Day 1 – Eviction Orders Executed – Distressing Scenes – “come along with mammy”

9 January 1903

Mexborough & Swinton Times, January 9 th

Eviction Orders Executed.

Distressing Scenes.


At nine o’clock on Tuesday morning the work of evictions started, and it was indeed fortunate that the weather had undergone a favourable change, a comparable mild and dry day enabling the furniture to be moved from the various homesteads without suffering damage from pouring rain.

It was 1885 over again, only on a larger scale, as in this instance, the ejectment orders covered no less than 750 houses, although, as previously stated, about a couple of hundred had previously vacated of their own free will. It was satisfactory to know the early hours were quiet and the orderly aspect of Denaby in this aspect was maintained throughout a trying time, the continued stream of traffic consisting mainly of heavy drays, loaded with furniture making the scene a busy one as the day progressed.

Superintendent Blake, of Doncaster, was in supreme command of all the police, and he had made arrangements a clear one, about 100 houses, the inhabitants of which have been given kindly notice previous night. The earliest sign of what was, was the assembly of the police near the Wesleyan Chapel, and in Tickhill Street they divided themselves into two sections they proceeded to Cliff view and Firbeck Street.

The detachment for Firbeck Street was under the command of Inspector Blake, who was assisted by Inspectors Watson (Mexborough) and Simpson (Goole). At Cliff view, superintendent McDonald, of Rotherham, had the direction of affairs, and he was assisted by Inspector Ackroyd (Wakefield).

At each place the police ranged themselves to prevent obstruction, and to expedite the work. They were largely helped by the services of two mounted constables, who easily kept the roads clear when the crowd surged to much forward. Their labours in this direction, however, were light for.

THE PEOPLE WERE ON GOOD-TEMPERED TERMS

with the police, and safe for a little light thatnothing was seen or heard of a vindictive nature.

With each section of constables there were one or two carrying crowbars for the purpose of forcing an entrance where the doors were found locked, but they had no use for such implements for in no single case had force to be used for entry.

People from the neighbouring district swelled the concourse of onlookers, and quite a representative number of Pressmen, artists, and photographers was received jotting down notes and impressions, or taking characteristic sketches.

It was an extraordinary and unusual scene, and serves to show what extreme a tremendous industrial struggle had been carried to. One eviction was very much like another and the entry of the police was immediately followed by the handing out of the furniture, the bedroom goods being generally passed out from the upper windows.

And the way the representatives of the law carried out the duties was a highly commendable for they handed each article as if it was their very own – a thing the onlookers were not slow to appreciate – the work proceeding harmoniously and without interruption as a consequence.

Among those present, Captain Russell, the Chief Constable of the West Riding; and Mr W Smith-Gill, the Deputy chief were noticeable. Other prominent men taking an interest in the evictions were Mr G.B.C.Yarborough, the Chairman of the Doncaster Bench of Magistrates, which granted the orders, and Mr T.W.Grundy, an official of the Rotherham Main Colliery.

Jocular remarks were not infrequent and one woman laughing suggested that

THEY WERE GOING TO CAMP ON SALISBURY PLAIN.

The courtesy of superintendent Blake in agreeing to meet the requirements of the local strike leaders not to proceed originally, enabled the furniture of each house to be promptly placed on the heavy drays, kindly lent by residents of Mexborough, and elsewhere, and taken away without undue rush and inconvenience, although the splendid method that prevailed was responsible for little waste of time.

Some sad incidents cropped up, and a little procession, pathetic in the extreme attracted a lot of sympathy and interest. It was a homeless miner and his family, and they were wondering disconsolately through the streets, parents and children numbering a dozen in all. First came the father and mother, the latter carrying an infant in one hand, and leading another little one, just able to toddle, with the other. And behind them walked eight other youngsters, woebegone and miserable, the oldest being only about 12 or 13 years of age. Four them the outlook was depressing.

It was fortunate that they came under the notice of the reverent Jesse Wilson, who, with his ministerial colleague, the reverent C Mathison, was on the spot ready to assist in making provision for the most desperate cases.

Under his direction, the Primitive Method Chapel was thrown open, and the aforementioned family receive shelter and creature comforts there, others being admitted during the day. The Baptist Mission Room was also thrown open, as was the Primitive Methodist schoolroom at Mexborough, and regarding the latter place the the school children are requested to meet for their service in the Chapel next sunday, the school now being put to

THE RELIEF OF THE DISTRESSED AND SUFFERING.

There will be no service at the Denaby Methodist Chapel next Sunday and reverent Jesse Wilson, whose address is “The Manse Mexborough,”would be glad to receive gifts of money and provisions to enable him to carry on his noble work.

