Home Industry and Commerce Mining Leader’s Faith in Miners – Canteen Opened at Dearne Valley Colliery

Leader’s Faith in Miners – Canteen Opened at Dearne Valley Colliery

August 1942

Mexborough & Swinton Times – Saturday 01 August 1942

Leader’s Faith in Miners

Canteen Opened at Dearne Valley Colliery

A group at the opening on Wednesday of the Dearne Valley Colliery pithead canteen. The opener, Mr. F. J. F. Curtis, chairman of the company, is in the centre.

“The miners throughout the country are anxious to see vindicated those principles of freedom, progress and democracy for which our men are fighting, and I am certain the nation can rely on the miners to give their best at this critical time in the nation’s history,” said Mr. W. E. Jones, J.P., general secretary of the Yorkshire Mineworkers’ Association at the opening of a pithead canteen at Dearne Valley Colliery on Wednesday.

The opening ceremony was performed by Mr F. J. F. Curtis, of Leeds, chairman of the directors, who-used a key presented to him by the architect, Mr. C. A. Broadhead. Among those present were Mr. 0. S. Hopkins (vice-chairman), Mr. S. G. Shaw (general manager and secretary), Mr. W. A. Bates (Organiser of the Miners Welfare Commission), Mr. H. G. Moseley (for the divisional architect), Mr. J. Worthington (agent and manager), Mr. E. Cutts (contractor). Mr. V. C. Chadwick (caterer), Mr. T. M. Bestwick (Dearne Valley Water Board). Mr. H. C. Goodyear, members of the canteen committee, of which Mr. J. Worthington  is chairman, and members of the staff.

The new canteen is a single storey building in brick, with accommodation for 64, providing a full service of hot meals for the whole of the 600 employees. Cosy and, compact, and provided with standard equipment, including pans for preparing fish and potato suppers, it has cost about £2500. To a large extent concrete has been used in place of timber, but appearances have not been sacrificed to “austerity.” The builders, Messrs. E. Cutts, Ltd., of Barnsley, have been warmly complimented on the artistic design and appearance of the building.

The new canteen supersedes an emergency “snack” service which has been in operation for twelve months. To mark the opening the whole of the employees were given a free meal.

As the guests assembled for the opening ceremony a detachment of the Home Guard lined up at the entrance and presented arms as the Union Jack was hoisted on the building. The Company is commanded by the , agent and manager. Major J. Worthington. Mr. A. Atkinson, branch secretary, was unable to be present through illness, and there was also an apology from Mr. K. W. Musgrave, a director.

Pleasantly Surprised.

Opening the building, Mr: Curtis said Mr. Shaw had kept him posted with the progress of the work, but until that morning he did not realise fully what the scheme entailed. He was pleasantly surprised at the comprehensive arrangements. Just before the war the management had agreed with the men’s representatives on details for the installation of pithead baths, but that scheme was unavoidably postponed. He said he hoped they would keep the staff of the canteen fully occupied, although he had to compliment their womenfolk on keeping them “fighting fit” up to the present. (Laughter.)

Saying he would like to make one point, not as chairman of the company but as a fellow citizen, Mr. Curtis said “Our fighting services are relying on an adequate supply of munitions, and the first essential of our munitions factories is coal. Every ton is vital to victory. On that note I have pleasure in declaring the canteen open, and I hope you will enjoy many meals in it.” (Applause.)

Mr. O. S. Hopkins, of Leeds (vice-chairman) thanked all who had assisted in the establishment of the canteen, especially Mr. W. A. Bates, who had given very helpful advice and assistance to the company’s officials, Mr. 0. H. Parry, the Divisional Architect, and Mr. C. A. Broadhead, canteen architect. He would also like to congratulate the builders, Messrs. E. Cutts, Ltd., on the very fine layout and equipment, and Mr. V. C. Chadwick in respect of the catering arrangements.

Work and Imagination.

Mr. W.E. Jones said that behind the scheme there had been work and imagination on the part of the architects, the builders, and those responsible for the catering. That was the 23rd pithead canteen opened in South Yorkshire. Altogether there were 73 pits in the coalfield, and the 23 canteens were providing a full service of meals for 40,000 out of the 100,000 South Yorkshire miners. In addition schemes were afoot and in some cases building was proceeding, with a view to the establishment of a further 24 canteens, and when those schemes were brought to fruition 70 per cent. of the miners of South Yorkshire would enjoy full meal facilities at the pitheads.

At present “snap” or snack meals were available at 90 per cent of the pits of South Yorkshire. The building they had just opened had cost £1623, with certain additions for internal equipment It would be a burden on the finances of the Miners’ Welfare Commission, who were very proud indeed of the class of work they were able to do in that direction When the 24 schemes already approved had been completed there would be a temporary check, because the Ministry of Works and Buildings had decided that labour and materials would not be available for further development. But they hoped that the check would be only temporary, and that the schemes would go on until they had a full-meals canteen for every pit in the country.

Mr. Jones said the leaders of the Yorkshire Mineworkers’ Association looked upon those canteens as rendering a real social service to the men, and they hoped that the men at Dearne Valley Colliery would use those services to the full. A big responsibility rests upon us in these difficult times,” said Mr. Jones. “The industry has been depleted of manpower, and many of the younger men have left us. The average age in the industry is higher than ever, and higher than in many other industries. We hope that this canteen will be of good service to our men, enabling them to rehabilitate themselves and regain the strength they expend in their arduous work down below.”

Mr. Jones said he believed that the Yorkshire miners and the miners of Britain in general were second to none in their determination to bring the war to a successful conclusion at the earliest possible moment. They had indeed expressed themselves in no uncertain manner by way of resolution as to what they would do with those forces which would bring in their train barbarity and slavery. Miners throughout the country were anxious to see vindicated those principles of freedom, progress and democracy for which their men were fighting, and he was certain the nation could rely on the miners to give their best in service at that critical time in ‘ the nation’s history. (Applause.)

“Let us use these services to the full.” said Mr. Jones, “and give in return the full attendance and the best we are capable of in the way of production, in order that the struggle we are engaged in can be brought to a speedy and victorious end.” (Applause.)

Mr. W. A. Bates. District Organiser of the Miners’ Welfare Commission, said that one of the advantages of those schemes was that they tended to bring both sides together. Unless both sides worked in perfect harmony they would not get those results which Mr. Jones had spoken about and which would have the effect of shortening the war. Mr. Bates said unfortunately canteens had not been used to the extent they might have been. In view of the great demand for feeding facilities set up last year, it was surprising to find that the average number using the canteens was still under 40 per cent. of the total personnel employed. That was a long way short of what it ought to be. That was puzzling, in view of what they were told about the difficulties existing in miners’ homes. He could only think the explanation was psychological. Would pithead canteens continue after the war? He was often asked that question, and he thought it would depend on whether by that time they had changed the social habits of the Yorkshire miner who was a very conservative person. Mr. S. Granville Shaw said that on behalf of the management and workpeople assembled at that happy little gathering he wished to offer their sincere appreciation to Mr. Curtis and members of the Board for the keen interest they had always taken in their work and welfare. He also wished to thank them for their courtesy in attending the opening ceremony and for their generosity in providing a free meal for all.

Ald. J. Walton, J.P., seconded on behalf of the workmen remarking, “This is another example of the great things they have done for the benefit of their workpeople.” Mr. Curtis responded, saying the directors would do all they could for the safety and welfare of their employees.

Three cheers were accorded Mr. Curtis.