Dispute – July 17th – Gathering of Denaby Main and Staffordshire Miners

July 1885

Gathering of The Denaby Main and  North Staffordshire Miners.
The Men Addressed By The Rev. T.J. Leslie.

On Monday morning the first event of any interest connected with the new turn which affairs have taken took place on the colliery premises at an early hour.

The North Staffordshire men assembled in the pit yard to consider what steps they should adopt pursuant to the resolution arrived at on the preceding night to the effect that they returned to their homes. Most of the men´s wages were due that day, but there were some who were not entitled to payment until the following Wednesday. The men seemed exasperated at a proposed alteration in their wages, and everyone expressed their determination to leave the locality. It was remarked by some that if the company did not pay them what money was due and let them go, they would pull the offices to pieces. Only six workmen descended the shaft at the usual hour, the others strolling about the colliery yard.

Signs were not wanting that the vicinity of the colliery had been the scene of some rough work. The big colliery gates near the railway crossing were be- spattered with blood, and a pool of blood had collected in the centre of the road. The man injured on Sunday is progressing favourably towards recovery, though he has an ugly hole in his head fully an inch deep. Police-sergeant Chisholm, who figured in the melee when the Staffordshire men were attacked, received a blow from a stick which smashed one side of his helmet, and although his assailant got away in the excitement it is stated that he is known to the police. The same officer was struck several times with stones. The police emphatically deny that cutlasses were drawn in the struggle ; they were worn, but in no single case were they drawn.

About nine o´clock on Monday morning the Denaby Main men assembled at the lodge-room in Doncaster Road and, preceded by the tin-whistle band, marched in a body to a field adjoining the colliery. The band struck up several lively airs with the object of enticing the North Staffordshire men away from the premises, and soon their end was achieved as, one by one, the `black-sheep´ leaped over the walls and joined their South Yorkshire brethren. Each successive new arrival was greeted with cheers, and those who but few hours earlier had been engaged in deadly strife were now mingling with one another on the best of terms, and a voice was heard, ” I´ll bet Chambers is biting his nails.”

A number of police assembled on the bridge watching the movement of the crowd below, and from that standpoint the scene was certainly interesting. A good half of the crowd, which at one time numbered fully one thousand people, was composed of women, and their joy at the unexpected turn of events passed all bounds.

The Denaby Main men were without a leader. Mr. Peter Hatton was away in North Staffordshire, Mr. Cooper was under arrest, and Mr. J. Dixon was attending the police-court proceedings at Rotherham connected with the dispute.

It was fully ten o´clock before the Rev. T.J. Leslie, Congregational Minister, of Mexborough, accompanied by Mr. J. Dyson, a lecture connected with the United Methodist denomination at Sheffield, put in an appearance, and his arrival was the signal for an outburst of cheering, and the waving of hats and handkerchiefs. The Rev. gentleman was quickly surrounded by a group of men informing him of the latest particulars, and he then proceeded to the river bank, and from a slight rise in the ground addressed the multitude.

He said he would commence the proceedings in a new fashion. They would sing a hymn. The following melody from ” Sankey´s Hymns ” was then sung by the crowd :-

” Hold the fort, for I am coming,”
Jesus signals still ;
Wave the answer back to Heaven,”
By Thy grace we will.”

The hymn seemed specially applicable to the peculiar circumstances which had brought the men together, and many viewed it in that light. The Rev. T.J. Leslie then gave the following prayer :-

” Oh mighty and ever gracious God and Father, who art the Maker of heaven and earth, we desire to thank Thee this morning for the beautiful weather and health thou givest us. We cry up to Thee like our fathers cried beforetime. Give us we pray Thee, that deliverance we ask thee. We pray Thee to help us, and by Thy good providence that this biter strife come to an end ; that the families might have raiment to wear and bread to eat. In the name of Jesus and for the sake of man.”

The Rev. Leslie then addressed the men. He was very pleased to meet the men that morning. He had considerable pleasure in coming down to them and having a few words with them. It had appeared in one of their newspapers last week that the men had been beaten. He said at the time the men were not beaten -( loud cheers ) – but such paragraphs were calculated to weaken their hands and discourage their hearts, especially at a time like the present. He happened to say in a letter that he wrote last Thursday that the men were not beaten – ( cheers ) – but if the North Staffordshire men left in a few days the masters would be beaten. He was glad that the men who had been lately brought were going away again. ( Loud cheers )

They were not going away before time, or before circumstances of an unpleasant nature had arisen. He was exceedingly sorry to hear on Saturday night of the case of shooting, and he rejoiced that no Denaby Main man had taken any part in the shooting. He had felt all along that their strength lay in moral greatness, not in physical force. They were too week to fight the company, and the police, and the military, for they would have the law against them. Their strengthlay in nobility of character, and he hoped that victory was not very far removed. (Cheers )

He understood that the men wished to resume work upon the same terms as the Staffordshire men had worked – ( applause ) – but that they had expected to be found a place, and that they would commence the a place was got ready. That should go forth to the country, and to the country at large. ( Applause )

Mr. Buckingham Pope had said that he was prepared to give the terms named by the Rev. Leslie – namely 5s. 6d. a day for coal-getters. Let their response to the world that they were prepared to accept Mr. Buckingham Pope´s terms.( Applause )

Then if this bitter strife continued the continuation would not be their fault but the fault of the masters. They wished it to be understood that they were willing to resume work upon fair terms. ( Cheers )

He thought the thing was now brought into a very small compass. Let the company cease to bring these men, as he had been told, on false pretences from Staffordshire. ( Applause )

And let the managers of Denaby Main colliery show half the kindness to their old workmen as they had shown to strangers, and he was sure they would do their best for the company.( Cheers )

He was convinced that the men had no personal feeling against the owners and managers of Denaby Main colliery – ( cheers ) – that their objection was not to the men, but the terms which they wished to inflict. ( A Voice : ” That´s it,” and applause )

He took it that that was what they meant. ( “Yes” ” yes”)

There was the best of feeling in their breasts towards all concerned at the colliery. His desire was that the same feeling would enter the officials´ breasts towards the men.

