North Staffs Miners’ Demo 1874
Researched by John Lumsdon
Again the yearly gathering of all the lodges in the vast industrial class of the Miners’ Union in this district has taken place. The weather God seemed on Monday to be in league with the spirit that is ruling in trade matters, for the cutting east wind and the bighting air had a somewhat depressing effect upon the thousands who then turned out on their yearly holiday. But the courage and spirit of a North Stafford miner on the day of the annual display by the great association of which he is a member are not easily daunted, and early in the morning in village and in town might be seen these hewers of the black diamonds emerging from their cottage homes to march to Hanley, the central point of attraction for the day.
The Mow-Cop, Harriseahead, Mount Pleasant and Butt Lane lodges, headed by the Crewe Steam Shed and Congleton brass bands marched to Harecastle Station and preceded thence to Etruria by train. The Kidsgrove, Goldenhill, Newchaple and Pitts Hill lodges headed by the Stafford Biddulph Valley brass bands marched to Tunstall, where they were joined by the lodge of that town headed by St. Mary’s L.O.G.T. brass band.
At about 10.30 the various lodges having arrived in connection with this part of the district, the procession assumed united marching order and with their flags and banners, merrily moved onwards highly commended for their absence of short pipes and for their general respectability, and it seemed almost a pity that the wives, sisters and sweethearts of the miners were not in the procession order for then numbers, merry looking faces, little hats, bonnets and Grecian bends together with their general appearance, would have proved an attraction of no mean character in the demonstration on its march to the central gathering, at Hanley.
Before this contingent reached the metropolis of Hanley, it was joined at Burslem by the Smallthorne, Brownedge, and Norton lodges, the whole of the lodges on that side of the district, led by the Burslem Lodge marching to Hanley, headed by the Comstall Band. The Talk o Th Hill, and Red Street Lodges, led by the Tunstall Rifle Volunteers band, proceeded to Chesterton, where they were joined by that lodge led by J. Brindley’s Band, the three lodges then marching on to Newcastle. The Audley, Halmerend, Alsagers Bank and Wood Lane Lodges marched to the strains of the Wheelock Band, joining the Chesterton contingent near the Theatre at Newcastle. The Madeley, Silverdale and New Knutton lodges formed another contingent, which was led by the Nantwhich Band, and the band belonging to the Silverdale Lodge.
The whole of these lodges, along with one belonging to Newcastle then formed in processional order and marched though Basford Bank, Etruria Road to Hanley.
The Washerwall, Bucknal, Milton and Far Green lodges led by Brunt’s and the Roman Catholic Brass Bands joined the Hanley Lodge room in Frederick Street which then led the procession to the place of meeting, headed by the Etruria Artillery Band. The Cheadle, Kingsley, and Ipstones lodges headed by the Stone Volunteer Band and the Kingsley Band, proceeded by road and train to Hanley. The Longton, Fenton, Fenton Park and Joiner’s Square lodges headed by Longton Prize, The Dresden and Church Gresley Bands arrived in Hanley shortly after eleven o clock. The line of march of all the lodges was crowded with interested spectators and every approach to Hanley was thronged with by the relatives and friends of the North Stafford miners’ who were bent on having a holiday.
The place of the meeting was a field called the Big Coton, which is situated on the Stoke side of the Hanley cattle market. The narrow lane that led to the place of the meeting was choked full with people and the people appeared to be choked with the dust that the tramp of the spectators and the marching miners made. The whole of the lodges formed a great procession, headed by the Hanley Lodge and followed by the rest. A carriage containing Mr. Wild, a well known member of the Silverdale Lodge, and a number of children bearing small flags, with the portrait of a miner and the motto, “What would the world do without us?” Upon the Silverdale was the mottoes, “We succour our brothers in distress,” “Go and do thou likewise,” with illustrations of the Good Samaritan and the fable of the bundle of sticks. The Chesterton Lodge (No. 7) exhibited a blue silk banner, with the motto, “Unity is strength” on one other side and “Knowledge is power” on the other.
The Newcastle flag represented working in the mine, working at the coal-face, and drilling a hole; and on the other side were two workmen and two masters sitting at a table, and an umpire standing between them, holding a pair of scales in his hands, the sentiment inscribed beneath being, “Let impartial arbitration hold the scales between employers and workmen.” The Far Green flag was a handsome one, bearing the mottoes, “We live by our labour; down with the popping system,” Unity is strength; and God help the widow and the orphan.” Before the Madeley lodge a beautiful flag was borne, having in the front a church yard scene of widow and orphans round a miners’ grave with the motto, “We support the widows and orphans.” On the other side was a well known phrase, “Unity is strength,” was illustrated by father, two sons, and a bundle of sticks.
