June 26th 1885.
The Denaby Main Dispute
Arrival Of New Workmen
The annual feast at Mexborough is generally a great centre of attraction, and Wednesday in `feast week´ is looked on by the inhabitants of Mexborough and Swinton, and the outlying villages as a day which should be made the most of by way of enjoyment. Wednesday night however, was a woeful exception to the rule. Vendors of sweetmeats, the proprietors of swing-boats, roundabouts, and the coconut shies stood disconsolately gazing at the busy throng that streamed in the direction of Denaby Main.
The glories of the shows which this year had been located in front of the Montagu Arms Hotel were unheeded, and although the big drummer did his best to create a diversion in his favour by administering blows of double the severity to his instrument of torture, the crowd persisted in travelling in the direction of the mining village.
Early on Wednesday morning a rumour gained currency to the effect that the windows in one row of the houses at Denaby Main had been repaired, and that some persons had been seen to place straw beds in the upper rooms.
These circumstances aroused the suspicions of the late Denaby Main workmen, and their feelings of distrust were heightened when it became known that a large force of police had been observed marching in the direction of Denaby Main from the Mexborough station.
Scouts were posted in all directions, and a number of miners wended their way to Denaby Main. The watchers who remained near the Mexborough ( M.S. & L.) station noticed, about 5.50 p.m., a train laden with passengers pass at a high rate of speed. The carriages belonged to the North Staffordshire Railway Company, and were four in number. They contained slightly over one hundred passengers. The train was drawn into the sidings of the Denaby Main colliery, and the passengers walked from the colliery yard into the houses which had been prepared for their reception. Some of the new arrivals had brought quite a lot of luggage with them, and one or two were accompanied by their wives and children.
The officials of the colliery were present when the train arrived, and directed the men, who hailed from various towns in North Staffordshire, to their sleeping places.
By the time the train arrived at Denaby Main a large crowd had collected, but no attempt at violence was made. As soon as they were comfortably housed, large joints of beef, loaves of bread, and buckets filled with ale were brought to the travellers, and they partook of a hearty meal. The evicted miners paraded the highway, and were keenly watched by the police, who mustered in strong force, and advised them to ` move on´ immediately the crowd began to collect.
About 7 o´clock one of the Staffordshire men opened a lower window of one of the houses, which had been frosted over to prevent outsiders from prying into the rooms, and bolted out. Some of the Denaby Main men beckoned him to them and he jumped out of the window.
Having been acquainted with the circumstances of the dispute, he informed the Denaby Main men that he and his companions would depart for Staffordshire on Thursday. Shortly afterwards a number of the new arrivals came from the houses by twos and threes, and were directed to the lodge-house. Those who did not seem inclined to leave the village were presented with a printed statement of affairs, and several, after reading the account of the struggle, expressed their determination to leave at once, and shortly afterwards emerged from the houses with the bundles which contained their little stock of clothing.
One of the men, on being interrogated, stated that two men had conducted the meeting in Staffordshire for the purpose of obtaining miners to work at Denaby Main. They said they wanted the miners to arbitrate, but the latter would not have Mr. Burt. They also said they promised to give 5s. per day, and to work Denaby Main with Staffordshire men. They stated they could not get lads at the colliery, and that they wished to get as many as possible.
One of the new arrivals stated that one of the two men threatened to set the pit down rather than have his late workmen at the pit again. One half of the men they said, had gone away, and the remainder wished to resume work.
Several amusing stories were told concerning the new workmen. One of them wished to go to the North of England, and decided to accompany the party as far as Denaby Main, when he left, his fare having been paid by the company.
Another new arrival, who left the village for the lodge-room said, he had been informed by one of the company´s officials that the dispute, was not concerning wages paid, but that it related to the mode of separating coal, and that the men at Denaby Main would not work in the same manner as the miners in the other parts of the district. The colliery company, he said, had stated that they had lost the sale of 1,000 tons of coal per week by reason of bad sorting. As much as 40,000 tons had been brought up to the bank, and when they came to fulfil a large Russian order they found that it was practically unsaleable, and they lost the order in consequence.
The Staffordshire men were informed by another official that unless the company could get the coal sorted properly the pit would be closed, it would be far better to set it down than to draw the coal out improperly sorted. The company he said, had offered the miners 5s. 6d. per day, but they would not go to work at that price. They then gave the workmen another chance, and offered to allow Mr. Burt M.P., to arbitrate on the matter in dispute, but the men would not consent.
A new arrival stated that two hundred men were to arrive on Thursday from Talk-o´- the´- Hill.
It is stated that sixty-one men and about forty lads had journeyed to Denaby Main by Wednesday´s train from Stoke. Those who were questioned on the matter stated that they would leave the village in the morning, as they would not work anywhere to be guarded by the police.
One of the men was observed to be reading an agreement which had been presented to him for signature by the colliery officials. The document read as follows :-
” I hereby agree to work for the Denaby Main Colliery Company ( Ltd.) as a collier at the rate of 5s. per day for the period of twelve months, subject to any advance or reduction in wages which may take place in the South Yorkshire district. Regular work to be found by the company ; strikes, explosions, stoppages from reasonable cause excepted. In case of misconduct or neglect of duty on my part, the said company have the right to dismiss me at fourteen days´ notice. I agree to observe the rules and regulations of the said company, and to sign the same before commencing work ; the said company to pay for the conveyance of myself to the colliery, and I agree to refund the same to the said company by weekly deduction of two shillings from my wages.”
A meeting was arranged to be held at the rear of the cottages, but the Denaby Main men were not allowed to mix with the new arrivals, and the project was abandoned.
As the miners recently employed at Denaby Main marched to and fro they were informed that they need not be afraid of North Staffordshire men ` knob-sticking ` and this statement was confirmed later in the evening, when nearly sixty men left the village. The remainder stated that they would leave early the next morning.
The Denaby Main men are jubilant at what they consider to be a very great victory.