October 11th 1878.
State of Affairs at Manvers And Denaby Collieries.
Mass Meeting of the Men at Mexborough.
Lock Out at Denaby Main
On Wednesday morning last a meeting of the miners of Denaby Main and Manvers Main was announced to take place in the open space opposite the Montagu Arms at 11-00 o´clock.
At the time specified for commencing the meeting hundreds of the men assembled together. Mr. Jarvis ( Denaby Main ) who was called upon to preside, commenced the meeting by giving out the well know Hymn – ” Praise ye the Lord ” etc. which was heartily sung by the men.
The weather however being too cold for an outdoor meeting, Mr. Rowe ( the Jockey ) kindly offered them the loan of the Theatre, in which to hold their meeting. No sooner was this announced than the men made all speed to the place, which was soon crowded in every available part.
Mr. Jarvis ( chairman ) said it was a custom when they opened their meetings to adopt the arrangement of `hats off´ and `pipes out´ and he earnestly hoped that no one would try to light his pipe there today, particularly as the place in which they were now assembled was sacred, being devoted to the worship of God, and he hoped they would look upon it as such.
The meeting having been opened by the singing of a Hymn and prayer by Mr. T. Bailey, the chairman said that this meeting had been called for the express purpose of explaining their views as miners before the public. He for one, felt that a meeting of this sort was very needful. He had great pleasure in calling upon his friend Mr. Goldspink, first to address the meeting.
Mr. Goldspink said it afforded him great pleasure to see so many present and none of them looking poorly and decrepit. It was one thing to be asked to speak, another to think you can speak, and still another thing to do it. They had met together in a spirit of friendship and for the purpose of becoming acquainted with each others ideas and thoughts, not degrade themselves, but to raise themselves up. It was their duty to think well of themselves. Some folk would call that bigotry, but he did not. It was their duty to be knit as closely together as possible, not to harm each other but to benefit each other, and if one of their fellow workmen happened to be down, to help to lift him up.
The great secret of the Manvers Main and Denaby Main men meeting together today was for want of a better understanding between masters and men. If the masters were as honourable to the men as they were to the masters and wishful foe the men´s welfare, they would not have had to meet together this morning, but they were here and were `out´. The masters capital was at stake, and it was in the pit and they could not get it out. (A voice – “Let it stop there.”)
If the masters put their capital in the pits to make large dividends and profits, the men had a right to work but they had also a right to be paid for their work such a price as would enable them to keep want from their doors etc.
With regard to Manvers Main, they had sent deputation after deputation to meet the masters, till people cried shame on them. An agreement was at last signed but the matter was not settled. One of the worst things in connection with it was that the children had to suffer and his child had no more right to suffer than that of a rich man. (Hear, hear)
He had been born in England and he had a right to live there. Money was hoarded in great lumps and they kept it there whilst they ( working men ) had poverty on their shelves. He as one was glad to see that as miners, they were more decent and respectable than they used to be. There were not so many greasy sleeves and ragged jackets amongst them. It was an eternal decree that wealth was in the earth while they ( miners ) had their living in their hands, and if it would not pay them they had a right to let it stop there, till the masters pay an equivalent for it. (Hear, hear)
The masters thought they would go in at any price offered to them ( a voice – ” They will not get us in.”) They had a right to be paid so they could live.
The Manvers Main dispute was due to a complication of causes – a reduction for coal getting, dirt removing, etc., etc. In conclusion he hoped they would all remain as good and true as they were today. (Cheers)
Mr. J. Marsland (Denaby Main) was the next speaker. He said they were met to try to solve a problem, and that was – what they were `playing´ for at Denaby Main ? They would be aware that on Thursday last the men at Denaby Main had a `play day´, and it was brought about because they were turning out more than supplied the trade of hard coal, and there was a large stock on hand at Denaby, therefore the men resolved to have a `play day´ on Thursday last. On Friday morning when they went to work as usual, their lamps were refused them, therefore they must be locked-out. The men had a meeting on Monday last, and resolved to send a deputation to the manager to ascertain the cause of the lock-out etc. When the deputation got to the colliery office, the manager was going away and could not meet them. They asked him when he could meet them and he said he could not say and did not. There might be plenty of men who say they ought not to have `played´ a day on this account, but they as miners thought they ought to do so, and why ? Because they believed when they saw coal stacked on the pit bank it was there for an object, and that object was to make a rod for the miners backs. They had experienced this kind of thing before. Two or three years ago at Denaby they had frequently stacks on the pit bank, and when it got to a certain quantity they had always something occurring between them, the manager wanting to take something from them and then a dispute took place. Twelve months ago under the present manager at Denaby Main, they had a great stack of coal and what was the result ? They were working
“shifts” and for working shifts they had the great sum of half-a-penny per ton extra ; they had so much for cutting bags per yard, and so much for bags in the `goaf´, 6d. per yard. The manager asked them to give that up, that was to do it for nothing, and because they would not, he said the shift work must be done away with. The consequence was that 8 or 10 colliers were in one place with 4 to 6 fillers, put all on one shift with 15 to 20 yards to work in. ( Shame )
The speaker then explained how under these circumstances the colliers had to wait when they had cut down a certain quantity of coal, until the fillers had removed it away and so could not earn a living. In Mr. Parker´s time, he said, they had the long wall system at Denaby Main, and eleven banks were opened on one face, each fifty yards wide, and to each of these were 4 colliers and 4 fillers, but now in 15 or 20 yards there were 8 men, and if put on one shift how could they earn a living.
