Miners Welfare – 4 The Opening and Speeches (picture)

September 1924

Billiards and Snooker Room


The Opening and Speeches

The ceremony on Saturday was proceeded by a private luncheon in the lecture room, at which we understand, speeches were made by Mr. H. C. Harrison, general manager of the collieries and chairman of the local Welfare Committee and Trustees, Major J. H. Leslie, managing director of the collieries , Mr. Arthur Roberts, secretary of the trustees. Mr. Tom Hill, County Councillor G. Probert ( Goldthorpe), Mr. Tom Williams, M.P., Mr. A. E. Berry, Chairman of the Conisbrough Urban Council, and others.

The proceedings in front of the building were unfortunately interrupted by a heavy rainstorm, which occurred while Mr. W. H. Chambers was addressing the gathering, the speech-making being broken off and concluded indoors. There would be well over a thousand persons present when Mr. Herbert Smith opened the doors of The Institute from within and spoke from the steps.

A Permanent Fund.

Mr. Smith announced that the Miners’ Welfare Fund, which had had so beneficial an effect on mining districts all over the country, was to go on. The colliery owners and the miners were perfectly agreed about that, and were determined that this fund should continue whether Tory, Liberal, or a Socialist Government was in power.

With regard to administration of the Fund, he thought it would be an excellent thing if room could be found on the various committees, not only for colliery owners and miners, but for the wives of the colliery owners and the wives of the miners. It was essential that the fund should be administrated by people who knew all about the coal industry, and were familiar with the conditions and requirements of the mining districts. He did not think that those who lived in the west and of London were very well qualified to say what ought to be done for the betterment of those districts. With regard to the product of the Fund, which is based on a levy of a penny a ton on coal output, Mr. Smith said he had hoped that at the end of the experimental period of five years, the fund would have yielded 5 ½ million pounds, or half a million more than the estimate. They were going on very well toward that total when the recent industrial depression checked them. ‘Of course,’ said Mr. Smith ‘if we cannot get trade, we cannot get output.’ Eighty per cent of the fund was applied to local purposes and the remaining 20 per cent to such national purposes as mining research, health, and education.

Need For Mining Research.

With regard to mining research, he personally was of opinion that the Government should become entirely responsible for this, but he was not willing to wait to see whether the Government would do its duty. He wanted something done at once, because the need was urgent and in saying that he did not intend to disparage the high technical skill of the men now engaged in managing the mines, but everybody who knew anything about mines would agree there was a constantly increasing need to grapple with the problem of making the pits safer and more productive.

The Miners’ Welfare Committee set out to spend half-a-million on mining research, and had already spent £136,911. Mr. Smith appealed to the miners, and particularly to parents, to take up the cause of education, especially mining education, with enthusiasm, and to take advantage of the new opportunities and facilities opened out for children in mining areas, not only to become skilled in mining, but to acquire a good general education. It was one of the aims of this Fund to give poor children a chance to make the best of what was in them. So far £450,000 had been allotted to mining education, and Yorkshire’s share of that fund was about £76,000. In dealing with education they had varied the usual method of apportioning the money, because they considered it fairer to base the benefit on population rather than on output, and the smaller coalfields and more remote villages would be treated equally with the larger centres.

Although the Miners’ Welfare Committee were ready to spend a good deal on education, it must be understood that this was supplementary to what was being done normally by the Government and the local authorities. If they detected any attempt to use these Miners’ Welfare grants to economise in other directions by reducing scholarships they would ‘stop the tap’ at once. Going on to speak of recreation, Mr. Smith said that very large sums indeed had been allotted for this purpose, and quite rightly, for recreation was a prime necessity to a toiling people. He was very glad o see that liberal provision was made for such games as lawn tennis. ‘Only the other day,’ said Mr. Smith, ‘I challenged one of the colliery owners to a tennis match, and offered to get three miners’ wives to play three colliery owners’ wives. I can tell you our Sally looks as well on a tennis court as the Queen would.’ He saw no reason why miners and their families should not take up lawn tennis equally with other people.

