Dispute – July 10th – Commencement of Disturbances

July 1885

Commencement Of Disturbances.

On Saturday the forty-three Staffordshire men who had been engaged by the Denaby Main Colliery company commenced work in company with those of the Denaby Main miners who cared to resume their customary employment on the masters´ terms.

A quantity of coal was brought to the bank and it is stated that the agents of the company´ have been empowered to obtain orders for coal for the first time for a period of five months.

In the afternoon a miner who had been working at the colliery was observed opposite the Montagu Arms Hotel, Mexborough. He was quickly surrounded by a number of evicted miners, and interrogated as to his desertion of the common cause. He informed the men that he had been to work and would continue to do so ; also that the miners of Denaby Main could `lace´ him if they cared to do so. His bold front had the desired effect, and he proceeded home without further molestation.

In the evening a miner residing at Sparrow Barracks, Mexborough, who had consented to work on the employers´ terms, was waylaid and ill-treated.

On Sunday morning a large number of Denaby Main miners were observed on the banks if the river Don opposite the colliery yard, and an attempt was made to open negotiations with the newcomers. No satisfactory result was arrived at, and the men departed.

Later in the day a group of five Denaby Main miners, with a Manvers Main employee, commenced to chaff the Staffordshire men, who, in the number of thirty, were seated on the opposite bank of the river. Threats were freely exchanged across the river, and at length two of the new workmen divested themselves of their clothes and plunged into the Don. The Denaby Main miners, not wishing to break the law, at once decamped, leaving the Manvers Main miner alone. On the Staffordshire men reaching terra firma the solitary miner squared up to the two strangers, and for some minutes the two men fought fiercely. The Staffordshire man, who is said to be a noted bruiser, at length obtained the mastery. Not content with this victory, the other swimmer, who had up to this time been an interested spectator of the combat, pushed the combatants into the Don. The Manvers Main man scrambled to the bank covered with mud, and the Staffordshire men made their way back across the river.

Several fights are said to have taken place between new arrivals during Sunday.

A large number of the visitors express their determination to stay at the pit in spite of the threats of the Denabyites.

On Sunday afternoon a large number of the miners made their way to the bank of the river, and an interesting discussion ensued between them and a few of the new hands, who were seated on a cinder heap at the opposite side. Both parties made use of very sanguinary adjectives, and the following is a correct statement of what transpired, leaving the oaths out of the discussion :-

The Denaby Main men commenced the attack by inquiring why the men from Staffordshire had left their native county for Denaby Main. One of the new arrivals remarked that when they were engaged they did not know where they were going to, and that they would be fools if they attempted to go back without money. He also referred to the nice `ale´ which was to be obtained at Denaby Main.

A Denabyite asked the last speaker how it was the Staffordshire men had not visited Mexborough. A powerful looking stranger jeeringly referred to the incident which had occurred when the Manvers Main man was soused in the river, and tauntingly stated that there was ” not a ——- man amongst the Denaby Main miners.” It was remarked by a Denaby Main man that there seemed to be a nice sample on the opposite bank, and this drew forth the retort that a number of the Denaby Main men had been `black-legging´ at Monk Bretton, and that the best of them had gone to a colliery where they could not earn ” a dollar a day.”

Great excitement prevailed on the Mexborough side of the riverfor some time, and one man remarked that if his companions were all of his mind they would fetch the Staffordshire men out of the colliery yard that night. Good humour was restored by a remark from one of the strangers to the effect that they partook of `tommy´ eight times a day, and had been presented with a pair of clogs for `nowt´. An offensive remark concerning a small parasite insect was made by a Denaby Main miner, which provoked the answer that it had taken sometime to kill the bugs left in the evicted miners´ houses. The miner who made the latter remark was characterised as `a black-legging monkey.´

Complaint was made by a new arrival that on a former occasion the men from Staffordshire had been `bully-ragged´ by the Denaby Main miners, but this was indignantly denied. One of the new workmen said they had only come to Denaby Main to pass their time away. He seemed very much surprised to learn that the miner who had been thrown into the Don on Sunday afternoon was an employee at Manvers Main, and nothing to do with the Denaby Main colliery.

The spokesman of the evicted miners then commenced the negotiations in earnest. He informed his hearers that for six months he and his companions had done no work, and they had no money or they would pay the fare of the strangers to Staffordshire. His remarks were met with jeers on the part of the new work -men.

Two or thee women who had hitherto remained silent, then poured a torrent of abuse on the heads of the devoted ” Staffies ” threatening them with their vengeance if they ever caught them outside the colliery gates.

The interview then terminated, but subsequently the Staffordshire men intimated that sixteen of their number would depart on Monday.

They also collected a quantity of tobacco for the use of the miners on the opposite bank which was obtained by a lad who dived into the Don and secured the coveted ` weed.´

Late on Sunday night all was quiet in the village, the only persons visible being the police who were leisurely patrolling the almost deserted streets.