Some six weeks ago the manager asked them to concede to a reduction of 27 %. At that time they ( men ) had several meetings and got in order as well as they could. They met the manager and said they could not agree to the reduction. In a little time he withdrew the notices on condition that in 3 months time the question should be again raised about the “small” reduction of 27 %.
Half that time has now gone, and had they said nothing to the manager he would have gone on stacking 60, 80 or even 100 thousand tons of coal on the pit bank, in order to wrench 27 % out of them. That was why they would not allow such results on the pit bank, because it was to wrench their earnings out of them.
He was walking in the market place on Saturday night, and met with a man from Manvers Main, who told him he had received a telegram to meet a deputation at Barnsley, who were to meet the Consulting Engineer of Manvers Main about the dispute there. The result of that was that the deputation were refused to be met with unless the Manvers Main men would concede the company´s prices, therefore nothing was done. In his ( speaker´s ) opinion, the Denaby Main dispute had caused that which had occurred on Monday morning in connection with Manvers Main. (Cheers)
Mr. Thos. Bailey ( Manvers Main ), spoke in the highest terms of the noble conduct of the men of Manvers Main, no one knew the amount of money they had spent on deputations, arbitrations etc. in trying to get the Manvers Main dispute settled. He considered that as they had put their dispute in the hands of a member of Parliament, such as Mr. Mundella, ( Cheers ) and the matter was not settled ; the Government of England had the right to take the case and sift it. Mr. Mundella he considered was a gentleman in the House of Commons. (Hear, hear) And though he had given them a reduction, yet he believed him to be a honourable man. If Government passed a law for them to have arbitration, they ( Government ) should see that it was carried out. In his opinion there were too many employers in Parliament ; there were men in Mexborough as worthy and more so, of a seat in Parliament, than some who were in, and in his opinion there would not be much good done until some of them were in.
He was pleased that throughout the long dispute at Manvers Main, there had not been one of them brought up for assault. It was for them to get more closely knit and united together. Capital and labour should walk hand in hand, and they could do it if the masters were willing. He did think they had a manager at Denaby Main, who would reason with them, though he might not give them all that they wanted, or they might ” pluck him middling.” (Hear, hear)
Mr. Bailey ( Denaby Main ) spoke of the meagre earnings of the miners at that place – 10s. to £1 per week – and many of them having large families to feed out of it.
The Rev. T.J. Leslie, who was the next speaker said it afforded him the greatest pleasure to behold the orderly and gentlemanly manner in which the present meeting was being conducted contrasting favourably with some of the
“scenes” reported at the late Church Congress at Sheffield, where His Grace, the Archbishop of York, had such difficulty in keeping them in order.
There were two or three things he believed in. In the first place, if he were a miner, he should be in the Union, secondly, if he were a miner, he should go in for the 8 hours system of working. He should also go in for a better system of ventilation in mines. If this were attended to on sound scientific principles, a great many of the fearful and terrible explosions would be largely done away with. He should also go in for a better system of mines regulations. This could be only obtained through the House of Commons, so they must have an extension of the County Franchise. (Hear, hear)
In the House at present there were only three working men viz. Mr. Davies, Mr. MacDonald and Mr. Burt, whereas there ought to be a much larger number, because the working class was the largest class, and ought to be represented. The question of “over-production,” Mr. Leslie would like to have thoroughly discussed. He urged the men not to spend their money on strong drink etc.
The Chairman ( Mr. Jarvis of Denaby Main ) said they had spent a great deal of the money on deputations etc., which ought to have gone to the Union.
At Denaby Main, he considered they were justified in coming out and trying to bring about a better state of things. Whenever there was a stack of coal on the pit bank, then they had to suffer by it. The manager at Denaby Main six weeks ago, said let the question of reduction be in abeyance for three months. He promised to set no more men on, and make things so that they could earn a fair day´s wage, and then at the end of the three months, if they were benefited, the question as to reduction was to be re-considered. The manager however, had not carried out one of his promises. There had been seven or eight more men put on nearly every day since. They were therefore thicker on the ground, the places were shortened, and it was consequently impossible for them to earn a day´s wage. There were scores at Denaby Main with large families, and only earning 12s. or 15s., and up to £1 per week. He urged any of them present who had not done so, to join the Union, the benefits from which would be a sick and accident fund, widows and orphans fund, etc. etc.
Mr. Rowe ( the jockey ) , then came forward, and addressed the men on the importance of giving their hearts to God. He feared that when times were good with many of them, instead of taking care of their money, they squandered it away in strong drink. He would have them all become staunch teetotallers.
On the motion of Mr. Dixon ( Denaby Main ) seconded by Mr. Harrison, it was unanimously resolved that ” We remain firmly united man to man, until a better state of things is brought about for the miners of Denaby Main, and Manvers Main.”
Votes of thanks were tendered to Mr. Rowe for the use of the room ; and to the Chairman for presiding.
The Meeting which was of a most orderly character throughout, was brought to a close by singing and prayer.