A waggonette containing several bereaved widows and a number of orphan children followed next in the procession. On the Smallthorne flag was an emblem representing three eight hours’ miners, well dressed and spruce looking with the motto underneath them, “We intend to reap the fruits of our labour;” while opposite to them were three eleven hours non-unionists whose dejected appearance and torn jackets showed in what army they served, and they are made to say, “our fiends appear to enjoy their new privilege.” The flag of the Mow Cop Lodge was a very good one representing the widows and orphans bearing the motto, “A fair day’s wage for a fair day’s work.” The Goldenhill Lodge flag also had also its moral teaching. It represented the benefits of the accident fund, an afflicted member being shown lying in his bed, his wife attending upon him and the union officer in the room paying the money due to the injured miner. On the other side represented was a Board of Arbitration, the other mottoes on the flag being, “Success to all the lodges in the district” and “Long live the union.” Speedwell Lodge displayed on one side of their banner the motto, “Faith, Hope and Charity,” “Benevolence and Equity.” A painting representing the “Good Samaritan” and underneath the words, “Protection of the sick and permanently injured.” On the other side a picture of a union and non-union man. The union man is putting his hand into the non-union man’s and is represented as saying unto him, “Come let us be united.”
The Pits Hill Lodge flag has the favourite emblem of the “Good Samaritan” and on the other side a pit bank with two checkweighmen weighing the tubs of coal. The Newchapel Lodge flag had upon it, the emblems of the Good Samaritan and figures of a widow and orphans. The Harriseahead flag had the well known fable of the bundle of sticks. The illustration on the Talk-o’-th’-Hill flag were of manager and miner shaking hands and the motto underneath, “Come let us reason together.” The other side represented the process of checkweighing with motto, “A just balance is our delight.” The Red Street Lodge flag represented the favourite scene of widow and orphans, with the appropriate motto. Butt Lane Lodge flag had the motto, “we care for the widow and orphans,” and figures representing the treasurer of the union paying a widow her allowance. On the other side were two reapers, one with his sheaf, well bound, standing firm and upright with the words “United we stand,” while near it was another sheaf with the band broken, and all falling to the ground, the reaper apparently wild with vexation. Underneath were the words “Divided we fall.” The Heart and Hand lodge represented mining operations. On the Milton flag, was the Good Samaritan, on the other side widow and orphans. Cheadle flag represented the bunch of sticks and also several employers and workmen shaking hands in an amicable manner and Kinsley flag a picture of masters and miners and also a miner as he appeared in 1862, under the non-union system of affairs and as he appears in 1873.
The Brownedge flag contained a representation of the Checkweighman on the pit bank with an appropriate motto ad also the motto, “Come let us reason together.” Norton Lodge had a beautiful new flag with the portrait of the agent of the district, Mr. Brown, shaking hands with the employers and the reverse side bearing the well known picture of widow and orphans.
On the whole the miners did not appear to be so well dressed as we have observed on former occasions; but this was owing, no doubt, to the wise precaution of the jolly colliers, who now having a change of clothes are not forced always to using their Sunday best, particularly when the weather is unfavourable. The march past was scarcely as orderly as we would like to have seen. It would add greatly to the dignity and imposing character of the demonstration if there was a little more of the military character in this particularly among the soldiers of the pick and mine on their annual festal day. Most of the men wore rosettes of various kinds and colours and the boys in the procession carried a number of small flags bearing suitable mottoes.
The engineers procession followed, headed by a brass band, the men marched well. The whole procession was appropriately closed by an empty coal cart, which, weather it was intended or not, represented the amount of fuel got in the mines of North Safford on Monday last, but we do not suppose that the carping critics who last year lectured the miners for losing their work will venture to do on the present occasion, when coal is so much more plentiful on the market.
The Big Coton, a field tolerable well adapted for the purpose of holding a demonstration, was besieged at an early hour by visitors. The refreshment tent-keepers were busily engaged the day previous arranging their booths, and outside the field everything presented the appearance of a fair day, here and there were to be seen swings in full operation filled with children enjoying themselves to their hearts delight, but not more so than the adults. There were shows, roundabouts, shooting galleries, Aunt Sally, and a variety of amusements provided.