To continue with the story of the eviction, as the keys were turned on empty houses, and the former occupants required housing, it soon became apparent that the families, especially the women and children, will probably exceed the accommodation provider, and the Chairman of the Mexborough School Board gave the reverent Jesse Wilson permission for a schoolroom at Mexborough, to be used to shelter those who could not obtain it elsewhere.

An informal meeting of the Conisbrough School Board was held and it was decided that children who could not be accommodated at Conisbrough Board Schools, adjacent to the Baptist Mission room then only, kindly lent by the reverent W.Maxey, a tent had being erected to meet further requirements. And so, kind hearts were beating and encouraging practical sympathy, and the contrast of desolation to ways and means employed to remedy it was most remarkable.

Absolutely the first eviction took place in Cliff View, and the first thing turned into the Street was an old chair, but this was followed by the numerous articles that go to make up a house. As the work progressed the array of empty and desolate looking houses gradually increased, and the picture began to take on darker and more sombre hue.

At one house when the leading Constable rapped at the door, a white faced woman appeared, disappearing from view as she reeled away in a dead faint.

For the most part the spectators and the evicted miners were passive but the latter in many instances willingly lent a helping hand to shift their own goods, most of which had been carefully packed and tied up beforehand. One man took his eviction in a particularly cheerful frame of mind, and when his last stick had been taken out he did

A STEP DANCE.

to let off the exuberance of his spirits. In another street, a woman who was sitting in a chair out in the road beside a pile of furniture, burst into song, and rendered in tremulous note.

“Tell them to come, I am ready to go.

For I have no home, I have no home.”

smiling while she sang, her eyes filled with tears, she abruptly finished,not knowing whether to cry or smile. Neither time nor place of music; one would think, and yet, in another street an organ grinder was grinding out:

“I hear thee speak of the better land”

the irony of such music being apparent to the bystanders.

Whilst walking up another thoroughfare our representative was greeted by an elderly man with a question.

“Are you taking keys?; If you are, you can have mine, number 52 of this street.” And he seemed quite sad when his offer was refused. And the while eviction was leaving its desolate mark on the village, the sound of childish voices and laughter could be heard,: from the outer ground of the large colliery school, where the children were out fora fewminutes play.

In other features that met the gaze was a large number of broken windows in the empty, houses and it almost seemed those were “farewell” marks from those who have left voluntary early, one room floor been literally covered with stones. And here and there could be notice sprigs of Holly adorning the window frames, bringing back to memory the last anxious Christmas that was spent in Denaby amid the throes of a giant struggle. The quantity of drays on

ACTIVE SERVICE

saved the necessity of men to use rope to haul the goods as in `85.

The large marquees sent from Leeds and only partly arrived, and although there was plenty of willing labour at hand, they could not be erected for the want of the rest of the paraphernalia and the aid of experienced men, and opinions were expressed that such things ought to have been seen to before.

The ejectments mapped out for the day were all over by noon, and the streets that had been visited were Cliff View, Annerley Street, Rossington Street, Tickhill Street, Firbeck Street, Clifton Street, Edlington Street, Marr Street, Wood View, and Sawsby Street, the last eviction being carried out in Rossington Street.

In cases where a doctor’s certificate showed that a mother or other inmate of the house was ill, the police passed by, the colliery company showing every consideration towards such people. The sympathy of the police has been before commented upon, and there was more than one instance where stalwart men in blue were moved to tears, when an extra batch of children passed out of the doors and came under the category of homeless.

Regarding the miners, they too behaved wisely and well, insomuch as the breaking up of the homes was viewed with a stern calmness – outwardly, at any rate, whatever the feelings of the heart, as each household treasure was handed out and carried away.

Concerning the quality of the furniture, as a rule, it was fairly good, and in some cases remarkably so, although the greater part lent support to statements that large portions were being sold from time to time to provide common necessities of life.

When the constables first arrived in Denaby they were

SERVED OUT WITH CUTLASSES

but the calm and resigned attitude of the inhabitants made such service, but a precautionary measure only, and happily, during the week, there was neither outward sign nor need of such weapons.

It was evident that the miners and their families recognised that the police were simply fulfilling their duty – duty carried out in such a careful and thoughtful manner as to cement friendship rather than foster antagonism. Certainly the large forces of representatives of law and order might have had an influence in checking any physical outbreak by the men, but we are of opinion the real spirit that kept them under control was a knowledge that such an outburst would only serve to accentuate the hardship they had elected to experience.

