Dispute – The Crisis at Denaby Main Colliery – What is the Cause?

December 1880

Mexborough and Swinton Times, December 24.

The Crisis at Denaby Main Colliery. 

What is the Cause?

The village of Denaby presents quite a contrast to what it did prior to Saturday last. Instead of the great activity which ordinarily prevails on the pit bank, and the usual din of an extensive colliery in motion during the time the thousand men and boys were at their work, the pit is motionless, and groups of men are now to be seen idly lolling about this.

As the present state of affairs has not been brought about by a strike or a lockout, really speaking, the men are not in the receipt of anything from the union, although, as Mr Chapple hinted the other day, some support will be given to them by the miners of the district – that is if there is no possibility of a resumption of work.

The manager of the colliery (Mr Warburton) has kindly promised, on behalf of the owners of the pit, to supply the miners with coal as formerly, i.e. .a ton per month, and this will be some relief to the families. Tuesday was the final “reckoning” day with the men – they receive payment for work done up to Friday last. In reply to the interrogation of many, as to when they would be likely to resume work, they were informed that, so far as could ascertain at present, there was no likelihood of the pit again working for some time.

Not a few of the men have gone to seek work in other colliery districts, leaving their families behind them. They have not all taken their picks along with them, because they are desirous of returning to Denaby when work is resumed, and the management has expressed itself desirous that the men should be in readiness to take their usual work whenever the colliery company are enable to act again to set the pit in motion.

This is because the majority of the miners are old and experienced hands, and knowing the workings of the colliery are far preferable to strangers. It is stated that the railway companies seem to apprehend danger, for they have located policeman at different positions on the line.

The cause of the closing of the pit now assumes a very different phase. On the part of the Manchester, Sheffield, and Lincolnshire Railway Company, it is denied that the recent action by the Colliery Company before the Railway Commissioners has had anything to do with the demand for prepayment for all coal before it is transmitted from the colliery siding.

They statethat the decision of the Commissioners, which was confirmed by the Court of Appeal, is being strictly carried out, and the reason for the late conduct of the railway company is stated as follows:

“The railway company claim from the colliery company a larger balance of account (having no reference to the dispute before the Commissioners). This balance the colliery company declined to pay, and the railway company then felt that they had no alternative, as prudent traders, but to decline to give further credit.

The necessary steps, however, have been taken in carrying out this course, without throwing any difficulties in the way of the working of the colliery business or even imposing any additional cost upon them.

The question as to the disputed account between the two companies is now the subject of an action at law, which will decide which party is in the right, and whilst that matter is subjudice it is better not to make any comments.

It is well known in the district that before any adverse action was taken by the railway company, the owners of the colliery had been applied to by their workmen for an increase of wages, and it is therefore very probable that this question had really more to do with closing the collierythan any difference with the railway company.”

There is no doubt that the closing of this extensive mine will make a difference of some £400 or £500 per week to the shopkeepers at Mexborough, who, of course, are depended in no small degreeto the Denaby people.

We trust, ere the New Year commences some applicable arrangements will be come to, so that the whole of the hands may again be employed.