Chapter Nine

CHAPTER NINE: REFORM OR REVOLUTION? CLASS POLITICS 1918-25                                                                              

1 The 1918 general election
2          The revolutionary period 1919-21                     
3          Battles on the economic front – from the war to the early twenties
            i)        The engineering industry                         
           ii)        General and Municipal Workers
          iii)        Printing and paper workers
          iv)        The mining industry
           v)        The railway industry                                  
          vi)        Teachers                                                       
         vii)        Police unionism
        viii)        Co-operative and other distributive workers  
          ix)        The builders labourers union                 
           x)        The textile industry
          xi)        The Workers Union                                    
         xii)        Agricultural workers                                  
        xiii)        Boot and shoe operatives
        xiv)        Painters
         xv)        Public services and professional workers      
4          Battles on the political front
            i)          political radicalism in the early Twenties
           ii)          the Co-operative movement and Labour politics     
5          Unemployment and the depression 1921-25
            i)        the textile industry
           ii)        the Workers Union
          iii)        the mining industry
          iv)        the building trade
           v)        the NUVB
          vi)        the engineering industry
         vii)        the Transport and General Workers Union     
        viii)        the railway industry                                   
6          Unemployed Struggles 1920-25
7          Electoral battles 1921-2S
8          Chapter 9 References
1 The 1918 general election
As the war drifted to its close, the Labour Party in particular, faced an important crossroads in its future. The party leader, Arthur Henderson, joined with others in arguing for a new party constitution in 1918. There was an underlying motive to the apparent quest for efficiency of organisation. The bulk of the parliamentary party, along with the key trade union leaders, wanted to curtail the growing power and influence of the socialist tendencies within the movement. Individuals who did not work in typical paid employment in a factory, mine, mill, shop or office were not usually able to join a union and thus become involved in the Labour Party. Whilst those who were unwilling to join the mostly Marxist, or certainly left-leaning, socialist societies, were similarly discomforted. For the very first time, the concept of individual membership was brought into the party, thus dramatically altering – but by no means ending – its essentially federal character. Especially since the domination of the party conference by the affiliated union block vote was confirmed. But from herein, Labour activists were no longer firstly members of an affiliated union or socialist society.
Naturally, none of this was designed to appease the left within the overall movement, but the more radical element was gratified with a morally important, but practically irrelevant, concession. The general character of the constitutional aims of the party was to be clearly socialistic for the first time. The effect was to deliver power into the hands of the right wing of the movement and the soul of the party into me sight of the left. In particular, Clause Four of the constitution pleased the militants by defining the socialism sought in theory by the party. “To secure for the workers by hand and by brain the full fruits of the industry and the most equitable distribution thereof that may be possible upon the basis of the common ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange, and the best obtainable system of popular administration and control of each industry or service.” [1]
The result of all this was to give Labour a clear mid-way appeal between out-and-out socialism and social-reform Liberalism, a formula which was to provide a mass electoral base to the party. Nonetheless, interest in the theoretical basis of socialism grew phenomenally, even in some unexpected areas. For example, David Amyas Ross, a sixth former at the Derbyshire public school of Repton appeared one day in the summer of 1918 in the London office of the Labour Research Department (LRD). This body was actually independent of the Labour Party as such and engaged in research work for trade unions. Ross went to the LRD to ask on behalf of the entire sixth form at Repton what assistance they could give to helping to spread the Russian Revolution!! In later years, Ross would go on to become a Workers Education Association tutor. [2]
Support for the Russian Revolution and the adoption of Clause Four boosted support for the idea of socialised or nationalised production in quarters of the workers’ movement which had hitherto been reluctant to jettison Liberal ideals. There were good, practical reasons for this. In November 1918, the Workers Union Derby District Committee adequately expressed the general mood. A resolution called upon the government to “utilise all national factories for essential after-the-war industries as a means of providing against unnecessary unemployment and further that the same be owned by the state for the benefit of the community”. [3] ‘National factories’ were privately owned companies which had their product and output taken under the control of the state for the duration of the war.
