Dispute – State of Affairs at Denaby – 800 hands under notice.

December 1880

Mexborough and Swinton Times, December 10.

The State of Affairs at Denaby Main Colliery.

800 hands under notice.

Our readers will doubtless already have learnt with astonishment and regret that a notice was posted up at the Denaby Main Colliery last Saturday, giving the whole of the men and boys employed there – about 800 number – a fortnight’s notice.

Such an announcement could not fail to cause considerable surprise, because it is well-known that at the present time the coal trade is good, a better price is in some classes of fuel has been obtained, and more men been employed.

It is freely reports that notice has been given to the men owing to the M.S.and L. Railway company, and intimated that they will close their ledger account with the Colliery Company, and that they would have to pay for everything before it left the pit yard.

We are not able to vouch for the above, but give it for what it is worth

Yesterday week, a meeting of the men employed at the colliery was held – and then they had not the remotest idea of what was shortly to take place – the subject been to consider the advisability of sending a deputation to the manager (Mr Walton) to ask for the return of 5% conceded to the owners some 16 months ago.

Mr Chapple, secretary to the Miners Association, and Mr Hall, the treasurer both addressed the men. Mr Chapple, in his remarks, said he thought they were perfectly in order in asking the orders for an improved rate of wages. Viewing the question from a general standpoint, he held that the improved demand for coal and higher prices charged and received was one reason why their prices should be increased. This opinion was based upon the statement of such gentlemen as Mr Chamberlain, M.P., whose remarks on the point at issue had not been contradicted.

Some of the owners in the district spoke in a favourable tone on the subject. Mr Frith and himself had written to the Vice president of the Owners Association asking him to call a meeting of the owners, at which the request of the men might be verbally laid before them. A reply and not yet been received.

Coming to the question which more immediately concerned at Denaby Main, he thought neither the owners nor their manager, Mr Warburton, would find any fault with them for making application for the return of 5%, which was conceded by them until the improvement in trade made its appearance.

He (Mr Chapple) had been present once or twice when this request had been made; but on each occasion the evidence of improvement and reset chain was against them and therefore he recommended the men to wait patiently until improvement was such as would justify a renewed application for the concession to be returned. He thought the time at home. Mr Warburton was a gentleman on whose word. They could rely, and it was no secret that promise was made after the return of this 5%.

Mr Chapple then referred to the victory which have been achieved over the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway Company. The decision of the Railway Commissioners had been confirmed by the Queens Bench, and the decision of the Queens Bench had been confirmed by the Court of Appeal. (Hear, hear).

It was thought now that the company would reap the benefits of this victory, and that the men also would get their request for the 5% to be returned. Evidence was given before the Commissioners by parties who never ought to appeared there against the Denaby Company.

It was said that deep mines were not more costly to work than those which were not so deep. This was a statement was as far from fact as was light from darkness.

Mr Chapple then recommended the meeting to choose a deputation to see Mr Warburton the question, which I brought them together. It was unanimously decided that Messrs Cooper, Asbury, Dixon, Venables, and Blunt, along with Mr Chapple, should constitute the deputation to the manager.

On Monday, they met Mr Warburton and explained the subject of their visit, the result of which a contemporary reports are as follows:

“The manager informed the deputation that the reason the men had received a fortnight notice was owing to the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway Company “acting awkward” to the owners of the colliery, on account of the recent action taken by them against the railway company. They had sent a letter to the colliery owners stating that they would close their ledger account with them, and they would have to pay for everything which went by rail before it left the pit yard. Mr Warburton, explained that the colliery company could not do this, and they gave the men notice, because of the Railway Company were determined in what they had said they would have to set the pit down. He held out hopes that, if the railway company would not do was stated, the men should receive the 5%.”

If what is reported be correct, it is not to be wondered at that the employees should have great fears that at the expiry of the 14 days notice they will be thrown out of work. It is to be earnestly hoped that this will not be the result of the dispute, for the Colliers have been through sufficiently trying times already. Mr Chapple writes to the editor of the Sheffield Telegraph on the matter. He says:

“Your readers will remember that the Denaby Main Company and be making an appeal to the Railway Commissioners against excessive and unlawful preferences given by the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway Company to collieries over and to the disadvantage of the Denaby Main Company. The Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Company, not satisfy with a decision of the Commissioners, asked the Court of Appealed to reverse the Commissioners verdict, but this was refused because the weight of evidence was against them.

Now, what are the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Company doing? To revenge themselves upon the Denaby Main Company they have issued notice to say that they will not remove any more coal from their siding until paid for. This is simply an impossibility – a thing impracticable. I have not the least doubt that they, the Denaby Main Company, will do anything within reasonable bounds of possibility, but here, sir, is a proposal – nay, sir, a deed and action, with the best qualification its authors can offer, the most contemptible and censurable.

The action itself is a very incarnation of petty spite and revenge, a manifested disposition to set all authority had defiance, and one that all true English businessman would score to be guilty of.

One of your Sheffield magistrates once told a number of our colliers “that they were not bred for societies;” but, sir, if men’s deeds are characteristic of their breed, the action we have now just cause to complain of is very demonstrative and remarkably suggestive.

We have 800 men and boys employed at this colliery, consequently, we are 3000 war depended on what is brought from this colliery by way of wages, and what have either these of their employers done to merit this treatment.

The Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Company have been interpreting the “law” to suit their own selfish ends. The “Denaby Main” thought that somewhat was wrong from their own view of the “law” and in order to be put right on the point, they go to the Railway Commissioners and explain their case. The Manchester, Sheffield and linking to Company tried their best to give a different colour into their statement; but the board say the Denaby Main Company are right, and the highest Court of the land says the same; but in order to frustrate the Court of Appeal they give notice of their vindictive intentions.

If the Denaby Main Company were not solvent, and the Railway Company. I’d just cause to believe this, it would be another matter; but they have no ground for such suspicion; hence our right to speak and give vent to our just indignation against this unmanly act.

For 3000 souls to be flung upon the verge of starvation through an impracticable proposal, made because the Railway Company can have its own way of explaining and applying the law, which says what is to be done under a certain condition of things, is something calculated to raise the voice of those who are disposed to be still.”