Dispute – June 26th – Return of the Staffordshire Men

June 1885

Return of the Staffordshire Men

Early yesterday morning an hour before sunrise, a number of Denaby Main miners were abroad, busily knocking on the doors of the residences of their more sleepy neighbours. The members of the tin-whistle band were the first to be awakened from their slumbers, and, once astir, they were not long before they obtained a fair sprinkling of followers. The Staffordshire men, to the total of thirty, who had been located in the lodge-room during the preceding night, were also aroused, and after a procession had been formed the party proceeded to the Denaby Main colliery, being joined along the route by many who lived in the direction of the village.

The gates of the railway crossing were opened on their approach, and the men marched through in an orderly manner, the band playing lively airs. The procession passed through the village in the direction of Conisbrough, and then marched back again without causing any obstruction.

A policeman, who watched the proceedings at the crossing took out his notebook and wrote the names of some of the leaders of the procession, but no disorder took place.

The Denaby Main men subsequently adjourned to the field opposite the colliery premises for the purpose of holding a consultation, when it was determined to make a move in the direction of the lodge-room at Mexborough. As they retreated they were followed by several Staffordshire men, who throughout the early morning joined the main body by twos and threes, until it was stated that of the hundred who had arrived the preceding night, only three remained on the colliery premises.

At ten o´clock a meeting was held in the lodge-room, at which a large number of Denaby Main men put in an appearance. Mr. P. Hatton occupied the chair, he addressed a few congratulatory words to the meeting on their having succeeded in winning another battle so easily.

An official of the lodge asked the Staffordshire men who were present to make the fact thoroughly known when they returned home that the Denaby Main dis- pute still continued.

It should be thoroughly understood that since the last interview with the colliery manager the district had conceded 10%, and the Denaby Main men had offered the same terms, but had received no reply from their communication.

They had been turned from their houses into the streets and were residing in tents, schoolrooms, and club rooms. The Denaby Main miners had offered to submit the matters in dispute to arbitration, with Mr. Burt M.P., as the umpire. Although the managing director of the colliery company has promised to ask Mr. Burt to make an examination of the colliery and of the wages books, so that he might be able to obtain information as to the mode of working and the wages obtained, he made the proviso that if Mr. Burt´s decision was against the company they would not bind themselves to accept it.

The Denaby Main men on the other hand had promised to accept Mr. Burt´s decision as binding, whether it was against their interest or not. He thought that was not a very honourable course for the company to take. Mr. Benjamin Pickard had written to Mr. Burt, and that gentleman had promised to arbitrate on condition that his decision was binding. The men of Denaby Main were determined to submit to no greater a reduction than had been enforced in the district, but if there were any other matters in dispute they would have it arbitrated upon, and abide by the result.

He asked the Staffordshire men to inform the Denaby Main miners how it was that they had come into the district. It was not very nice for strangers to be amongst a body of men who had been fighting for their rights for nearly six months, but the Denaby Main men would hear how the new arrivals were decoyed to Denaby Main.

One of the Staffordshire men handed an agreement to the Chairman, which was as follows :-

” The Denaby Main Company guarantees work for each collier ; five shillings per day ; regular work. Agreement signed before leaving. Company will pay cost of men´s furniture and families coming ; to be repaid to the Company by weekly instalments. Houses at 3s. 6d. per week, clear of rates, taxes etc. Each man can have a load of coal per month at 2s. 6d. delivered to his house.”

A Denaby Main miner pointed out that they had offered to give the new system a trial for a month, the manager to pick men to work at the stalls and the men theirs ; so as to judge of what the result would be. They asked the manager how it would be if the new mode of working proved a failure at the end of the month and he answered,” I should say you hadn´t tried.”

One of the new arrivals said he went down the pit that morning. He did not know whether it was the best side of the colliery or the worst, but it was on the left side of the pit-bottom.

A Miner said it must have been the Montagu.

