume that responsibility and act upon it.

He hoped those summonses would have the desired effect, as such conduct as had been mentioned that day could not be tolerated in a free country. Peter Hatton should be the first person to object to it, for he himself came into the country under similar circumstances.

He hoped the Denaby Main men would give other the liberty they claimed for themselves.

Mr. Clegg : My friend is very unfair. He is making a very unprovoked attack upon Peter Hatton.

Mr. Rhodes repeated his assertion that everyone should give to others the liberty he claimed for himself.

Mr. Clegg stated that Mr. Rhodes´ statement with reference to Peter Hatton was entirely erroneous. It only showed how very vindictive some people were about Peter Hatton.

Mr. Rhodes : I am not vindictive at all.

The Chairman remarked that everyone is bound to keep the peace, and if he or Mr. Robinson were to break the peace he fancied they would have to suffer for it.

The proceedings then terminated.