Conisborough Councillors at Variance – Abusive Language

November 1900

Mexborough and Swinton Times, November 9

Conisbrough Councillors at Variance.

The Use of Abusive Language.

Complaint against the Chairman.

At the conclusion of the ordinary business at a meeting of the Conisbrough Parish Council, held on Monday evening, a conversation took place relative to a remarkable letter that had been received by the chairman (Mr C Holmes) from Mr WW Norwood

For some time past, it has been well known in Conisbroughthat both Mr Norwood and Mr F Ogley were purposely abstaining from attending the meetings of the Council, of which they were both members, as a protest against the use of strong language by some of the members.

As representative of Conisbrough, on the Doncaster Rural Council, Mr Norwood and Mr Ogley have been subjected to much criticism in regard to their action on certain matters and disapproval has been expressed at the Parish Council meeting in no unmistakable manner.

At the October meeting of the Council it was pointed out that four of the members, Messrs Norwood, Ogley, Booth and Roebuck had omitted attending for six consecutive meetings, and consequently their seats were void. It was decided that in the event of a satisfactory explanation not been received from them within seven days a special meeting to be held to fill the vacancies.

The chairman reintroduce the subject on Monday evening. He said that something had happened, which made him hesitate about calling a special meeting as he had undertaken to do.

A letter had been received from Mr Norwood, in which statement, almost amounted to charges, were made with respect to himself and the Council generally, and he wanted those things to be cleared up before they proceeded any further in the matter. He had also received a letter from Mr Ogley. He took it that the letters were intended for the Council to consider; they were not marked Private in anyway.

The one from Mr Norwood was as follows:

“Dear Mr Holmes,

I read in the “Mexborough and Swinton Times” that you required an explanation from me within seven days as to why I do not attend. I am very sorry indeed that I cannot continue to attend meetings of the Council. No one with any respect for himself could attend meetings where such abusive language is allowed to be used. I told you personally a month or two back that I should not attend another meeting while such outrageous conduct was allowed. If you, and the Council will carry your minds back to the commencement of the Council, I think you will find I have always endeavoured, as a District Councillor, to work with them, reporting frequently on what has been done at Doncaster. When there happened to be a meeting to consider the water question, I, being away from home, wrote you a letter explaining exactly the position the District Council were in, and what they proposed to do.

That letter was received with the most abusive epithets, and condemned by some other members of the Council, some of them even declining to hear it read; and after that you say it is necessary for the District Councillors to work in conjunction with the Parish Council, a statement with which I quite agree and I have always endeavoured to do so. I can quite understand members holding different views from myself, and I am always pleased to meet an intelligent opponent, but abuse is not argument, and never will be; therefore, whilst it is allowed at your meetings I must decline to be mixed up with it.

With regard to the statement that I would not sit with “humble working men,” you know quite well that it is not true. In the first place I have sat with them regularly for the past six years, and have, I think, shown them proper courtesy and respect; secondly, I deny that they are such humble members as one of your leading men would have us believe; thirdly, if you will have a return made out showing the attendances of memberssince the Council was first formed, I think mine will compare favourably with any other member, who has been on the council all the time since 1894.

Another statement repeatedly made it your last meeting was that the Parish Council were suffering very much from the absence of Mr Ogley and myself as District Councillors. If that be true, why do not the Council meeting with proper respect as they did up to 2 or three months ago, and then we should never have stopped attending. I suppose the Councilhave quite overlooked the fact that in the fight for urban powers we have stuck to the Council and the interest of Conisborough, and I cannot think anyone would deny that both Mr Ogley, and myself have done some small part towards securing an urban district.

But I suppose this is a minor matter with your Council. When Mr Brooks missed six meetings the Clerk was ordered to write to him asking him to attend. It does not surprise me to find that we are denied and considered unworthy of equal treatment with Mr Brooks. Had such courtesy been extended to me. I might, possibly, have attended again, having made my protest about unruly conduct; but as it is you propose to fill up the seats.