The Staffordshire miner (resuming) said before the new workmen would start they determined to go down and see for themselves, and accordingly six or seven of them descended the shaft. In the first place they went into on the left-hand side there was a fall, and there they found gas, but there was no gas in the next. They went down the road to a place which was `bricked in´ – he supposed that was where the fire was, and wishing to satisfy themselves they went around it. They did not go in any other workings. The manager proffered them 5s. per day, but they informed him that they would not go into the pit without seeing the Denaby Main men, and ascertaining whether they would be doing right or not. The manager said if the Denaby Main men would consent to go to work with the new arrivals at 5s. per day they could do so. Two young lads who came with them had gone to work, and they were the only two who were working. The manager promised if they went to work just before nine until two o´clock they should have a full day´s wage. He considered that was only as encourage -ment for them to keep working. If a telegram went to Staffordshire it might be the means of stopping many more from coming to Denaby Main who had been misled.

One of the Denaby Main men had called him a “red liar” that morning when he said he had not heard anything of the dispute, but he assured the meeting that he was as innocent as a child. He had left work at 4s. 6d. per day to go to work at Denaby Main, but he would be very sorry to work there and do another injury ; rather than do so he would tramp fifty miles. He would be no party to taking bread out of others´ mouths. ( Cheers )

A Denaby Main miner said the manager should have taken the Staffordshire men into the `east plane´, they would not have stayed there many minutes.

Another Staffordshire miner said it was some time before they could get the manager to promise that any of the Denaby Main men should work at the pit again. After it was discovered that the new workmen would not go down the pit unless the Denaby Main men accompanied them, they obtained the promise that they could resume work at the same rate as the strangers. He acquainted the Denaby Main men with the manager´s statement, and was informed they would not accept his terms. The Staffordshire men then said they would not start work.

( A Voice : You have done right )

They would not work at a place where men were standing out for their rights ; they were the wrong sort of men for that.

The Chairman proposed the following resolution, which was seconded by a Miner, and carried unanimously :-

” That we submit to the same reduction as the district has done, but that every matter in dispute be put to arbitration, Mr. Burt M.P., to be the umpire.”

Some strictures were passed on the conduct of Mr. Edwards, a miners´ agent in Staffordshire, who, it was said, had informed some Denaby Main men that the Staffordshire men had a perfect right to work at Denaby Main, and who had not treated them well.

A Miner said Mr. Edwards was uncle to Mr. W.W. Chappell, and another said that ” Chappell would have paid for a `sup´ of ale.”

The Chairman stated that the Denaby Main men would go to work in a body, and if the manager had promised to allow them to go to work with the men from Staffordshire, they would not have done so, unless the Denaby Main men were allowed to go to work in their own places. They were joined together in the bonds of unity, and would not run to work and leave one another. They had stood six months, and would stand out six more unless they obtained their rights. They were not going to allow Denaby Main to be made into a Staffordshire pit. They did not believe in the `butty´ system in Yorkshire. They were not going to have a man over them who would act as a `doggy´ and take £3 of every £6 earned in a stall. What the men earned they ought to receive. ( Cheers )

One of the Staffordshire men stated that he informed the manager that they were not going to work, but were going to have the benefit of the `bit of meat they had eaten,´ and this sally was greeted with uproarious laughter.

The Denaby Main men denied that they had received so much money as the manager had stated. And one of them remarked that some very low wages were received in many places in the colliery.

The conduct of the police stationed at Denaby Main was then discussed.

One miner stated that he had been struck in the back with a stick by one of the police, and another stated that another thrust his fist into a miner´s face on the previous day, and said ” he could eat six of them with a grain of salt.” The first statement was confirmed by other colliers. Another miner said he was walking along a street when a policeman seized him by the coat and pulled him as if to tear his sleeve out, asking him at the same time for his address and his name. A miner thought that was because the police had not had a job lately.

The Chairman said he was walking through the crossing-gates that morning when a constable said to him : ” Come. Peter, I may as well set thy name down first.” He did not charge him with having done anything wrong.

The meeting then terminated.