At the entrance to the field at an arch with festoons and an appropriate motto in the centre, whilst on either side the visitors were apprised of the “entrance” and “exit” gates. The ticket collectors performed their work well, though it was of a most arduous character. The takings at the gate, we learn, were handsome and the money so collected, will, we believe be appropriated £1 each widow and 5s per each child. Mr. Higginson’s, the only temperance refreshment tent o the ground, was so well patronised that we were informed that by five or six o clock his stores were exhausted. This speaks well for temperance refreshment pervading a large proportion of the miners.
Such an assemblage as gathered in the grounds was perhaps never before witnessed in connection with miner’s demonstrations in the North Stafford district. As time wore on the numbers increased, until we should imagine not less than from 15.000 to 20.000 persons congregated. Good order was maintained in the field and the audience that gathered around the speaker’s platform listened with interest and attention to the various speeches and this in spite of the cold wind which blew and the many other attractions in the shape of games and the like that were provided for the enjoyment of the multitude. The sky wore a very cloudy aspect during the afternoon, and there was an anticipation of a smart downpour of rain, but luckily the people were spared a repetition of last year’s unfortunate weather. About three o clock the meeting was opened.
Mr. John Dawes, late president of the North Staffordshire Miner’s association, occupied the part of chairman, which he ably filled. In opening the meeting he said he was very glad to have the pleasure of meeting so many of the North Staffordshire Miners, and of congratulating them that they had met under such favourable circumstances. Twelve months had passed away since they last met together, and this time they had to morn a very great calamity that had occurred to their fellow men how had been taken away by an explosion in Lancashire. When the Dukinfield explosion occurred, no less than 53 fellow miners were carried away into an eternal world.
They had not had to morn in the North Staffordshire district the loss of men to that extent, although some had been carried away by death. He was glad to have the privilege of meeting so many of his fellow men, on that occasion, and he hoped they would give a quiet hearing to what was said by the speakers, which he was sure would do them a vast amount of good. There were some people in the world who told them their association was nothing but a cunningly devised fable. They told him it would wither and die away, but he was sure the meeting that day did not speak anything in that wise, but on the contrary spoke for the future that there was a grand prospect before the miners of the North Stafford district. He was glad to see such a vast multitude assembled and he repeated, it spoke well for the future.
There were those prophets who would try to make them believe that the association would come to nothing and that the miners would have to come down to the low, degraded position they once occupied in years gone by. But he had faith in the future because he believed there was a brighter day in store for the miners, very different from what there was in the past. Their fore-fathers looked to that day, but died without a site.
They,(their children) had come into the battle well and fought hard and long. He was glad to say the action of the union and the efforts put forth by the men had been crowned with abundant success. There was a brighter future for them, they had not, and however, met that day under such favourable circumstances as they met twelve months ago, trade was not so good at the present time. Wages had gone down. There was a dark cloud hanging over them at the present time, but he was glad to say that he believed there was a silver lining to each cloud, and that there was a bright side already hanging over them, moreover that the dark cloud would soon pass away.
Then there would be a better state of things in the future than witnessed at present. He hoped every man in North Stafford would be determined to be united together, and go shoulder to shoulder in the great battle they had to fight. They had in the past been the means of doing a vast amount of good in the mining population of that and in other counties. The men had been elevated and rose, but not to that position that they ought to attain to as men. They believed, however, that by the aid of united action on the part of every man, if everyman put his shoulder to the wheel and was determined to fight on, that there was a brighter day coming for the mining population everywhere. Again by the united action on the part of the men they would get every grievance they suffered from redressed. And it was the case that they had at the present time to contend a great many.
The time too, was coming when by united action they would see more working men in the House of Commons. He hoped the day was not too far distant when the present House of Commons would be dissolved and they would see at the head of the poll their old friend Mr.Walton. This might be accomplished by united action on the part of every working man elector. Although defeated at the last election, he might be returned at the next election by means of united action on the part of every trade. They believed there were laws that required repealing in the House of Commons. There was a time when they had to knock at the door of the house and ask them to speak upon certain questions, but now the day was come when they had men who could ask the questions, such for instance, as respecting the great catastrophe that had taken place at Dukinfield, in Lancashire.