Mexborough & Swinton Times – Saturday 02 March 1912
Situation at the Local Collieries
The strike commenced in the Wombwell district on Wednesday with the closing down of Mitchell Main and Darfield Main Collieries, where some 2000 hands are employed. Simultaneously the hundred employees of the chemical works, which are adjacent, also ceased work.
The 1500 workmen at the Wombwell Main Colliery laid down their tools on Thursday. No drastic measures have been taken by the men or the masters. Everything that is necessary for the proper working of the mines going on uninterruptedly, such as the feeding of horses, the maintenance of machinery for ventilation, and water pumping, in readiness for re-opening.
The effects of the trouble will be keenly felt by other industries, which are dependent upon the collieries for coal, if it is prolonged for any time, such as the glass works and the iron foundry, about 100 hands being employed at each place. Most of the employees of the railways are on notice, which, in the majority of cases is of a month’s duration.
The strike has commenced in Darfield and district. On Wednesday work ceased at the Darfield Main and Houghton Main Collieries. Dearne Valley Colliery, we understand, shut down on Thursday. In all, some 4,000 hands will be affected at the three collieries.
The general opinion prevails that they are having a week’s holiday; it is to be hoped the strike will not last even a week.
Denaby & Cadeby
Some surprise was occasioned by the action of the Cadeby men, who ceased work at the end of the Wednesday morning shift instead of the Thursday morning shift, as it had been understood was the arrangement.
It was suspected by the management that the men had been tampered with and induced not to work the extra day by a deputation from West Yorkshire. Several of the men brought their tools (which at Denaby and Cadeby are their own property) out of the pit; and these were sent back on the instructions of the management, who notified the men that no tools were to be taken out of the pit until Thursday at two o’clock. Otherwise the management took no special notice of what would appear to be a breach of arrangement. It was not an irregularity, for the notices actually expired on Wednesday.
The action of the Cadeby men had its effect upon those at Denaby Main, where, on the afternoon shift only 110 presented themselves for work. The Denaby and Cadeby Colliery Company own 1,800 houses at Denaby Main, amounting for a population of 9,000; and to dispose of rumours which readily circulate under abnormal circumstances, it may be at once stated that the Company has not given its tenants notice to quit, nor such action is contemplated. Neither is it true that a posse of mounted police have been billeted at the Denaby Main Hotel to be ready for an outbreak of violence.
One seemed to have stumbled upon a premature Sabbath in Denaby Main on Thursday afternoon. Nearly everybody had a comparatively clean face, and an air of having nothing to do and oceans of time in which to do it. It appears that of the men who present themselves for work on Wednesday afternoon at Denaby Main, little more than a dozen were colliers, and the figures were very little improved on the subsequent morning and afternoon shifts, so that there has been no serious coal drawing et either Denaby or Cadeby since Wednesday morning.
The strike is, of course, the one topic of conversation. One found the few black-faced men who turned out of the pit on Thursday afternoon, discussing it with varying degrees of energy as they made their way home for the long vacation, and here and there were stood groups of men in the street, settling the issues more or less to their satisfaction. All told, there are quite 6,000 men employed at these two great wineries. At Cadeby underground there are 2,500, and at Denaby 1,500, while the surface workmen at both collieries number a considerable contingent. The engineers, officials, and clerks, who are not concerned in the dispute, and whose service are being retained by the colliery company, make up a considerable contingent and we understand that there will be a small body of men engaged upon the extinction of the remains of the “gob” fires at Denaby. and to the continuance of these men’s employment the Union cannot reasonably object, seeing that it affects the safety of the mine. The ventilation will be continued, and as the Denaby and Cadeby pits are free from water – one of the compensations for their liability to ” gob” fires, there will be no necessity for pumping alterations.
At Denaby Main, the men’s tools were brought up on Thursday afternoon and taken to the stores, but at Cadeby a good deal of “got” coal was left in pit on Wednesday when the men ceased to work so suddenly and there is, at present, a difficulty in getting at the tools which have been left behind in the stalls. As the “tool-money” cannot well be paid until the tools have been recovered, some friction may be apprehended. The payment of this “tool-money” arises out of the system adopted at these collieries (a system which is not general) of supplying sets of tools for each stall—about £4 or £5 worth,–and extracting payment from the miners by weekly instalments until the tools eventually become their property. When the miner leaves, after serving proper notice he is entitled to the repayment of his contribution. and the payment of “tool-money” has already commenced at Denaby.
“‘They often the phrase ‘ A month of Sunday’ said one official yesterday;” I hope it is not going to take practical shape here.” A local publican who from frequent contact with the miners has become no mean judge of their general character, said to our representative yesterday: “Don’t think the miners are coming out for fun, or because they want a holiday. They have grown out of that sort of nonsense. They have had bitter experience; and I am quite sure that the miners as a body were never more serious over anything than they are over this, some of them lost their homes over the last strike; some of them have not yet recovered from its effects. Some of them have been paying back as much as £30 or £40 which they landed themselves in for the last time. You will hear not one, but scores of them, say: ‘ Do I want a strike? Not me’ I’ve had enough of strikes.’ It’s only the young and unmarried ones who talk about a strike as if it were a holiday.”
Another man told me that several miners had complained to him of the poor return they were likely to get from the Yorkshire Miners’ Association, notably ono man who said that be had in all contributed £25 to the funds of the Association, and now that a strike was at hand there was only £3 10s. for him to draw. Of course, he forgot that the balance of his £25 had been expended in the propaganda and organizing work of the Y.M.A., which was designed for the protection of his interests.
The two huge stacks of unscreened coal at Denaby and Cadeby, containing some tons of thousands of tons, are being busily demolished by steam navvies, and there has been some speculation as to whether the :strikers would allow this work to proceed but seeing that there is a mutual understanding where by collieries may dispose of all coal actually got, it is difficult to see how the strikers can reasonably interfere, seeing that the stacks have been paid for as “got” coal.
No doubt the horse-keepers will be allowed to attend the stables daily and it is scarcely likely that the ponies will be drawn to the surface, unless the strike is to be protracted indefinitely.
At Cadeby we understand that fairly extensive repairs are to be carried out during this great industrial pause.
Thrybergh Hall and Warren Yale.
Work ceased at these pits on Wednesday, the men leaving at the expiration of their notices., The “exit ” was of a quiet and orderly character. The pits employ about 1,200 hands.
At two o’clock on Thursday afternoon 3,500 men’ employed by the Manvers Main Colliery Company ceased work, and by 4 o’clock the last load of coal had been drawn up. The men left the premises quietly and there was no attempt to organise a demonstration. This, however, can be readily accounted for, the relations between the owners and the men being of a perfectly friendly character.
The Agent of the Company, Mr. A. T. Thomson, interviewed by a representative of the “Times,” said that in none of the workings had the men cause for complaint, nor had there been any serious difference of opinion between employees and employed. “In fact,” he continued, “the question of the minimum wage is of no importance, and where the men, through no fault of their own, could not earn good money, the affair has always been amicably settled. Of course the men have had to come out in sympathy with miners in other parts of the country, but they are not expecting the strike to last long. In the event of the strike lasting for more than a few days, which I think highly improbable, the ponies will be brought to the surface.”
Asked to state the attitude of the company with respect to the questions causing the strike, he said that the owners were strongly opposed to the minimum wage, unless some safeguard could be made to ensure the men doing a fair day’s work