In conclusion, I must thank you personally for the curtesy you are always extended to me.”

While reading Mr Norwood’s letter the chairman, called special attention to the use of the word ” allowed”. He added that Mr Ogley’s was a very brief letter and he would not have any hesitation in his case. Mr Ogley wrote:

“Dear Sir, I was more surprise really count of the last and previous Parish Council meeting. If I some strong remarks passed about myself and other gentlemen. I must decline to again sit on the Council while such abuses speeches are made. I shall be quite prepared to face the electors again when the proper time comes.”

The, chairman commenting on the letters, said they would see that running right through Mr Norwood’s letter was a complaint, not so much of the abusive language, but the fact that it had been allowed, so it seemed to be placed in the all responsibility on the chairman. Without been egotistical he thought he could claim that having been four times successfully elected chairman of the Council, his conduct, could not have been so very bad. It was explained that the last meeting that Mr Norwood complained of abusive language, and that he would not attend again, but he had not the least idea in the world that Mr Norwood blamed him for it, because he thought on more than one occasion he had sheltered him from abuse when abuse have been attempted without being actually indulged in. Although Mr Norwood finished the letter with a complement to him, he did not blame any member of the Council so much as he blamed the chairman.

Taking the conduct of the Conisborough Parish Council as a whole during the four years he had had the honour to be chairman, it had been, in his opinion, exemplary. Certainly there have been times when there had been little bits of flashes; there had never been anything approaching a scene, and for that reason he did not think there was much in Mr Norwood’s complaint about abusing language been allowed.

He did not suppose there was a Council anywhere that met year in and year out without some little difference of opinion, and one member, more impulsive than the rest, using an epithet which was not, perhaps a proper one; and he did not see why he should be held responsible if a wrong word had been used at that Council. It was certainly is place to try to keep as orderly conduct as possible, and insist, as far as possible, and one member being courteous to another. He had always tried to do that, and so long as it was the chairman he would continue to do so.

He knew that he had offended more than one when he had been considered to be taking the part of the particular gentleman who made such a complaint about his conduct of the business.

One of the statements he wanted to have cleared up was that Mr Brooks once missed six meetings in succession, and then the Council had the courtesy to instruct the clerk to write to him asking him for an explanation of his conduct, and if he intended he is not “mystery” no; he has not the courage of a man to attend any more, implying that his seat will be open for him if he did not attend. He did not remember such a thing having happened.

Another statement he was not certain about, was that Mr Norwood attended the first meeting of the present Council, and proposed his re election as chairman. He had asked the Clerk to look into these matters, and the Clerk told him no such letter was ever written. Mr Brooke never missed six consecutive meeting. MrBrooks did not attend the first meeting of the council, and both he and Mr Ravenscroft were written to, and asked to attend the next meeting to sign the declaration.

Mr Brooks: I believe that is a correct statement.

The Chairman added that with respect to the other matter, Mr Norwood did not attend the first meeting, and had not attended a meeting since, so that clearly the seats were vacant.

He was very sorry indeed that it had happened because in most matters. They found Mr Norwood a useful member, and certainly as district Councillors both he and Mr Ogley have been very helpful to them, and they very much missed the attendances of those gentleman. They were only carrying out what the law directed them to do when they proceeded to fill up the vacancies unless the members. absenting themselves could give a good and sufficient reason. In neither of the cases did he consider a good and sufficient reasonhad be made out, and they were perfectly at liberty to proceed with a special meeting and fill the vacancies.

Mr Brooks said that in one part of the letter he thought Mr Norwood was referred to him, but he did not care whether needed are not. In regard to the letter from Mr Norwood on the water question, he did not wish to hear it read at the meeting to which reference had been made, and if he did not wish to hear it they could not make him. There was an expression in the letter, which caused him to object, and he said Mr Norwood was a liar. He was sorry afterwards that he had used the word, and he had acknowledged so to the Council. That was the first time he had said a harsh word against any member but it was not the first time a manhad been called that in big assemblies and the Parish Council. The statement he objected to was not true; it would be true at the present time, but it was not so then.

