The “Bag Dirt” Strike – Mass Meeting of Men

August 1902

Mexborough & Swinton Times – Friday 15 August 1902

Mass Meeting of Men

The mass meeting of the men on Wednesday was held in the croft adjoining the Station Hotel, Conisborough, when Mr Phil Humphries, the chairman of the Cadeby branch presided. There was also present on the platform Mr F Croft (the chairman of the Denaby Branch), Mr George Smith (the secretary of the Denaby branch), Mr John Nolan (the Denaby delegate) and Mr Henry Humphries (the Cadeby delegate). Mr G.H. Hirst (the Cadeby check weighman and secretary) could not attend, as he was engaged in secretarial work connected with the dispute.

The chairman’s opening remarks were brief. He said the time come when they ought to throw away the password “Be calm,” and get another. It was “be calm” in 1885, and they lost.

Mr F Croft took a bit different view. He said in regard to 1885, what he witnessed and experienced team that the moment they began writing their case was over, and they were beaten. As he said at the last meeting, the quieter they were the more uneasy someone else was. (Hear, hear.)

That was what those they were opposed to were waiting for. The moment they began to kick up a disturbance the sympathy of the public and of their own Association would be gone, and they did not want that. He would not like to see any man in that audience have to go to Wakefield for six months. He urged upon them not to interfere with any man when they left the meeting. All they could do was to stand in the road, and watch those who are coming from the collieries passed by, but they need not say a word to them. He had every confidence that they would not lose a fight, but if they lost he would say “God help every man at Denaby and Cadeby Main.”

It was bad enough before they stop. They could not look on one side without 2/6 being stopped out of their wages on Saturday, and in some cases 5s or 7/6. There were a hundred summonses for Saturday, but he urged them to never mind summonses. They need not meet trouble, but take it as it came. They were pleased to know that that morning there were not so many men working as there was the day before, by about 11.

Mr Henry Humphries gave a report of the proceedings at the Council meeting of the Association. He said the Council decided that men who had cleared their contribution cards up to June 7 should receive strike or lockout pay whatever they like to call it, and that the claims of the new members were not financial should not be entertained. In regard to the first batch of 20 summonses for damages the first payment under the order made by the court was due next Tuesday. He wanted to know what was the position they were going to take up. Where those who had had the judgement against them to start paying? (Cries of “No.”) A summons had been brought to his house telling him that if he did not pay the first instalment of a pound on August 19 they would distress his home for up to £6, and he did not want any disturbances there, but he was willing to risk his house being sold up if the others were willing. (Hear, hear.)

It had been suggested to him that each man who was receiving 9s. a week union pay might contribute a shilling a week out of that towards clearing off these claims for images.

It might affect six hundred miners before they had done, and contractors might also be summoned, which would make it more. What he wanted to know whether they were all of one understanding. Would they agree to a resolution to pay a shilling a week out of the strike pay?

A voice : How will those people do who cannot live on 9s. a week?

Mr. Humphries : I wish to do the same as the rest.

A voice:”Pay nowt,” and another voioe, “I will second that.”

With regard to the tools the secretaries of the branches were to send full particulars to the officials at Barnsley, who would deal with the matter. They were out for a list that they all understand. The 1890 price list had been like a puzzle. They had not been able to read it, but Mr. Chambers said he could read it, because he made it, and if Mr Chamber” could read it, it did not follow that they could.

A voice: “He signed his name to it and all.”

What they wanted to do was to insist on a price list, itemised, which every man, no matter in what capacity he was working could understand, and then there would not be too much friction, and so many deputations. (Hear, hear.)

The Chairman said the last speaker had made a mistake with regard to the payment of a shilling a week out of the union money. The suggestion he had heard was that they should pay a shilling in order to take the matter to a higher court. (Hear, hear.)Had they to win or lose.

A voice: “Let’s try to win.”

They would do that he believed.

