Sheffield Daily Telegraph – Thursday 31 December 1931
Don and Dearne Valleys
Upward Tendency of Trade
In this mainly coal mining region the past year, if it has not run to ruin, it has pursued a generally disappointing course, and substantiated, unfortunately, the statement, “Prospects none too bright,” with which the reflections of this area were headed twelve months ago.
Now, near the dawn of another year, the new-born hope of economic improvement, animated and strengthened by the country’s mandate for action for the balancing of national trade, warrants the more optimistic expectation of beneficial advance towards the great recovery, which remains in the forefront a vital need and objective.
Of the past year it may be said that its most pleasing feature was the harmonious-and unbroken co-operation of employers and employees in production unity to the limit of opportunity. But this, notwithstanding, the difficulties encountered were many and the finely equipped collieries, Denaby and Cadeby, Manvers Main, Wath Main, Hickleton Main, and Kilnhurst, shared in adversities beyond local control.
Indeed, so far as this area (and South Yorkshire) was concerned the operation of the Coal Mines Act, 1930, brought material gain, and the regulation of coal output meant that the district collieries worked on an average only about 4 ½ days per week.
Local collieries were hit too by the cessation of the export subsidy. This cut them off from a market which had taken the greater part of their output and compelled them to seek an outlet in the inland market, which was flooded by tonnage in the critical period prior to fixation of minimum prices, causing the market value of certain qualities b fall away considerably.
Values of coke, benzol, ammonia, and other by-products of coking plants, and wagon earnings suffered likewise. Yet colliery managements kept pits equipped to efficiency and working conditions to the regular good standard.
A Promising Outlook.
With the surety of a stable Government, pledged to practical and scientific recourses, confidence is quickened with the consciousness that everything possible will be done to bring new era profitable, trade and resultant prosperity. Following the General Election there is already a slight upward tendency in the coal trade, and a likelihood that the coming year will prove more favourable than its immediate predecessors. The starting of more blast furnaces, for instance, is an encouraging sign and the collieries of this area are anticipating sharing the natural evolution of benefit with the pending improvement of all trades, which seems reasonably in prospect.
The unemployed who have lost most by want of work stand to gain most by the increase of productions of the homeland, and many of the district miners and others who have lost their former good jobs,” are looking forward eagerly to possible signing on again.
To the thousands of boys and girls, who arrive annually at school leaving age and who find difficulties in entering useful careers, an increased demand for labour and service in many directions will mean much, and it is true to say that locally youthful desire for better times is as keen as that of their elders.
The building of Council houses continues, but likely to be checked by the requirements of economy, and this, of course, will have an effect upon the building trade. Industrial depression of recent years has brought to the housing schemes of the urban districts another the many problems in need of solution.
Council housing debts remain a tremendous amount, and the position is the more difficult because the considerable rent arrears reflect the economic stress prevailing. This is of grave concern to local governing authorities, who cannot meet the repeated appeals for reduced rents and rates until they are relieved some measure of present loan repayment obligations, which, in existing circumstances, does not look probable for some time yet.
Councils, however, are doing their best, and at Mexborough new houses are being provided at an astonishingly low figure compared with the great expense of many of their forerunners.
For a long time past British bottle making has been heavily handicapped by foreign competition and the lack of protection has been felt severely in this region. In the struggle formerly flourishing glass works at Mexborough have succumbed and the town has lost benefits of production. At Conisborough and Swinton the surviving works found the past year accentuated with difficulties, and the wet weather of the summer also had an adverse effect on trade.
The position, locally, is reflected the report of Messrs. Kilner Bros., Ltd., glass bottle manufacturers, Conisborough, who state:— “We can hardly look back upon the trade of the past year with any great deal of satisfaction. The general depression of the whole of the industries this country, with the few exceptions of those having the aid of protection, has meant that we in our turn have felt the general depression. The only sense of satisfaction that we feel is that of what little trade there was to be done during the past twelve months as compared with the previous years, we can claim to have obtained our share and held our own on the market.
”As what we consider the main obstacles to good trade in the past few years have now been removed, we are looking forward to next year with great hopes of big improvements. To a certain extent there are stirrings the market which show that our optimism is well substantiated, and although possibly shall not feel practical benefits until after the turn of the old year, are hoping very confidently that the middle of 1932 will see us working to the extent we have not enjoyed for some years past.”
Messrs. Dale. Brown, and Co., Ltd., the glass bottle manufacturers of Swinton, have had, in common with others, a year short of fulfilling requirements, but after bad season they are looking forward to brighter experience. Apart from the general industrial depression, a recent adverse influence on glass bottle making is the extra duty on beer. This has caused a considerable slump in sales of liquor and reduced breweries, after full time production tor years, to outputs of three or fours days a week, and consequently the demand for bottles in this direction is suffering correspondingly.
Yet the renewed optimism, taking everything into consideration, seems justified.
The Building Trade.
The building trade has been increasingly dependent upon public works, and private enterprise building has been further reduced owing to the depressed state of trade in industry.
The Yorkshire Amalgamated Products, Ltd., reports: On the brick side of our business we have succeeded, despite the depression, in substantially increasing the sales of our Stairfoot, Conisborough, and Askern facing and engineering bricks. The sand and gravel side of the business has been depressed owing to the overcrowding of the market by the opening of a number of new quarries, which have resulted in severe price cutting, so that in some cases these materials have been sold below pre-war price.
”As regards the coming year, the industrial prospect is definitely brighter, and if British industry obtains reasonable protection we may look forward to a revival of factory and commercial building. It may, however, be that the drastic need >f economy will lead to a cutting down of municipal and public works, which will take place before the revival of industry has any pronounced effect upon building operations.
” In this case the building trade will have to face a period of slackness, which shall hope will be only of a temporary character.”
Grates and Fire Ranges.
The works of the Queen’s Foundry, Swinton (Hattersley Bros., Ltd.), have been fully employed practically throughout this year. The various sections continue to grow and more employees are engaged compared with the previous year. Unfortunately competition has been keen, with the consequent reflection on selling prices. Yet progress has been made generally, particularly in electric cookers and fires .and also in the engineering section with gas fired thermostatically controlled heating boilers. These are proving of great interest to heating engineers and gas companies. Many
batteries of boilers have been fixed in recent buildings throughout the country and the trade of the firm in combination fireplaces, “Swinton” productions, arc in continual demand. The year 1931 has had its difficulties, but with the greater confidence now prevailing throughout the country the firm is looking forward to 1932 optimistically, with the feeling that better times are ahead, in every way, for all.
“A Happy New Year.”
To conclude, the great annual wish, “A Happy New Year,” is more than usually appropriate after the trials and tribulations of the old. The calm courage with which the people of this area have faced adversities warrants the assertion that they have the constancy to work whole-heartedly for the furtherance of the common weal on the new phases of life, national and local, to come.
And so, let us look ahead.