The “Bag Dirt” Strike – Mass Meeting

July 1902

Mexborough and Swinton Times July 4th 1902

Mass Meeting

By the stoppages of wages on Saturday last the men were roused to active measures, and on Sunday forenoon a mass meeting was held in the field adjoining the Station Hotel, Conisbrough. There was a large attendance of the men employed at both collieries. The following resolution, proposed and seconded from the body of the meeting, was unanimously adopted:

“That this meeting is of the opinion that the time has now arrived when some steps should be taken with reference to the deductions from men’s wages for “bag dirt” and fines for different things at Denaby and Cadeby Collieries; seeing that we have tried all in our power to come to some amicable understanding and, failed, the only thing that is left for us to do is to stop the wheels at both collieries.”

It was also agreed that the resolution should forthwith take effect, and those present at the meeting were requested to inform others who had not attended that the pits were to be set down until some arrangement was arrived at. Both before and after the resolution was adopted, there were some speeches.

Mr. F. Croft (the Chairman of the Denaby Branch of the Yorkshire Miners Association) said that whatever the Cadeby men did in the matter, the Denaby men were prepared to do the same. It was hard lines when a matter of £3 12s. was knocked off the wages of four men. Referring to the recent reduction of 10 percent, he said the wages question was one-sided. When Judge Ellison was the arbitrator for South Yorkshire, and decided in favour of a 10 percent advance for the men, the masters broke away from it. The men now ought to break away from the recent arbitration decision, and say they would not stand it. The wages were low enough now with 60 percent on. In regard to the “bag dirt” question, he urged them to be all united; if the coal-owners had their millions, they had not the labour. He hoped they would be prepared if ever it came to a fight.—The next speaker was Mr. Henry Humphries, one of the officials of the Cadeby branch. He said he had always contended that the miners had nothing to do with the “bag dirt”, neither in getting it down or removing it, because it was not on the price list. Some years ago, when the price list was formed, the “bag dirt” was not so thick as it is now, neither was it so hard to get down. After reminding his hearers that the men in the drift district at Denaby pit were the worst affected, the speaker said each miner at the two pits should made the case his own. It was the principle of every Union man that what was one man’s grievance should be every man’s grievance.

Mr. John Nolan Denaby delegate, said the matter had been bothering them for the last two years, and they had not been able to get one jot nearer a solution than when they first commenced. When the case was before the County Court, five judge, although he gave the verdict to the colliery company on a point of raw, said he believed the time had arrived when something ought to be done by way of a fresh price list for this thick “bag dirt”. At that time there were only about fourteen or fifteen places affected, but now there were 26 places in some of which the “bag,dirt” was from twenty to forty inches thick. It was not merely a question for the men who had to contend with the “bag dirt”; he wanted it to be a question for all the men. The only thing he wanted was a fair day’s wage for a fair day’s work. If the men at both pits were only united in one gigantic body, they would be better off.

Mr. G. H. Hirst (Cadeby checkweighman), in the course of his remarks, referred to the recent reduction of 10 per cent in the wages, and said, in his opinion, they ought not to have given way to the reduction. In Northumberland and Durham the wages had gone down very seriously, and the Yorkshire coalowners said they could not compete in the same market with the present wages, but they did not say anything about the enormous prices they obtained in 1900. The best thing they could do was to organise and send into Northumberland and Durham, and get them to join the federation. If the miners of the other counties were in the Federation, there was no doubt the control of the selling price of coal would be in the hands of the working-classes. He believed the time had now arrived when they ought to drop the Eight Hours Bill. That was the only thing, in his opinion, that was keeping the Northumberland and Durham men out of the Federation. Speaking of the subject in dispute, he said there was practically no “bag dirt” at Cadeby, but at the same time he thought “bag dirt” ought to be paid for however small it might be. The time might come when the “bag dirt” at Cadeby would increase and become as thick at Cadeby as it is at Denaby, and now was the time to strike the iron while it was hot. The present system was not, in his opinion, a fair way of doing business. In the concluding part of his speech.

Mr. Hirst spoke of stoppages from wages for different things at Cadeby Colliery and gave instances of cases in which, after investigation by the men’s officials, it was found that the amount of stoppage had been too much.

At the end of the meeting a collection was taken for the benefit of two men who formerly worked at the collieries, but who are now “victimised.”