Referring to the Institute which he was about to open, Mr. Smith said he would like to remind them that it was their own property. They were not only shareholders, but directors, and it was their duty as well as their privilege to see that the Institute was not abused, and that it was preserved from damage and depreciation. He hoped they would use to the full all the facilities for recreation, for study, and for general entertainment that it offered them.

Convalescent Homes and Pensions.

Mr Smith said that South Wales had given a very important lead by utilising large sums from the Fund for the provision of convalescent homes. That was a direction in which he would like to see the Fund applied increasingly, and he hoped Yorkshire would not be satisfied with one convalescent home, but would put up at least two, where miners or sickness, could be quickly restored to health. He wanted £300,000 from the Fund for that work in their area, but in the meantime, until they could provide suitable buildings of their own, he hoped the money would be invested and the interest applied to sending ailing people away to places where they could rest and recover.

He wanted to take opportunity of acknowledging the splendid work that had been done all over the country in the way of administration. When they considered that local Welfare Committee had had the handling of £300,000, and that the expenses of administration amounted to only £15,000, they would get some idea of the vast amount of free and voluntary work that had been given in order that the mining communities might get the full benefit of this Fund. It was splendid work, splendidly done, and he hoped the local committee would have their reward in the permanent evidence of beneficial results from the Fund.

One of the reasons why he was very keen to have this Fund made a permanent feature of the coal industry was that he hoped to see large sums appropriated from it for the provision of pensions for aged and disabled miners. He saw no reason why the miner should have to live overtime to get a pension. He wanted some of this money to assure the old people that they could finish their a direction I which the royalty owners could help, and they certainly ought to supplement the fund and make some acknowledgment of their obligations to the toiling people from whose industry they derived so much financial benefit. He was very proud to have been deputed to open that magnificent building. He urged them to use it and to take care of it, and he was confident that it would be a source of great blessing to them.

A Lost Opportunity Recovered.

Mr. W. H. Chambers, a former managing director of the Denaby and Cadeby Collieries, said he was very glad and proud to see that building provided and opened for the use of the district to whose interests he had been devoted for half a century. He was irresistibly reminded of a former attempt to provide an institute for Denaby Main. When he came to Denaby he realised at once the need for a centre which everybody might meet on a level and co-operate with one another in promoting the social and recreative life of the place, and it did not take him long to set about the task of providing such a centre. They began with a little reading room near the Crossing, and from this they started the Annerley Street Institute. But these were only instalments of what he considered they really required, and he approached the directors with a scheme. He found them not only interested but enthusiastic, and the late Mr. Buckingham Pope, then chairman of the Company, was perfectly ready at that time to provide an institute at a cost of £10,000.

Such a building would have furnished handsomely all the requirements of Denaby in that way. The scheme, however, broke down, because the Company wisely stipulated that the men should have a definite stake in the affair, even if a nominal one, and they invited the workmen to subscribe £200 in £1 shares. The intention from the first was that the Institute should be handed over to the men for their custody and management. Unhappily, only 36 men took up this offer, and they subscribed £48 14s. 6d., so that the scheme broke down. He was glad and proud to think that the times had changed, that there was a different outlook, to-day and men were anxious to get out of the old sordid groove and live a fuller life. He congratulated the miners and the Welfare Committee on the culmination of this very fine scheme.

The New Chairman.

Major G. H. Peake, of Bawtry Hall, speaking for the first time as Chairman of the Denaby and Cadeby Colliers, Ltd., said he was immensely pleased at the success of their Welfare Scheme, which was surely one of the best that had been launched under the auspices of that Fund. He was quite sure the ‘Welfare’ money had nowhere been spent better than at Denaby and Cadeby. As Chairman of the Company, he wished the Institute every success, and hoped it would be a great asset to the district. O long as he was Chairman, he would watch with the greatest interest and solicitude everything that was done in this Institute for the welfare of the people. He congratulated the local committee on their vision and on the precision and ingenuity with which their ideas had been carried out. It was a magnificent building, and he had never seen anything better of its kind. It was ideally situated, overlooking the whole of the playing fields, with every kind of facility for recreation. He earnestly hoped that the fullest possible advantage would be taken of it.

