Great Meeting of Miners from Denaby Main

August 1878

Mexborough Times, August 30.

Denaby Main Colliery

Great Meeting of Miners at Mexborough

The colliers employed at Denaby Main had received due notice to leave their employment. We understand that this step has been taken in view of obtaining a reduction of wages, which was proved correct.

The men therefore resolved to hold a meeting at their Lodge house (the Masons Arms Inn, Doncaster road), and accordingly the town Crier went round Mexborough and district with the announcement that the meeting will be held at 10 o’clock on Monday morning.

Shortly after that hour, but less than 500 miners had assembled in the Croft adjoining the house, and the meeting throughout was characterised by great unanimity and exemplary order.

A miner (whose name we could not ascertain) was voted to the chair. In his opening remarks, the chairman said he was glad to see so many of his fellow workmen present. He did not suppose he need asked them to keep order. No doubt they would do so.

They were aware that when the meeting was projected, a deputation waited on the manager of the colliery on Friday, for the purpose of informing that the men were not working today (Monday) as they wished to hold a meeting, to consider the action that the employers had recently taken in giving the men notice to leave their occupation.

Of course, in consequence of their working three shifts a week, it was impossible to hold a meeting without “playing” a day. The question called for the attendance of every man and boy at that pit and he thought as he looked round, that there were not many absent, and it showed that unionism predominated there.

The manager did not countenance the pit “Playing” a day, as he no doubt thought that the object of the men would be achieved. The deputation merely stated that a meeting was going to be held. On the following day (Saturday) the manager sent word that he wished to see another deputation of the men, and it was thought that something must have unexpectedly arisen to settle their grievance. But no, it was merely to say that if the men played on Monday, such a course would be regarded as commencing hostilities between Masters and men.

He (the speaker) thought that whether that was so or not, it was only right and necessary that they should meet. (Hear, hear) the manager was told that they could not lay the question before of the men, but that all must have an opportunity of discussing it, and coming to some definite decision on it. He was also asked if he was willing to withdraw the notices that have been issued, providing the meeting was not held, but he replied in the negative, and said that a substantial reduction in the wages of the men would be required. This reduction, he (the chairman) might tell them, was equivalent to 27%. (Shame).

If they agree to submit to it, there would be drifted back further than 1858, when 15%, was asked for less than 1871 prices. It was then that their Union was founded, which was organised as a barrier to such oppression. After a lapse of 20 years, through hardshipsofall kinds, it survived today and if they stuck to it, it would stick to them. They were called on to cede a reduction greater than 1858, and it was a question with them whether they intended to submit to it (cries of no, no).

Were they getting a living now, some of them, on their present wages? No, they could not keep themselves respectably on them. If this reduction was ceded to he was afraid their boot soles would wear out and they would have to walk on the upper leathers. (Laughter.) He thought they should move a resolution.

Another miner, then read a resolution which was proposed, seconded, and carried unanimously, to the effect that the men were resolved to resist the proposed reduction to the moors. (Loud cheers, followed the showing of hands).

The chairman said they must bear in mind that the way in which these notices were given, was without precedent at Denaby Main. Theyhad generallyhad notices served on all concerned, but in this instance, only the coal gettershad received them, and for some unexplained reason the fillers and bye workmen had been omitted altogether. It was therefore their duty to consider whether, when the notices expired, the time of the fillers and bye workmen was to expire also.

A Collier said he would propose a resolution that their time should expire with the rest, and if necessary they should cease work like the others. This was carried nem dis.

The chairman said that when the deputation met the manager on Saturday, they took the opportunity to lay the “butty” before him. They felt a jealousy as to the way in which the notices had been served – there was more behind-the-scenes he thought, than had come to the surface. He was sorry to tell them that the manager did not say he would not carry the “butty” system out. (Shame). They were well aware that the “butty” man squeezed the very lifeblood out of the collieries, and oppressed them in many ways. A man could not handlehis ownmoney, and got paid at the office like another man, but the “butty” man had all in his power.

It was thorough serfdom which ought to be out of existence at the present day. “Hear, hear.” It was shameful that such a system should be allowed in South Yorkshire.

After further speeches it was arranged to all another meeting on Monday next, at 10 o’clock, and vote of thanks to the chairman and been given, the proceedings terminated.

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