The “Bag Dirt” Strike – Ninth Week of the Stoppage

August 1902

Mexborough & Swinton Times – Friday 29 August 1902

Denaby & Cadeby Strike

Ninth Week of the Stoppage

More Summonses for Damages

How the Damages Must Be Paid

Revision of the Price List

The strike at the Denaby and Cadeby collieries continues, and the present week is the ninth of the stoppage. Since the closing of the pits on Tuesday the 12th, there have been no demonstration, as they were considered unnecessary in view of the fact the men who are termed “blacklegs” have ceased to work. Of course the deputies continue to be employed, but the men have no objection to this, as the work of the deputies is to keep the pit in order.

It is a curious proof of the perversity of human nature that some of the “blacklegs” were men who have frequently stayed away when the pits have been working regularly. It is said of one man that he was seldom known to put in a full week and tell the men decided to strike, and then he went to work every day. There are other instances of men who are in the habit of having a day or two off each week going to work regularly after it had been decided to set down the pits.

These men, however, are not working now, and there can be no disguising the fact that the local officials of the men are pleased with the action of the management enclosing the pits altogether. The fact that they are now “blacklegs” at work removes the probability of serious disturbance, and there is now no anxiety on that score.

Meanwhile, Mr W.H. Chambers, having seen that all is safe in connection with the collieries, has again gone away, probably to resume his holiday in Ireland, which was so abruptly broken, early in July. There does not appear to be any hurry on the part of the management to hasten on a settlement, but during the present week the local officials have been busily engaged in drafting a revised price list. This is a much more serious task than the outsider, not acquainted with colliery work would imagine.

The price list of 1890 is admittedly unsatisfactory on the face of it. There can be no doubt about that. Every intelligent person, be he a coal worker or not, can readily understand that the 1890 price list in its present form is an element of danger. The meaning of nearly every item is obscure and liable to 2, or even more interpretations. The great object to be achieved in drafting a revised price list is to draw up such a list as will be clear and definite, and in regard to which there can be no doubt of misinterpretation.

The members of the two branch committees are all men, with a practical acquaintance with working in the mine, and before a reasonably perfect list can be drawn up there must necessarily be consultation.

When the new list is ready, which it is expected will be sometime next week, it will be submitted to the men, item by item, for their consideration and approval. If the men approve of it, and say it expresses what they desire to have, then the list will be forwarded to the Barnsley officers of the Yorkshire Miners Association. Negotiations will then be open with the colliery management, and it is hoped and believed that an interview will follow, in which the revised list will be laid before the management.

It is reported that for the last five weeks the Denaby and Cadeby Colliery Company have been receiving a stoppage contribution from the Coal Owners Association. Advances been taken of the stoppage to carry out some necessary improvements and alteration at the pithead at both collieries. The screens at the Denaby pit have been repaired, and what looks like a new engine house is in course of erection. At the Cadeby pit the ventilating fan is undergoing repair, a job which it is said, will take three weeks to accomplish.

It is now well known that the company are seeking to recover from the men damages under the Workmen’s and Employers Act for the first fortnight they stayed away from work without notice. Already over 160 men have had claims made against them, and in 155 cases the magistrates have ordered the payment of £6 damages and 7/6 costs. This means that the company have had awarded in damages £930 and £58 2s 6d for costs, a total of £988 2s 6d. It was stated yesterday (Thursday) that another batch of summonses, between 40 and 50 have been served, and made returnable for tomorrow (Saturday).

Considerable curiosity has been displayed by the public in regard to the position of the men who have been ordered to pay damages. The order of the court states that the money is to be paid in monthly instalments of £1 each. In the event of non-compliance with the order, distress will be levied on the goods and chattels of the defendant. The payments of the first instalment in the first batch of summonses fell on August 19, but no payments have yet been made, and distress has not been levied. From the wording of the judgement it would appear that distress will be levied in the event of non-payment at the end of six months, though. Of course it may be construed to mean that distress may be levied in the event of non-payment of any in the instalments at the prescribed time.

Whatever construction may be put upon the judgement it is a fact that 155 men living in Mexborough, Denaby and Conisbrough are in peril of having their homes broken up to satisfy the claims of the colliery company. There is every probability that this number will be increased on Saturday.

The distress owing to want of food is not so acute as was the case for the first two weeks of the stoppage, but it is now more general. Last week full members of the Miners Association received one shilling each, in addition to the nine shilling strike pay, and half member’s sixpence extra. These grants were made out of the funds collected by means of subscriptions from the public and voluntary levies at different collieries. The distribution of loaves of bread has been continued this week. Though there are a considerable number of the men who would prefer to have money instead of bread. It is felt by others that the bread distribution should be kept on, as it ensures the wives, and especially children, being provided with food.

In many houses in Denaby and Conisbrough the stock of house coal has been exhausted for some time, and men and women have had to resort to wood gathering in order to secure material for a fire. Peat wood on the Cliffe and in the neighbourhood of Conisborough has been gathered until now there is not very much left. On Wednesday some men and women were observed helping themselves to coal from the stack at Denaby pit. Their names were taken, and the facts reported to the colliery company.

No meeting of the men have been held this week as there has been practically nothing new to report them. It transpired that the dispute was mentioned that the Council meeting of the Yorkshire Miners Association on Saturday, but in view of the fact that the revised price list had not then been drawn up nothing definite was done by the Council.

It is probable that a mass meeting of the men will be held next week.