Furthermore, as the 1918 general election neared, the unions were at pains to make clear their partisanship. The WU proclaimed to the press in Derby, at a special meeting called to discuss the election, that the District Committee (DC) “representing 6,000 male and female members urge its members in the constituencies of Derby and South Derbyshire to use all the means in their power to secure the return to parliament of Mr J H Thomas and Councillor Trueman, both of whom are the official Labour candidates”. [4] Despite the sense of confidence evident here, the newly revamped Labour Party did not win the election. Quite naturally, the government had timed the date of the election to suit itself. Few of the men in the armed forces, who might have held quite strong views about the way the future should develop, actually managed to vote. Despite this, the 1918 electoral roll in Derby was three times as large as it had been in 1914. Some 11,000 of the 61,000 potential voters were engaged in military service, but whether many of these were able to cast their vote is doubtful, as the bulk of the forces were still tied up in foreign parts. Moreover, 24,000 of these voters were casting their votes for the very first time and were no doubt rather cautious about it. [5]
Labour’s electoral machine was poorly developed. In some areas, the influence of Lib-Labism had retarded the political strength of Labour, so much so that no formal organisation existed in some places. The WU may well have wanted to urge support for Councillor Samuel Trueman of Long Eaton, who stood for South Derbyshire. But in reality there was very little practical organisational back up for the candidate. South Derbyshire Divisional Labour Party was established in 1918 at a conference composed of delegates from three co-op societies, three ILP branches and 27 trade union branches, including no less than twelve branches of the South Derbyshire Miners Association. Amongst other unions were the Potters, the Bakers, the WU, the ASE, the Colliery Engineers, the Carpenters and the Agricultural Workers. Trueman was proposed by the NUR and the Long Eaton Co-operative Society – of which he himself was a prominent member. While many of the old LECS stalwarts were Liberals, the society had voted 114 to 6 to affiliate to the South Derbyshire Labour Party only that year. A proposition to disaffiliate which came in 1919 was easily defeated. Political involvement was actually quite a new development for the co-operative movement. The Swansea Congress of the Co-operative Union in 1917 had set up the Co-operative Party, with the aim of representation in local and national democratic assemblies.
Trueman won the selection vote in the local party committee by 34 votes to 21 against Bill Smith of Church Gresley, who had been proposed by the South Derbyshire miners. [6] In common with many socialists, Trueman had adopted a pacifist stance in the war and this fact was crudely exploited with great effect by his Liberal opponent during the campaign. The Government faced the December 14th election quite confidently. A sitting government having led the nation through stormy times, it rightly believed it could rely upon patriotic calls. The preferred slogan of winning Government candidates was “Hang the Kaiser”. Such an approach rather excluded Labour’s serious and rather sober programme for social betterment from considered attention. Despite this, Labour considerably increased its representation and became the official Opposition.
The still largely federal character of the Labour Party showed itself in the results. The British Socialist Party was still affiliated and fielded candidates in sixteen seats. Twelve secured official endorsement from the Labour Party and one from the Co-operative Party, whilst the others ran as independents. The BSP did rather well, especially when compared to the ILP, which engaged in the election in a similar way. The ILP polled an overall average of 21.4% to the BSP’s 21.1% The latter doubled its 1910 average of 11.1 %, quite an achievement considering that it was a relatively new entrant into the electoral sphere. Derby’s Willie Paul stood for the other avowedly Marxist organisation, the Socialist Labour Party, in Ince, Lancashire, where he took 13% of the vote in a straight fight with an official Labour candidate.
In Derbyshire, Labour officially won only one seat. Two miners’ candidates, Hancock and Kenyon, took their seats unopposed respectively in Belper and Chesterfield. Supposedly Labour men, they were in reality Liberals, but the Labour Party deliberately left the field clear for them. The miners’ nominees in Clay Cross, Frank Hall, and in North East Derbyshire, Frank Lee, only narrowly managed to beat a Liberal, as did George H Oliver, the former Derby Rolls Royce convenor, in Ilkeston. Only J H Thomas victoriously led the field in the two-member constituency in Derby. He polled two-thirds as much again as his nearest rival, the successful Independent Unionist. There was much local speculation as to the reasons for the failure of Labour to field a second candidate and many ascribed to Thomas a fancy for a continuation of the Lib-Lab alliance of previous years. Whatever the truth, his Liberal ‘partner’ came far behind, only a little ahead of the fourth candidate, Captain H M Smith, the grandly styled “National Democratic and Labour Party” candidate. This was a group tied to the British Workers League, a pro-capitalist body which sought to win the working class. The NDLP saw itself as a patriotic working class propaganda group, opposing class struggle and acting upon a policy of support for the Government coalition and the prosecution of the war. This party did remarkably well in Derby, winning a good share of the poll, which split fairly evenly between the three candidates other than Thomas.