Mr. John Nolan said that unfortunately there were a number of men at both pits who were not eligible to receive the first week’s pay. when others received theirs, He would like to say that that was not his fault; it was because those men had not had pluck enough to pay the paltry “tanner” they ought to have paid each week when they were in work. It seemed a scandalous shame that at this time of day men had to get up at four o’clock in the morning for the purpose of trying to get other men to pay sixpence a week towards the fifty or sixty per cent they were receiving on their rate of wages.

His advice to new members who had not pluck enough to pay their entrance fee sooner, so that they might receive benefits, was to bundle up their clothes and go to work somewhere else They were asked at the Council meeting if it was true that there were 300 men not receiving strike pay. and they were able to reply that were not 150 who were not receiving out of 2,000 men and lads.

The managing director had stated that he did not know what the dispute was only what he had seen in the newspapers. Well, if he did not know by now it was time he did know because everybody in Yorkshire knew what the dispute was, and what the contention of the men had been for the part eight or nine year. The time had come when everybody was in one mind and be hoped the time would come when Denaby and Cadeby men through that stoppage would be able to go back to work under conditions that human beings could work under, and not be treated like dogs when they were working for that to which they were entitled.

Men who had done extra work for which they were entitled to pay had had to beg for the money at the week-end; and in some cases they had had to make a second visit to the offices on the following Monday. They wanted a price list, which any man, if he had not been to school a day could understand what he was going to work for. It was not a question of “bag dirt.” it was a question of a new price list for both the coal and dirt. The miners did not wait the “bag dirt.” They wanted a coal contract and leave the “bag dirt” to somebody else. If they had contractors in the coal let them take the coal, and if they had contractors in the dirt let them take the dirt; but before they did so let them have a price list, and then they would know what they were working for. (Hear. hear.) They did not want any more instances of men, after working hard, having to go home to get money with which to pay his trammer. In the course of further remarks, he said he hoped every man would try to keep himself within the limit of the law as far as it was possible for him to do so.

A man in the audience asked why the Association at Barnsley did not pay the damages that had been claimed off the men?

Mr. Henry Humphries replied that the Association was not in a position to take up that question, because they were summoned for leaving work without notice.

Mr George Smith (the Denaby branch secretary) said the dispute arose because the men wanted a new price list. Mr Chambers, in the interview in the “Mexborough Times,” said he did not know that, and he said the 1890 price list did not set aside the 1886 price list. The first item on the 1890 price list was the 1s 4 ½ d. The first item on the list signed by Mr Chappell was 1s 2d and then there was 2d and then another item of a halfpenny. That was when Mr Chambers founded halfpenny for the “bag dirt”, but they could not find it on the 1890 price list. They had tried to work to the 1890 price list, but they could not do so satisfactory, and if he did not get a revised list they would be on the same 40, and Mr Chambers will be going back perhaps another 20 years.

In one portion of the report of the interview, it was said that the men ought to go and see Mr Chambers, and ask him for some certain terms to be made, and then they would probably come to some conclusion. Mr Chambers had been asked many times. It was all very well for Mr Chambers to contradict it, but he (the speaker) knew it was a fact, because he had been on joint deputations. Perhaps Mr Chambers would not know that they had been. (Laughter.) He would not know the picture there is someone did not tell them.

A Voice: “They don’t know where the coal is going,” and more laughter.

When they went to him with a grievance he told them he did not know anything about it, and asked them why they did not see Mr Soar or Mr Berry, or someone else, and then he said “If you don’t get satisfaction in the House of Commons, come to the House of Lords.” (Renewed laughter.)

They had started at the bottom. They had seen Mr Soar, and he knew nothing about it; they had seen Mr Berry, and he knew nothing; they had gone to Mr Chambers, and he knew nothing. They had had to appeal to the men to see what they would do, and they had done it. They must have something satisfactory before they started again. He had a resolution, which probably someone will propose and saying, namely, “that they stand firm until all their grievances are rectified.”

The resolution was proposed and seconded and adopted unanimously.