The “Bag Dirt” Strike – Meeting of Miners’ Wives

August 1902

Mexborough & Swinton Times – Friday 22 August 1902

Denaby Women and the “Bag Dirt Strike”

Meeting of Miners’ Wives

After the demonstration against the so-called “black-legs”, on Monday, the wives of the miners organised a meeting, and sent round the bellman summoning the women to attend. The meeting was held near the Baptist Mission Church, where a large number of women congregated, and there was also a large crowd of men. Throughout the “speeches” excellent order was maintained, and several times the audience was convulsed with laughter.

A collection was taken for the benefit of the man in custody. One woman said: “We ought to hev sumboddy here writing it dahn for’t Mexber an’ Swinton Times’, and we should want noa lies abaht it, but the trewth!”

A dray was supplied as the temporary platform, and a buxom dame, who evidently occupied the position of “chairman”, said they had called that meeting to make him (the man in custody) a jubilee when he came home. Continuing, she said they wanted to all stick together and never mind him up there (meaning one of those who continued to work). They were going to the old pit as well as t’new ‘un, and she thought if t’men wud onny leeav it to us wimmen we could settle t’strike! (Hear, hear, and loud laughter). ‘Cos we hey some pluck in us, and if they (the men) dooant settle it, we’ll put their cloathes on, an’ we’ll settle it, an’ soon an’ all. (Hear, hear, and laughter).

Number 2 speaker at once became prominent with her opening remarks which were: “Yer all carrots (meaning the men); who don’t you flock on him an’ eat him to deeath” (meanin a worker). “You all want shoitin’ for seein ’em tak wun man. Why didn’y yer gooa for ’em an’ eat all t’lot on ’em!”

Number 3 speaker commenced with vigour, but soon steadied herself, and then took her speech in occasional snatches, which are given as they were offered:- “Ladies and gentlemen—or, rayther yer not all gentlemen—or else yo’ wud ha’ flocked on ’em an’ eaten ’em up. (Laughter) Well, nah, luk here, wimmen an’men, it’s a shame for wun feller ter gooa dahn yon pit an’ hey a livin’ when t’others can’t, or weeant awther, an’ when yo chaps gets started ageean ah hope yo’ll think abaht it, an’ when you do get sum munny in t’future, ah hope at yo’ll shove it dahn in yor pocket an’ put a weight theer, an’ keep it theer. Ah think ivvery man in Denaby has enuff ter keep wun wife, ne’er mind two! (This was evidently an insinuation, as there was a great deal of cheering and blowing of penny trumpets).

A man can bring a pick-shaft aht o’t pit, but for less than that there’s bin many a chap takken away from t’pub yonder, an’ ah think if yo’ men can stand that yo’ can stan’ ow’t. Well, we’re livin’ on bread an’ lard samwidges at ahr house an’ yo’ can get that at Wakefield, an’ ahm ready to gooa theer, ‘cos ah know ah shan’t get no worse theer. (Loud laughter). You (pointing to the men at the rear) all want to stick together an’ keep yer peckers up; we’ll stop ’em at t’owd pit after we’ve stoped t’ new un, an’ that’ll not be sooa long nawther. (Laughter) We’ve abaht scared this pit (the new one), and we sh’ll scare t’owd ‘un sooan. (Laughter) They doan’t think how we’ve got to scrat an’ scrape at hooam. If ah’ve said owt wrong I’ll no maeter ter me. ‘Cos ah’m not bothered. Will yo’ chaps lens yor banner ter-morrer, ‘cos we’re bahn to Doncaster in t’morning’, an’ well carry it us sens, if yo’ weeant. Hans up all yo’ wimmin at’s gooin’ ter Doncaster ter-morrow!”

“That’s reight”, said the speaker gratified with the show of hands. “Ah nah how many of yo’ men is theer gooin? Some on yer hasnt got the pluck ter goa”. The speaker here resumed a back portion of the dray, there being no seating accommodation.

No. 4 speaker, a buxom Lancashire lass of good proportion, spoke as follows:- Keep calm, chaps, Bur aw think we’ve bin calm enough, an’ if my belly’s not bin empty ah can feel for ’em at is. Yo’ chaps yo’ve no need to bother, ‘cos what chaps cannot dew wimmin can. (Loud cheers from the women). Ah want ’em to keep gooin’, becos we’re well guarded as we are now, an’ we ought to feel proud an’ highly honoured in bein’ so beautifully guarded. Its t’same as t’ song says: ‘Why can’t ivvery man hey three wives? He ought to hey! (This was evidently an insinuation, as there was tumultuous cheering).

Yer men wants to stick to t’wimmen and t’wimmen to t’men, and let’s be all men an’ wimmen. We want to know what’s gooin ter dew? Are we to go forward or stan still? An we must remember we hey homes to be lukt after. He will’nt hey two pick shafts in his pocket next time he comes out. (Laughter) Then as connat go to Doncaster termorrer ah hope they’ll tak Shank’s pony, becos you con get back again. They connor tek Shank’s pony off a yer. Let’s goo an release him ‘cos they’ve got the wrong man. He nivver did nowt. It wonner him, but we know who it wor, but we annert gooin to tell. We’ve moor sense not that doant bother. If he gets justice he’ll be at hooam termorrer, cos he’s done nowt, but he’ll nooan get justice yonder, cos there’s nooan to be got, an’ ah think it’s time we started and done summat. Let’s gooa dahn to t’owd pit termorrer. All ye in favour show ye hands. That’s reight, we’st scare ’em theer as well as at t’ new un”.

They retired for a time, amidst the blasts of penny trumpets and much laughter and cheering. The speakers all had another turn, each one acting as “chairman” in turn, and after quite a lot of “advice” the meeting terminated good-humouredly with cheers and “Rule Britannia”. The police, who were present throughout the meeting, had no trouble whatever.