                                            Percentage of the Poll
            Labour                  37.8
            Ind Unionist         22.4
            Liberal                   20.2
            NDLP                     19.6
It was a result which intrigued the local press, the Mercury commented that the “Lib-Lab compact has existed for many years, but on this occasion Labour, who were exhorted to split their “Progressive” vote did not carry the Liberal with them. If there was any surprise it was the splendid poll which Capt. H M Smith … obtained.” [7]
Labour had not yet eclipsed the Liberals, but signs of this future development were clearly there. Labour had won 57 seats, only a small improvement on the 1914 position. But what was of considerable significance was the fact that Labour was generally the second candidate to the winner in many former Liberal strongholds. The 1918 constitutional compromise in the Labour Party aided unity in the movement and this, with the improved electoral performance, rather perturbed many sections of the establishment. For the workers, it was a time to redress old wrongs, above all to win the peace after the war. In the preceding four years, wholesale prices had increased by 135% and the cost of living index by 120%. Wages had stayed well behind prices, being somewhat less than double the 1914 level. Trades unionists determined to put this right. In 1919 wages rose by about 20%, while prices were relatively stable, the standard of living of 1914 was thus all but restored. Apparently contradicting the results of the 1918 election, the popular mood turned strongly militant. The contradiction was easily explained by the fact of the enormous numbers of returning soldiers, determined that some sense come out of the horror of 1914-18, for themselves and their families.
2 The Revolutionary Period of 1919-21
The need to re-assimilate millions of men returning from the battlefields caused considerable problems to the economies of Europe. The immediate concern of many was to locate the demobilised into peacetime jobs. In the engineering industry, the skilled unions had won the introduction of the Restoration of Pre-War Practices Act, eventually enforced by 1919, to ease the return to ‘normality’. The ASE had extracted this concession as a price for its co-operation in the practice of dilution, but the Workers Union, speaking for the many unskilled workers who had benefited by the disturbance of normal industrial life, opposed the Act. Moreover, if the skilled unions had extracted some concessions, they could not cushion their members from every hazard. Britain was a victorious nation, but it was still prone to the vagaries of the capitalist economy.
Recognising the dangers of large scale unemployment among returning soldiers, the Government introduced a weekly allowance and raised unemployment benefit by 4/, to a total of 11/- a week for those demobilised, but still out of work. Moreover, employers were prevented from effecting wages cuts by the Wages (Temporary Regulation) Act until May 1919 and this was subsequently extended to November and again to September 1920. Despite these measures, there were serious concerns about the plight of the former serviceman. In Derby, the Mayor received a letter from the Demobilisation Council, which worried over the “serious state of unemployment in Derby” and recommended public works as the solution. [8] Some looked for deeper solutions, while others thought no further than how to get back to the pre-war state of affairs. The Derby WU DC agreed to support a resolution referred to it by its No.1 branch, which asked the Labour Party to “endeavour to promote a bill forbidding married women to enter employment where the husbands are able, through their income to keep them at home, whilst there are single women out of work”. [9] No doubt many on the almost exclusively male committee had unemployed married and single men in mind as well, although the resolution diplomatically
avoided that argument.
