Mexborough & Swinton Times – Saturday 04 June 1910
Mr. Witty’s ‘Majority’.
Twenty-one Years at Cadeby.
Praise for Denaby Miners
A Strenuous Life
The workmen and officials of the Cadeby Main Colliery Company are to-day (Saturday) making suitable acknowledgement of the fact that their manager, Mr. Henry Sykes Witty, has completed 21 years’ service in that capacity.
In the Large Hall. Denaby Main, before a crowd similar in size and enthusiasm to that met together on the notable occasion of the marriage gifts to Capt. and Mrs. Pope , he will be presented with an oak time-piece, a gold watch, an illuminated address and a purse of gold, and Mrs. Witty with a beautiful gold chain, the outcome of the employees’ respect and esteem for a kindly official. A few personal particulars concerning this fortunate gentleman who is so high up in the good opinion of his fellows will not, therefore, be out of place.
Several Years Ago.
Mr. Witty was born at Driffield in the East Riding.
“How many years ago?” he said to an interviewer from this office; “Oh, several.” And the “Times” man was as wise as ever. However, be was the son of the late Mr. William Witty, miller and corn merchant, of Driffield, and his mother was a Sykes, of West Ardsley near Leeds. wish that It should t e ita good and Joseph ‘Foulson White. of Wakefield. faithful duties, and my ware asked to give Sin
His apprenticeship concluded, he was associated for some years with Mr. J. O. Greaves, of Wakefield, as assistant manager of the Old Roundwood Collieries, the Parkhill Colliery, the Stanley Colliery, and the Fryston Colliery. In 1880 while he was engaged at the Stanley Colliery ,there was a big explosion of coal dust, involving the deaths of many men, though, fortunately, Mr Witty was not down the pit at the time.
In 1887 he obtained his first class certificate, and in the following year, he was appointed surveyor to the Denaby and Cadeby collieries Ltd, and under manager for the sinking operations at Cadeby, Mr W.H. Chambers then being manager of the two collieries.
On the completion of sinking in 1892, when the Cadeby Colliery was ready for opening out, Mr. Witte was placed in charge of the two pits.That condition of things obtained until 1900, when Mr. Charles Bury came to manage the Denaby Main end, and from that time Mr. Witty has devoted himself exclusively to the Cadeby Colliery, which is one of the finest pits in England, and until recently, perhaps the most up-to-date in the world.
Cadeby Main has been a model for mining engineers from all parts of the coal – mining world, and has rendered the industry a service by leading the way in the direction of scientific method, and up-to-date appliances.
The responsibility attaching to the managership of such a colliery is no light one, and no doubt Mr. Witty has had a very real sense of it. The depth of the Cadeby Colliery is 760 yards. The Ashton Moss Colliery and some of the Continental pits go deeper than this, but this depth is well beyond the average. One of the most interesting features of the colliery is Mr. Chambers’ improvement of Fowler’s ‘hydraulic arrangement for loading and unloading the cage. Under this system the four decks of the cage are loaded or unloaded simultaneously by one operator, and an immense saving of time is affected.
The Colliery has a capacity for the enormous output of 25,000 tons a week, though this is never reached. The average is 15,000, and 18,200 the high water mark.
The Eight Hours’ Act.
Eight hours at reduces the output a good deal, and Mr Witty had a word or two to say about that.
“The Eight Hours’ Act,” he said, “has been a boon to some and a great drawback to others. It has not done the colliery company is any good.”
“From what I understand,” said our man, it has not been an unmixed blessing to the men.” said our man, “That is so. But the lads and the young men feel it the most keenly. They used to be able to earn a little pocket money for themselves by overtime, but their earnings largely go in board and lodgings.”
” I take it that overtime quite voluntary?”
“Oh yes. The men liked the opportunity of earning a little more money. Of course there are some who are content to do just as much as will ensure them an existence, but others are ‘anxious to get all the experience they can.”
Mr. Witty has taken a close interest in two subjects which are closely associated with mining, and are akin to each other – ambulance work and rescue work. He has the rank of superintendent in the second largest ambulance brigade in the No. 5 District, which includes a good slice of England. When he came to Denaby, he enrolled as a member of a class conducted by Dr. Sykes, a distant relative of his. He trained in good earnest, and was one of the original members of the brigade when it was inaugurated in 1896 with about 30 members, and Leeds is the only brigade which is numerically ‘ stronger The present strength of the Denaby Brigade is a hundred. Still, Mr. H. S. Witty thinks there is room for improvement, for it must be remembered that there are 4,320 workmen employed at the Denaby and Cadeby Collieries. It satisfactory to know that the movement is spreading.
Mr. Witty holds strong views about ambulance knowledge, as I soon gathered. In his Wakefield days, it seems, he was a captain in the Yorkshire Light Infantry, then rated as volunteers, and he continued his military connection until 1903, when he resigned after 21 years’ service. “I am not.” he said, “a member of the Territorials, though I sympathise with them. I have taken to ambulance work,” he remarked with a laugh. “I believe more in curing than killing. Still,” he continued, seriously, “I believe there is a serious need for training young men to defend their country. I think everybody ought to be compelled to go through a course of training. I am member of the National Service League, which has for its objects the training of boys at school and the universal training of all young men.”
