Dispute – July 17th – Battle of Denaby Main – Desperate Fight – Revolver Shots

July 1885

Mexborough & Swinton Times, July 17th 1885.

The Denaby Main Dispute.
Riotous Proceedings.
Revolver Shots Fired.
Two Miners Wounded.
Desperate Fight At The Pit.
Mob Charged By The Police.
Numerous Arrests.

Saturday was a day of excitement for the evicted Denaby Main miners and the Staffordshire men. It was anticipated by the former that the new arrivals, after receiving their wages, would be disposed to leaving the locality. The hopes of the Denabyites were, however, not fulfilled, as hour after hour passed and no overtures were made to them by the strangers. In the evening a large number of Staffordshire workmen strolled into Mexborough, and three of them, who had detached themselves from the main body, were set upon by a number of evicted miners and forced to beat a hasty retreat.

About half-past nine o´clock a rumour spread to the effect that a Manvers Main worker had been shot in the thigh by one of the workmen at Denaby Main. On inquiry the following facts were obtained :-

At the time mentioned a stranger was observed by some of the women who reside in the tents pitched in the croft adjoining the Union Inn, Mexborough, lurking about the entrance to the field. About fifty or sixty women and children and a few miners were attracted to the spot.

The man asked the way to Conisbrough and was asked what he wanted to travel in that direction for. Upon reaching the corner of Harlington Road, he turned, and drawing a revolver from his pocket, fired among the crowd. The bullet whizzed by several persons and struck a stone wall. Not content with this, the man turned and fired a second time. A miner named Joseph Hutchinson, employed at Manvers Main colliery, and residing in Cross Street, Hallgate, Mexborough, was turning to bid `goodnight´ to a friend with whom he had been parting glass at the Union Inn, when the bullet from the revolver struck him on one of his thighs and embedded itself in the muscle, fortunately escaping any contact with any of the larger arteries. Hutchison fell at once, but later attempted to follow the man who had fired the shot. He was compelled to desist, however, the wound being exceedingly painful.

Some of the bystanders carried him into the Union Inn, and Dr. Sykes, who was sent for, attended immediately, and ordered him to be removed to his home. The wound, although of a severe character, is not dangerous. There is much sympathy felt for Hutchinson, who is a very respectable man, well known in the Mexborough cricketing circles.

As soon as the stranger had fired his second shot he made his way towards Harlington, followed by one or two people. He turned on his pursuers and fired a third shot from his revolver. The bullet struck a Denaby Main miner named Mark Kaye, who resides at Roman Terrace, Swinton, on one of his arms, just grazing the flesh..

Inspector Smith, of Mexborough, who arrived on the scene, obtained a clue from Hutchinson as to the appearance of the man who had fired the shots, and made every attempt to effect his capture. He sent Police-sergeant Jarvis and two constables down Harlington Road, and they discovered that a man had been seen running in the direction of the Pastures. Inspector Smith proceeded to the colliery with two policemen, and on their arrival discovered that Police-sergeant Drake had met a miner going into the colliery yard under somewhat suspicious circumstances.

On being searched, a revolver, with it´s six chambers loaded, was found in his possession. He gave the name of Joseph Boulton, of Derby, and stated that he had been working at Monk Bretton colliery. When taken into custody, he said he had fired in self defence, and that he would have been killed if he had not used his revolver. A strong force of police escorted the prisoner to the police station at Mexborough. Along the route they were followed by a large number of miners, who hooted and jeered alternately. Some difficulty was experienced near the police station, as the crowd seemed inclined to resort to violence, and a large stone was thrown through a window of the police-station with great force, tearing it´s way through one of the blinds and striking the wall violently. The mob shortly afterwards dispersed.

Early on Sunday morning it was rumoured that Hutchinson had died from his wound, but on inquiry this was found not to be the case. Dr. Sykes was not able to extract the bullet on Sunday.

Later on, about quarter past eleven, one of the newly-employed workmen at Denaby Main was returning from Mexborough railway station to Denaby Main, when he was met by six or seven Denabyites and seriously maltreated. The man was in an intoxicated condition, and was afterwards taken into custody by the police. When taken into custody he was covered in blood, and said if he had not been `middling strong´, or if his assailants had him down, he would have been killed.

It is stated that during last week some of the new workmen had taken revolvers from their pockets and threatened to use them if attacked.