Support for more radical, even revolutionary solutions reached a high spot in the 1919-21 period, when industrial militancy was generally accepted as a legitimate tool of working class struggle. Massive and frequent wage rises and even some progress in the reductions of the working week were sustained in and around Derby, as recorded in the DerbyWUDC Minutes:
Some Wage Rises (1918-20) in Derbyshire
Feb 1918      
Offiler’s Brewery                                                     8/- weekly increase
Derby Engineering Industry                               3/- war bonus
Graham & Bennett                                                  3/4d hour increase
Aug 1918
Offiler’s                                                                     10/- increase
Jones & Co.                                                 12% plus 7.5% increase
November 1918
Lolson’s (Pentrich)                                                           2/- weekly increase
Graham and Bennett                                               1d an hour increase
January 1919          
Rolls Royce             3/- a week increase oilers and store keepers         1/- a week increase for machine moulders
February 1919
Rickard’s                     5/- a week increase and a 47-hour week
March 1919
Green’s                    4d an hour increase
Shardlow boatmen                        10/- a week increase
Tarmac                                  41/2d an hour increase
September 1919                                                                                                  
Derby Ice                                             5/- a week increase
Lolson’s (Pentrich)                        6/- a week increase
Offilers                                               2/6d a week increase
November 1919
Lolson’s                                            2/- a week increase
Long’s                                               5/- a week increase
Engineering                                     5/- a week increase
Chemicals                                        5/- a week increase
Rail Workshops                              5/- a week increase
Concordia Electric Cables                           48-hour week                
Dec 1919    
Belper Urban District Council                 2/- a week increase
DP Battery                            2/6d to 5/- a week increase
Barnes & Fryer Packing Cases 2/6d to 5/- a week increase
Jan 1920     
Mackintosh’s                          4/- to 8/- a week increase            
Hampshire and Co                                48-hour week
Fletcher’s Lace, Nottingham Rd            5/- to 13/- a week increase
Leather Industry                             5/- a week increase
Derby Silica Firebrick (DSF)                                1d an hour increase
Feb 1920       
Derbyshire Royal Infirmary       5/- a week increase
Graham and Bennett                 1d an hour increase
Mar 1920       
Long’s                                   2/- a week increase
Engineering Industry       6/- a week increase
April 1920
Belper UDC                                      5/- a week increase
Long’s                                   5/- a week increase
Lolson’s (Ripley)                5/- a week increase
Brick making                       8/- a week increase
Leather                                  7/6d a week increase
June 1920
Kegworth Brewery                           8/- a week increase
Dickinson and Housall                   5/- a week increase
Derby Lead Works                           6/- a week increase
J Fowler (Borrowash)                     12/6d a week increase
Sandiacre Sewage                           48-hour week
September 1920                               
Graham and Bennett                       11/2d an hour
Bakewell UDC                                   5/- a week increase
Barnes and Fryer                             1 1/2d an hour
October 1920                                    
T Long and Co                                  5/- to 10/- a week increase
Peters Ltd (labourers)                     10/- a week increase
Peters Ltd (metal spinners)           10/- a week increase
Clay Industry                                     6/- a week increase
December 1920                                
DSF                                                       3d an hour increase
Offiler’s’ clerks                                  12/6d a week increase
A series of major disputes, locally and nationally, became the centre ground of a testing battle between capital and labour. More dramatically, these took place amid serious controversy about British interference in the revolutionary developments in Russia that had shaken the world. The continuation of conscription, the sharp rise in the cost of living, the low rate of exemption from income tax, which began for the first time to take revenue for the state from ordinary workers in this way, and the use of troops in industrial disputes, all combined together in creating a seething discontent amongst the working class.
The “Triple Alliance” of miners, railway workers and dockers proposed a strike ballot specifically on three of these issues – Russia, conscription and troops in strikes. Some in Derbyshire were violently against the notion. Frank Lee of the Derbyshire miners told the Staveley Trades Council that “he was the last man in the world to favour the (proposed) strike which would upset the commerce of the country”. [10] Not everyone agreed with him. The impact of the Russian Revolution amongst all activists of the labour movement was overwhelming; right from the first moment the workers’ movement in Derbyshire followed events as far as was possible, given the circumstances. The Trades Council convened a meeting on the Menshevik supported revolution of February 1917, very soon after the event and over the next two years there was much interest in the dramatic events in the east. In spite of the grip of right wing ideas on the labour movement in the country and county, little but praise for the revolutionary developments in Russia could be found.
