The Denaby Main Miners and the Alleged Robbery of Coal.

January 1879

Mexborough, and Swinton Times January 24.

The Denaby Main Miners and the Alleged Robbery of Coal.

Richard Walton and his wife and Francis Baker and his wife, were charged with stealing a quantity of coal value 2s 6d, the property of the Denaby Main Coal Company, at Denaby, on the ninth inst

Mr Parker, of Barnsley, on behalf of Messrs Badger, roams and coal, Rotherham, prosecute, and Mr W.J.Clegg, Sheffield, defended.

The case, having been called off, it was agreed that the men only should be charged with the offence, as by law the husband was held responsible for the acts of the wife, he being cognisant of her proceedings at the time.

Mr Parker then said: I appear on behalf of the Denaby Main Colliery Company. The facts of the case are shortly these: on the ninth inst, some time previously, the men at this colliery had been out on strike.

Mr Clegg: I object to that.

Mr Parker: I don’t know what you object to.

Mr. Clegg: because they were not on strike; they were turned out.

Mr Parker: at any rate at that time the colliery was not working, and therefore these persons had no business about the premises, will stop during the time that it was close. The Company suffered seriously from the amount of coal and timber that was extracted from the premises, and from the property in the yard, and the property that was broken down.

Mr Clegg: I protest against this will stop we are charged with stealing call, and unless Mr Parker prepared to a broken down fences and stolen timber, you’re not to mention it, I think you will say so Sir?

The Chairman: it is a simple case of larceny, so that.

Mr Parker, in consequence of what took place the Company put on certain people to watch the property.

On the day in question about two o’clock in the afternoon, about 150 men, women and children were seen at the Colliery helping themselves to coal, amongst them being the two defendants and their wives. Waltonhad a bag of coal,, and his wife had a shovel and two buckets. Baker likewise had two boxes full of slack, and his wife also had a shovel. They were told by the bank manager that they had no business to take the call away, and they were told to put it back. Walton said they should not. (Walton: I did not sir). Baker asked the question “cannot we take this here?” But they were told they could not, and they were to empty the coal out. The wives were rather violent, and threatened what they would do with the shovels. The company wished to put a stop to the taking away of coal by those people without leave or license. It is quite true that when the men are at work they are allowed a certain amount of coal at 1s 6d a ton, and also in special cases when they are ill, or something of the kind when they get an order, and coal is allowed in the same way. Because that is the case that is not to say that they can be allowed to take it when they have no right.

Mr Clegg: if you like, I’ll put it in this way; I don’t for a moment dispute that we were there, and that we took this coal, but it was on the morning that the dispute was settled, and the men were going to work. They were in the habit of having this much given to them when they were at work and they thought that when the dispute was settled they will be at liberty to take the coal again. They did not go for it in the dark, but in the middle of the day, and as soon as they were told they were not to have it Baker emptied his out. They may have been wrong in going and they have done it whether they were right in their supposition or not. They have never denied it, believing as the dispute was settled they were entitled to the coal and that could not be felony.

The Chairman: Do I understand they were on the premises for commencing work?

Mr Clegg: Yes, it was on the day the dispute was settled. We are sorry we did wrong, but as to committing a felony, we dispute that entirely. We are quite prepared to pay the costs, and express our regret, because the most that can be said is that we have made a mistake.

Mr Parker: there cannot be any mistake here, because this is no ordinary case. They were there as body for the purpose of taking coal many apparently whether they were permitted are not.

The Chairman (to Mr Parker) Mr Clegg’s offer is to pay the costs. They convict themselves by the offer to pay the costs.

Mr Clegg: I did not. I say we believe we had the right. We may be wrong in that, but if we believe we have the right, however erroneous it may have been it cannot be a felony.

Mr Parker: if it had been as my friend says, I dare say no proceeding would have been taken: but the company feel it to be otherwise. A great amount of difficulty has been experienced from the conduct of the men. I am instructed to say so far as this, that if the men would remove from the district and go out of the premises altogether, the Company would not press the case against them.

Mr Clegg: suppose these men will undertake to leave the country, and go to America, Canada, or anywhere else; these men who are anxious about the laws of the country, will agree on their own admission to compromise a felony, we shall not do anything of the kind.

Mr Parker: I do not know that they will compromise the felony, any more than by adopting the proceedings you have already said they would be willing to do. That appears to be as much like compound in a felony as the other.

Mr Clegg: I do not say we have committed a felony. No. We┬┤ll neither go to America or Canada or anywhere else.

The Chairman: in this case we don’t of course, as a bench, offer any recommendation; but I think it would be very desirable if you two gentlemen could agree to settle it. It would be better than sending this case to a jury, and we certainly should do. We think you should endeavour to talk it over together; and we should be happy to adjourn the courtfor a short time to give you the chance of doing anything in the matter. We don’t recommend anything whatever, as a bench, but considering the merits of the case will be very desirable if the case was settled.

Mr Parker: after that observation from your worships. I would suggest perhaps instead of adjourning for a short time, you should adjourn the case for a fortnight. Then I could in the meantime,confer with the company as to what they would do. So far as I’m instructed at present I am asked to press the case.

The Chairman (to Mr Clegg): do you see any objection to an adjournment?

Mr Clegg: I think my friends suggestion a very wise one.

Mr Parker: in that case perhaps your worships would say the case stands adjourned for a fortnight.

The Chairman: Well, then we do adjourn it.

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