Between ten and eleven o´clock on Sunday morning about two hundred Denabyites were proceeding from Denaby Main towards Conisbrough when they were accosted by one or two Staffordshire men. One of the latter, it is said, deliberately struck twice at a unionist, and that the latter it is stated, did not return the blow. Two or three policemen were present. The Denabyites proceeded on their journey to Conisbrough, and there met seventy-five of the men from Staffordshire, a quarrel ensued, and from words the parties came to blows. The majority of the strangers pushed off towards Denaby Main, but a few stragglers were caught and severely injured. Sticks were freely used, and two Staffordshire men were knocked down and seriously injured about the head. One man had his nose broken in the fight. They were carried into a cottage and their injuries attended to. The Denaby Main miners then withdrew to Hill Top, Conisbrough, in a body. Owing to the threats which were freely made by the Staffordshire men, numbers of persons were afraid to travel by road from Conisbrough to Mexborough, and had to make the journey by train.

About a hundred Denabyites on Sunday afternoon were returning from Conisbrough through Denaby Main to Mexborough, and when passing the pit gates were saluted with a shower of stones, half bricks, heavy iron hinges, and even iron axles. Previous to this it was stated that stones were thrown at the houses tenanted by the Staffordshire men. Several Denaby Main men were hit by the missiles, and retaliated by throwing what stones could be obtained from the road.

A Staffordshire man made his way to the middle of the road, placed his hat on the ground, and threatened to fight any Denaby Main man present. A rush was made in his direction, and one of the new workmen was soon knocked down, and so fearfully kicked that he is not expected to recover. His name at that time could not be ascertained. For some time the battle raged with great violence. The Staffordshire men collected on the pit hill, and having the advantage of a good position were able to aim with better effect, and many Denaby Main men were injured. One of the late workmen was struck on the arm with a life preserver. Soon afterwards attention was directed to a constable who was striving to prevent a number of Denaby Main workmen from climbing the wall of the colliery premises in order to get at close quarters with their opponents. The police man used his staff, but was unable to keep off his assailants, and he was beaten unmercifully and his helmet was knocked in. Stones and heavy iron missiles continued to be hurled over the colliery wall by the strangers and were quickly hurled back again.

The police, at length losing patience, charged the crowd. Several Denabyites were arrested, among them William Cooper, treasurer of the Denaby Main lodge, `Tinty´ Potts, Alf Stevenson, alias `Sugar´, E. Peters, and S. Hadleigh. One of the miners, who was attempting to rescue Cooper from the police, received a blow which nearly severed one of his fingers ; another miner had his ear cut completely through. Intense excitement prevailed and it was with some little difficulty that the police were able to get rid of their opponents.

A collection was afterwards made by the Denaby Main women of the various missiles which had been thrown. Among them was a heavy iron bar which struck a miner on the chest, and it is stated broke some of his ribs.

About thirty miners were concerned in the affray, the remainder having with -drawn beyond reach of the stones showered upon them by the strangers. The six persons captured by the police were taken into the colliery offices, and later in the afternoon were marched under strong escort to Conisbrough.

Immediately the news became known in Mexborough a strong reinforcement of miners arrived on the scene, vowing vengeance against the strangers and then threatening a rescue. The men are very indignant concerning the capture of Mr. Cooper, who, they state, has always advocated a peaceful attitude, and who was, at the moment of his arrest endeavouring to persuade both the Staffordshire men and the Denabyites to keep the peace.

After the affray the Denaby Main men withdrew to the Mexborough side of the river, from whence the Staffordshire men could be observed waving sticks and shouting defiance to them.

An eyewitness of the battle states :-

” I was one of the first in the ranks of the procession. Just as we got near the railway one of the Staffordshire men came out and slapped his hat in the middle of the road. Others followed with sticks, and some stones, and as soon as we came near them `let fly. The police came out of the place with cutlasses. When they came out Mr. Cooper was holding a man back, and saying, ” Now chaps, be quiet,” and the police took him. Several Denaby Main men were struck with sticks loaded with lead, and the `blacklegs´ threw bricks over the wall. They afterwards threw stones, iron, and anything they could get hold of. Several of our men were hit on the head with bricks and cinders, and one of them got one in the ribs with an iron bar, and lay down in a field.”

A communication has been received from Mr. Hatton, the late Chairman of the miners´ lodge, stating that Mr. Edwards discountenances the proceedings with respect to wages at Denaby Main, and denying the statement made by some of the Staffordshire men to the effect that he invited them to work at the colliery. A visit from Mr. Edwards is expected.

Attempts have been made by various persons, among them being the Rev. T. J. Leslie, to obtain a settlement of the dispute, but the only answer obtainable from the officials of the colliery company is that the men must return to work on the company´s terms, and be taken on as the company thinks proper.

The present condition of affairs is deplorable, and everyone concerned would be glad if it were put an end to.