“That nearly means conscription,” said our man.
“Oh, no, conscription is word we don’t use.”
“I don’t care about conscription. But if we had universal training, every man would do it cheerfully. Knowing that his neighbour was going through it. Now I do believe in a kind of conscription for mining he added, with a twinkle in his eye. Because you see, the attitude of some miners toward It is so obviously selfish. A man will think, if he hasn’t the hardihood to speak his thought: Why should I bother with ambulance work ? If I get hurt. Mr Jones, who knows all about it, will look after me.’ He never reflects that Bill Jones may stand in need of first-aid.”
“During your 2I years’ association with the collieries, you have been free from the larger disasters which have thrilled the country from time to time—such Hamstead, Darrow, and Whitehaven.”
“Yes, we have been happily situated in that respect.”
“I suppose in a well- equipped pit the danger is at a minimum.”
“I don’t know about that. Disasters have occurred in pits which are supposed to be as well equipped as this.”
“You have been through two serious coal strikes; had your share of excitement, I suppose ?”
Praise For The Miners.
” Yes, but the men recognised that I had my duty to do, and that I had nothing to do with their grievances. We were never molested, never locked a door, and I don’t think they bore us much ill-will. You see, I have treated them as men, and I think they treated me as a man. There is no set of colliers that I know—and I know a good many—that has such good traits of character as at Denby. Of course, in such large population, congested as it is, you are bound to get undesirable cliques, but taking them altogether, you will find some of the finest colliers, some of the cleverest workmen at Denaby in the world. And there is less of drinking and gambling here, in proportion to the size of the place, than in most colliery villages.”
“And what about the village itself, concerning which the Southern critics have had so much to say?” The Colliery Company are benefactors in hundreds of ways not generally recognised. Thanks to Mr. Chambers, who knows what is going on and what is required, the Company are enabled to do lots of things for the men, which never appear. They take a very real interest in the social side of the place. and Mr. Pope is always in sympathy with anything tending to the welfare of the community. ”
A Busy Man.
Reverting to Mr. Witty himself, we find he has his social and political aide. In fact he has dozens of social irons in the fire. He is interested in this movement and that movement, and, indeed, apart from his duties at the Colliery, he makes himself a very busy man. He is a Conservative, and his inclinations are Beaconsfleldian. But no one blames him for that. He can’t help it. At any rate, he does not blazon forth his politics from the house-tops. As a matters of fact, he is no orator. He is a Parish Councillor; has been since the Parish Councils’ Act. Likewise he an educationist; represents Denaby on the Board of Governors of the Mexboro’ and District Secondary School; and he is also a manager of the Denaby Non-Provided School, and the Denaby Evening Schools. And there his public duties cease.
“He goes on Sunday to the Church”; has been in the Church choir as long as there has been so highly desirable an institution — about 16 years. His choral experience carries him back to the days of the little chapel at-ease of St. Chad’s. Then he plays the ‘cello in the Denaby Orchestral Society, and was one of the original members who saw the humble beginning of that band of clever musicians.
He has been treasurer of the Cricket Club for some years, and treasurer of the Fullerton Hospital. When the idea of the hospital was first mooted, he was secretary of the movement, which, for some time, remained in abeyance, but was eventually carried through to a triumphant conclusion. “The miners,” he said, “have not ‘ only built their hospital, but are maintaining it. I should think they are the only set of men who have a hospital of their own.”
An “Also Ran.”
Me. Witty was an original member of the ‘Denaby Institute, and also of the Library Committee of the lnstitute, while he was a Director of the Co-operative Society. He used to be an ardent cricketer. Indeed he played in Denaby’s first eleven when they won the championship of the Mexborough and District league about nine years a year before the Whitworth Cup was instituted.
“What was your special department in cricket- were you a batsman he was asked.
“No,” he answered, merrily. “I was one of those chaps who run after the hall when everybody else has missed it—what is known in another branch of port as an ‘ also ran.'”
The Best Game.
His best game on the fields of sport was rifle-shooting. He showed me a foaming tankard won in an inter-club contest, and a massive cup won outright by three championships in the Yorkshire Light Infantry over 30 years ago. This cup has the reputation of a holding capacity measured by thirteen bottles of beer. Mr. Witty was one of the first members of the Denaby Rifle Club, which is one of the leading miniature rifle clubs in Yorkshire, and has been captain for seven years. Last year he resigned the leadership to Mr. Emmet Robinson ‘ but he is still an enthusiast, and • familtar figure on the range. Along with Mr. Barnard, to whom organising work is connection with the club he pays an eloquent tribute, he has represented Yorkshire in an Inter-County shoot with Lancashire, and last year shot regularly under the auspices of the Kelley Cup, which Denaby failed to win by a abort head.
Mr. Witty is a member of the Institute of Mining Engineers. He married the present Mrs. Witty in 1890 at Sheffield, and has taken a very keen interest in the social life of the place. Her special attention has been devoted to the Fullerton Hospital, in aid of which she helps to organise a monstre tea annually, and in the Girls Institute, recently opened by Mrs. Capt. Pope.
Altogether Mr. and Mrs. Witty have spent a busy, useful, and pleasant life in Denaby, and to-day they will be gratified by a general expression of the peoples’ goodwill.