In 1919, Derby NUR asked the Trades Council (DTC) to convene a “town’s meeting to be addressed by a Russian on Russia”. However, no progress seems to have been made on this idea, perhaps largely because no official Soviet representative existed in Britain, the government having refused credentials to the first to be appointed. Soviet Russia had asked the Clydeside working class leader, John MacLean, to be their consul and the gesture was not meaningless. In Scotland, large sections of the working class were little removed from potential revolution and the Government knew it. There was no hesitation in bringing out armed forces to quell the growing sense of revolution, an act that in itself only served to highlight the increasing unease. Even though there was no formal plan for an insurrection, troops were used in a ruthless manner. Workers protested against the use of troops in strike action and had troops used against them in turn. The labour movement in and around Derby was as one in roundly condemning the Government’s approach.
The DTC was of the opinion that “military troops, when used in strikes, are always used in the interests of Capital against Labour and demanded the immediate release of DavieKirkwood and Willie Gallagher, the imprisoned leaders of the Red Clyde.”[11] Such widespread support for radicalism naturally seriously worried the Government and the employers in all industries and localities. A familiar tactic of appealing to national pride and a joint employer-employee approach to industrial relations began to be exploited on a grand scale. The DTC however showed positive hostility to the forming of a Derby branch of the “National Alliance of Employers and Employed”, despite persistent approaches over the next few years from certain key local trade union officials who were supporters. [12]
British capitalism had important financial interests in Russia and men of power and wealth were sorely annoyed at the revolution, which pulled her out of the war. As soon as Germany was dealt with, Britain and twenty other nations invaded the young Soviet republic by force of arms, intending to crush the revolution almost at birth. Britain’s press was hysterical about the new experiment and violently condemned any signs of sympathy for Russia. To the consternation of many civic dignitaries, Derby’s most respected and respectable Labour leader, W R Raynes, announced at the local May Day rally in 1919 that he supported the demands for a withdrawal of British troops in Russia. His view was that “Russia had to fight to work out its own emancipation without Czars and capitalism”. [13]
Even more clearly, on another occasion, Raynes gave his support to the educational policy of the new workers’ republic, concluding that “if that is Bolshevism then I am a Bolshevik”. Naturally, the local press went to town! “I am a Bolshevik – W R Raynes” ran the placards. Horatio Bottomley’s weekly, “John Bull”, called him a “dangerous fool and an unholy liar”, regretting that he was not in the range of an active gun. “Derby should spew such a man … out from its midst.” [14] Bill Raynes, misquoted though he was, found he was by no means alone. Workers’ organisations of all kinds adopted favourable policy decisions regarding Russia. In June of 1919, the Belper branch of the WU forwarded a resolution to the Derby DC that was accepted without dissent. As a result, the WU was locally committed to acting against “any further money or munitions being used in Russia” and to demanding the “immediate withdrawal of all British troops there”. [15]
The local branch of the BSP, one of the main constituent parts of the yet to be formed Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB), submitted a resolution to the DTC in September 1919, “asking for support for the Soviet Government” and had no difficulty in getting this carried. [16] As an aside here, it is instructive to note that no constitutional queries were raised about the validity of such a motion coming from a non-trade union body. The BSP was still affiliated to the Labour Party and trades councils were still seen as central co-ordinating bodies of all working class organisations and the notion of banning or proscribing controversial tendencies had not yet been invented. A vigorous “Hands off Russia” campaign developed throughout the country, including Derby, whose committee wrote to the DTC in 1919 calling for support. Without any hesitation, the council demanded the “withdrawal of troops from Russia, and the removal of the Blockade and the refusal of supplies to Kolchak and Deniken”. [17] These were two generals who each waged civil war against the revolution. Subsequent meetings were to decide to send a donation of £1 to the Derby Hands Off Russia campaign, to send a delegate to a solidarity conference held on November 29th 1919 and finally to demand “immediate trade relations with Soviet Russia”. [18]
The strong sense of internationalism evident from these developments coincided with industrial militancy in an open way. However, the response was sometimes mixed. Staveley ASLEF branch voted on their EC’s request to consider the Triple Alliance threefold question in January 1920. Perhaps concern about the implications for railway jobs of coal nationalisation motivated the spilt vote on that issue, but there can be no doubt about the radicalism provoked by the events in Russia, shown by the vote:
       “1   nationalisation of mines                                    For 14 against 13
         2   to abolish Conscription                                      For 36 against 0
         3   to withdraw British troops from Russia         For 25 against 2”
Support for the EC’s motion was however massive. Even so, Derby ASLEF, in considering the circular from their general secretary, Bromley, uncharacteristically voted decisively against all three propositions. [19] Perhaps there were tactical, internal or constitutional reasons for this. The branch was certainly politically far more radical than other Derbyshire ASLEF branches.