Tribute to Mr. Chambers.

He would like to take that opportunity – the first he had had since becoming Chairman – of paying a tribute to the creative genius of Mr. W. H. Chambers, who was with them today and had assisted the ceremony. When he (Major Peake) was asked to become Chairman of the Company he hesitated for a long time. It was not a light thing to have to preside over so vast a concern, which not only had collieries, but various ramifications, such as houses, brickworks, gas, water, and so on. He felt it was a responsibility he could hardly face. What decided him the kind offer of Mr. Chambers to advise him and to give him the benefit of his almost unique experience. He hoped that under the new regime the collieries and all who depended upon them would prosper and progress. They had lately opened a new scam of coal, and were hoping to increase their output very materially. They had arranged a scheme, and were striving in every direction to increase so far as they could ensure it by enterprise and foresight.

Goodwill the Only Hope.

His whole idea as Chairman of the Company and as one interested in industry generally, was that employers and workmen should get as close together as they could, and work with sympathy and a more intelligent understanding of each other’s difficulties than had been the rule in the past. ‘This old country,’ he said, ‘is going through a very difficult time at the moment. Although at Denaby, during the last few months we have worked fairly well, many districts have not been so successful or so fortunate, and it is. I am afraid, undoubtedly a fact that the country is not in a very prosperous condition at present.

Here at Denaby we shall try our utmost to make our concern as prosperous as possible, and we shall meet every difficulty in a spirit of optimism and determination. But we shall not succeed in this unless we pull together, employers and workmen alike, making a common effort for the common benefit. And that principle must obtain not only here but all over the country if we are to retain our international position and overcome the difficulties which have been bequeathed to us by the dreadful war.’ He wished success to the Denaby and Cadeby Institute and everybody connected with it.

The Institute was thronged by a dense crowd of members and visitors throughout the evening, and various attractions were provided for their entertainment, including a swimming gala, and exhibition of billiards, and a dance.

The Swimming Gala.

The great event of the evening was the swimming gala, kindly arranged at the request of the local committee by Mr. H. Dixon, jun., of Sheffield, secretary of the Croft House Swimming Club. The bath side was packed almost to suffocation with spectators, and the programme was followed with the greatest interest. The arrangements for the gala were made by Mr. Dixon, in conjunction with Mr. Sam Blatherwick, the famous Sheffield swimmer, and the Croft House Swimming Club supplied teams both of ladies and gentlemen. Mr. R. Flint, English breast-stroke champion, swam four length in 1 minute, 32 1-5 seconds, and the Croft House Swimming Club are prepared to give a gold medal to the first swimmer from the Denaby district who beats this time.

The fastest time done in the sprinting events was by Mr. B. Outram, who swam two lengths (180 feet) in 34 seconds, using the American crawl. Mr. Blatherwick gave an exhibition, as did his little son, aged nine, and Miss Gladys Dyson, of the Sheffield Ladies’ Swimming Club. There were two handicap events for polo players, and these were followed by an interesting polo match between two teams from Croft House, the game being drawn, 2-2. An exhibition of diving was given by Mr. E. Walmsley, of Sheffield, who was an England representative at the Olympic Games Antwerp, 1920. Mr. Walmsley deputised for Mr. A. O. Flint who had been expected, but did not appear. Finally, there was a very interesting exhibition of life-saving be members of the Sheffield Ladies’ Club.

Mr. Dixon, interviewed after the gala, had one or two interesting comments and criticisms to make on the swimming bath. He said he regarded it as a splendid bath for the purposes for which it was designed and provided, but there were one or two defects from the point of view of championship and competitive swimming. The floor of the bath ought to be ‘lined out’ for the guidance of fast swimmers engaged in racing or in practice, and that should be a centre line for polo matches. The dressing accommodation is excellent, and taken all round the baths are a fine piece of work and offer splendid facilities for swimming instruction and exercise.