There was just one other matter and it was this, that a great change should come over their hearts in this matter – that they should receive the grace of God. He could remove these difficulties out of the way, and that would compel the masters to accept the terms. ( Applause )

The Rev. Leslie went on to say that he once saw a miner walking through the streets with his hat cocked to one side as if all Mexborough belonged to him. (Laughter )

He ( the speaker ) said to a friend,” You see what a deportment that man has, and he is in the greatest straits, the greatest suffering.” He wanted all before him to be brave, to be noble, true to themselves, true to their wives and children, and if they were true to themselves victory was on their side. ( Cheers )

He had brought with him his curate – ( laughter and applause ) – and they would have noticed that curates do just what their vicars told them to do, whether it was pleasant or otherwise. ( Laughter)

He did not, however, tell his friend that, whether it was pleasant or otherwise.

He was going to speak to them as he was accustomed to speak. ( Cheers )

Mr. Dyson, the `curate´ then addressed the meeting. He considered the Rev. Leslie´s speech to have been direct, judicial, wise, and splendid. He was glad to be his `curate´, and that the Rev. Leslie was his vicar, and he only wished his stipend was as satisfactory. He exhorted them to be orderly, to be brave, to trust in God, and God would defend the right. ( Applause )

The Rev. T.J. Leslie then gave out the following hymn :-

Dare to be Daniel,
Dare to stand alone,
Dare to have a purpose firm,
And dare to make it known.

Shortly afterwards Rev. Leslie said he had noticed that there was a reporter present, and he wished him to take a full note of all he was about to say.

Charges had been made against the officials. There was not one law for the Denaby Main officials and another for them. He thought it was only right that these statements should be made known to them, and, through the Press to the world. ( Cheers )

The rev. gentleman went on to say that in response to an appeal made by himself, the congregation of the Hull Wycliffe church had made a collection of £13 for the Denaby Main miners. ( Applause )

A lecture was also to be given shortly at the same place of worship on the Denaby Main dispute, and he had been asked to take the chair on that occasion. He did not know, however, what any day might bring forth in the way of claim -ing his attention, and he could make no definite promise.

The North Staffordshire men, numbering sixty-five, who had just previously left the colliery with their bundles preparatory to leaving the neighbourhood, then wended their way back into the pit yard, with Whitehurst their leader, with the view of obtaining from the manager the balance of wages due to them. Fears were expressed, however, that their demand would not be acceded to, but that their money would be withheld until Wednesday, that being the day on which payment had been promised. Eight or ten men who had been paid off were seen to leave in the direction of Mexborough, each departure being signalised by cheers, and it was stated that many others had gone towards Conisbrough.

The Rev. Leslie, followed by the band and crowd, then proceeded to the further -most end of the field adjoining the canal, the ostensible reason being to get out of earshot of the police and colliery officials who had assembled on the Don bridge.

There the men were addressed again by the rev. gentleman, the crowd receiving his remarks with great enthusiasm. By this time the Staffordshire men had got back from their interview the manager, and another meeting was called.

The Rev. T.J. Leslie said he had great pleasure in introducing Mr. Whitehurst, who had been brought from North Staffordshire. He had read some of the incidents which had taken place in connection with the dispute, and he had been moved by things he had read, and things he had heard and see. ( Applause )

He had resolved to go back to his own county to speak to other men there. (Cheers )

Everyone admired his conduct, and they all wished him God-speed in his endeavours. He ( Rev. Leslie ) was talking to a tradesman who said if it was true that one hundred and three men had come, surely that would be an end of the strike, but he replied that surely there were some men among them who were good and true, who, when they came to know the right position of affairs would not stay. ( Applause )

Mr. Whitehurst said he was glad to speak to a number of people, and he was sorry. He was sorry that he was one of the number who had been led astray by crossing into their county. ( Cheers )

As he told them last night they were given to understand that there was only a handful of men out – ( laughter ) – and that they were men that the Denaby Main masters nor the masters in South Yorkshire would employ. ( Laughter )

They were also given to understand that they were to have 5s. per day for twelve months, whether the prices rose or fell. He had worked ten days, and during that time, he, with many others, had felt that there was something else in front of them. ( Applause )

As soon as they commenced work that morning they were told that they would be paid by the `dock´ system, at the rate of 1s. 4d., and 6d. per ton. That meant that if the leaders of a `drift´ could drive the men they could get the `over-plush´ of money. He put it to the men, and they called a meeting. The men would be paid that price, and the `cogging´ at the top would be included. Every man with common-sense said he would go back to the Potteries, and they would do their best to stop other from coming up. ( Cheers )

Most of them had got homes and children of their own, and his heart bled when he went up the street last night and saw what he did. A question should be put to them, a simple question. Here were the Denaby Main men, who had been struggling for six months, and they had come and taken their work from them. Should they have liked it if the Denaby Main men had gone into North Staffordshire ? No! Then what was wrong in the one case was wrong in the other. ( Hear, hear, and applause )

The speaker referred to other matters, and said the company paid £1 6s. 6d. for two lots of furniture belonging to two North Staffordshire men, and they would not let the goods go unless that sum was paid.

Promises were given that the sum would be found, and Mr. Whitehouse then said that four boys had been left in his charge, and it would be too much to expect them to walk back to Staffordshire. A collection was made to defray their railway expenses.

After playing several tunes the band led the concourse of people back into Mexborough.