Mr Brocklesby – Norwood´s conduct not all he could approve

Mr Brocklesby said they had Mr Brooks admission that he had used a word which was unparliamentary, and that he afterwards expressed regret, he was very glad to hear. Mr Brooks make that admission andas a Council they ought to try and clothe their views in right language. The chairman could not deal with the members of the Council as the Speaker of the House could deal with the members of Parliament. This Speaker had powers which did not belong to the chairman, but still he thought they ought to try to use Parliamentary language. It would be more fitting when they felt that a member was making a false statement to challenge it rather than to say he was a liar. He did not think that would occur again; he was sure it would not so far as Mr Brooks was concerned; he had taken a very proper and gentlemanly course. Other expressions have been used that were not right, and the hope that those members would use them would be quite as ready as Mr Brook had been to withdraw any offensive remark which might have fallen from their lips. They had no need to offend one another; they had need to transact business in a gentlemanly and expeditious manner. He knew Mr Norwood had felt very keenly some of the things that had been said, and except for some of those remarks, Mr Norwood would have been at some of the meeting. He also knew it was not the wish of Mr Norwood to cease being a member of the Parish Council; he thought Mr Norwood will feel aggrieved if its position were declared vacant, and he believed if they gave Mr Norwood an opportunity he would come to the meetings.

Personally he would feel disposed to give Mr Norwood an opportunity. Mr Norwood’s conduct had not been all that he could approve, but still he would not deal harshly with him. Mr Norwood had done a great deal towards obtaining urban powers, and he thought that ought to weigh with the Council. As he had said, Mr Norwood and not done all that he might have done. He (the speaker) complained very much that when the matter of urban powers came before the Rural District Council he did not divide the Council on the question. On both occasions the opposition of the Rural District Council had come from that body as being perfectly unanimous, and on each occasion both Mr Norwood and Mr Ogley had had a splendid opportunity to lay before the members of the Rural Council who came from the outside districts the exact position, but both had been silent.

Because they were not all that the Parish Council could wish he thought it would be very wrong cash them off, and he certainly would be in favour of asking Mr Norwood, at any rate, to hold his seat on the council, and also expressed to him. Juliet of the Council if anything had been said, which had given him pain or had been of a discourteous character.

He moved that as a resolution.

Mr Robinson said the letter was nothing but a tissue of falsehoods from beginning to end. Mr Norwood had not the courage to say who had abused him. He (Mr Robinson) had spoken strong language against the Doncaster Rural District Council, which he maintained he had a perfect right to do. He had not spoken strong enough concerning the way the Rural Council, had abused the people of Conisbrough. Why did Mr Norwood meet him on the School Board; only the previous Wednesday night, they were as jovial as could be.

Mr Norwood must mean him, because he was the member who spoke about “humble workingmen.” But why did not. Mr Norwood lay the charge at the door of those members who had offended him? Again, referring to Mr Norwood, the speaker said: I was going to tell him “Mr” Norwood, but I won´t call him “Mr” Norwood; he has not the courage of a man. Why should he charge me with anything? It is perfect rot. As for asking him to reconsider, it is absolutely – (hear the speaker emitted a sound for which there is no equivalent expression in written language)

At this stage Mr Holmes relinquished his position as chairman, as he was compelled to leave the meeting.

Mr Robinson, as vice-chairman, officiated in his place, and he moved that a letter be not sent to Mr Norwood, and that a special meeting be held to fill the vacancies.

This proposition was not seconded.

Mr Brocklesby then said in his resolution he wanted the meeting to again draw the attention of the absentee members to the fact that they had not attended the last six or seven meetings, whichever the number might be, and that the meeting wished to retain the seat on the Council, and would be glad to hear from them within seven days whether or not it was their intention to continue as members.

Mr Ravenscroft seconded the resolution which was carried

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