The fact that in no single instance on the hundred evictions on Tuesday was a house front door locked, was in itself sufficient to demonstrate that the miners did not intend to alienate public sympathy by illadvised rowdiyism, and in this respect the advice tendered by the strike leaders was loyally followed by the rank and file.

Perhaps of all concerned, the wives and mothers felt the heart rending nature of the situation the most, but if not so physically strong as the “bread winners,” they were equally resolved, as one said, “to see this thing through.”

The children, hundreds of them too young to fully realise what was being enacted, simply followed their parents, and it will be readily understood that innocent question from baby lips will be answerable for many a bitter heart pang. Hundreds of youngsters viewed the proceedings with

OPEN EYED WONDERMENT

as they were told to “come along with mammy,” and been unable to understand why “the big men with helmets on” should take away their parents goods.

Undoubtedly the saddest side of the picture was the sight of families, ranging in number from 6 to 10 with each child barely a heads difference in height, following in their parents wake through the streets.

Evictions are at all times terrible enough, and despite the efforts of the Labour leaders to find accommodation to house the evicted, the very first day saw several families unprovided for and a blessing indeed was it that they found refuge in the chapels and schools. Such a necessity served to show that with each succeeding day the situation would become more serious and at night for many not as yet evictedwere exercised in their minds as to where they would go when their turn came.

But “sufficient for the day is the evil thereof.” And several of the ejected passed the night in the houses of those who would shortly be in the same plight. In reviewing the whole aspect of the situation must be borne in mind that these two or three thousand souls were called upon to face the dispersal of all that constitutes home – and there is no place like home – and the possibility, nay, the probability of further limitation of comfort and resources, without been sufficiently and adequately prepared for the strain.

By this we mean that when a “fight to a finish” is steady and prolonged; victory is most likely to be the strongest stayer, and while the resource of a powerful colliery company have hardly been weakened, the miners, with their wives and families, have felt the “pinch of poverty” during the last 28 weeks, and are now compelled to continue a determined contest,

HANDICAPPED WITH THE LOSS OF PERSONAL HOME SHELTER

and of necessity to suffer circumstances calculated to further distress and weaken them as the days go by.

Yet, in spite of all that has gone before, and the possibilities of what is to come, the men and women – with the exception of those were signed on, the exact number of which is but a matter of guesswork – have born eviction, to all opinions as determined not to give in, as on the very first day of the strike.

They will be glad of a settlement, with what gladness although they themselves know, but they are fighting on with a nation absolutely amazing. When the contrastive resources of the opposing sides are considered.

Cheerfully, too, they quit their homes, and what ever the rights and wrongs of the struggle admiration cannot be denied such a display of characteristic British stolidity to purpose. British of the very best can be seen in the voluntary labours of non-combatants in relief work, which asserted itself directly the need appeared.

THE FIRST CASE CALLING FOR ATTENTION

was that of the previously mentioned family of 12, and when dark night followed the first eviction day many schemes had materialised for the assistance of the sufferers, people finding refuge, as already pointed out at the Primitive Methodist Chapel at Denaby, the Primitive Methodist Schoolroom at Mexborough, the Conisbrough Board Schools, and the Baptist Chapel at Denaby.

The reverent Jesse Wilson, as on Monday distributor provisions amongst the most needy cases, and for this purpose received a cheque for £8 from Mr Henry Adams, of Sheffield, who has also promised to provide 20 stones of flour per week, as long as the strike lasts.

With such cases of distress rapidly increasing, a large number of similar gifts will be heartily welcome, for although the strike leaders are doing everything possible to make the best arrangements under the circumstances, a great number of evicted people makes the task more than they alone can manage. At such times.

CASES OF OVERCROWDING.

Are bound to occur, and on Tuesday afternoon, a visit in the interests of public health was paid to Denaby by Dr MacLean, Deputy Medical Officer to the Doncaster Rural District Council. Dr MacLean had a duty toperform and that was to see that proper sanitary arrangements were furnished in connection with the lodging of the people at the Chapel.

After some consultation with the ministers and others interested, a satisfactory arrangement was arrived at, the ministers undertaking to see to the provision of a cesspool and also to the screening of families in the building.

Dr Maclean’s appearance was in the interests of public health, and should prove a guide to those who may yet have to form environments. Dr MacLean was accompanied, by Mr R G Coles, assistant sanitary inspector, in seeing to these sanitary precautions being made.

Taking everything into consideration the first night was passed in comparative comfort. It was officially stated that sites for the erection of tents had been agreed at Sparrow barracks, Mexborough – a field adjoining the Masons arms, and in Garden Street; that also a number of houses in Kilnhurst had been taken, the rent having been guaranteed for a certain period.


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