Trades councils, shop stewards committees, trade unions, socialist societies, Hands Off Russia committees all formed “Councils of Action”, to unite all the forces opposed to intervention in Russia. The Parliamentary Committee of the TUC, the fore-runner to the General Council, the National Executive Committee of the Labour Party and the Parliamentary Labour Party all joined together to declare that the industrial power of the workers would be used to stop the war with Russia. The unprovoked invasion of Russia by the right-wing reactionary government of the newly created country of Poland stirred much sympathy for the Soviet republic. Derby branch of ASLEF had changed their tune by June, when they declared that no member of their society would “handle any goods consigned to the Government of Poland for the purpose of prosecuting the war with Russia”. [20] For the threat of another war was now clear. The DTC meanwhile demanded the withdrawal of British troops amidst a great surge of solidarity which swept the working class. Dockers refused to load munitions ships bound for Poland. The TUC called a Special Congress on the issue.
In August, the DTC passed an almost revolutionary resolution, when it decided to “support steps taken by Councils of Action to prevent the government entering into war with Russia, and warns the British government if it attempts to send either men, money, munitions or stores directly or indirectly to the aid of Poland, organised Labour of Derby … will resort to direct action to prevent it”. [21] 200 delegates met in Derby to set up the local Council of Action, on the initiative of the Derby Labour Party (DLP) and the DTC. Specialist committees on transport, information, organisation, supply were set up to deal with particular problems should the “direct action” be called for. Circulars were sent out by all unions demanding absolute loyalty to any instructions issued by the National Council of Action. Derby ASLEF adopted a position typical of most unions, after receiving the instructions. The branch agreed to support the Council of Action “in whatever step they think necessary to prevent war with Russia or any other country”. [22]
Many viewed the all-embracing character of the Councils of Action and drew the obvious parallels with the Russian ‘soviet’, or council of workers, soldiers and peasants. In the face of these developments, the Government trod warily and avoided confrontation, shelving the intervention in Russia. But it was clear as to where its main threat lay. Albert Inkpin, national Secretary of the Communist Party was arrested in 1921 on trumped up charges, as an authoritarian mood now grew amongst politicians. His imprisonment was raised in 1922 at the DTC, which passed a resolution asking the Home Secretary to consider his immediate release. But the warning signs were not clear enough for some. Having done their immediate job, the Councils of Action were wound up by the leadership of the labour and trade union movement, perhaps with indecent haste. But the experience of the councils was to surface and to be used once again in the General Strike of 1926 and this would be particularly evident in Derby and Chesterfield.
3 Battles on the Economic Front – from the War to The Beginning of the Twenties.
i) The Engineering Industry
In September 1919, the moulders and the ironfounders found themselves engaged in a strike for what the DTC called a ‘living wage’, when it discussed the issue at its meeting the next month. [23] As part of the national movement for an advance in wages, a Derby strike committee was set up. This began to receive donations from the movement towards the strike fund, such as the £2 which the Derby Builders’ Labourers gave in November to the Friendly Society of Ironfounders [24], while the Rowsley NUR donated £1 in December. [25] The FSI had held a mass meeting at the Derby Market Place in late October, as the strike set in and attitudes hardened. The men decided to continue with their stance by an overwhelming vote. The strike committee was established at this meeting, when seven men were elected to lead the struggle locally. [26]
Much hardship was experienced by the iron workers and their families. The Derby Board of Guardians granted relief in one week in December alone to 177 men, 143 women and 260 children. Similar grants were made every week at a cost of between £150 and £200, actually taking the Board’s funds into deficit. [27] Faced with an unrelenting force of employers and acute starvation as winter progressed, the ironfounders had to return to work in January 1920, unfortunately with nothing gained, but importantly with nothing lost.
A major factor in the impotence of the dispute must have been the sharp disunity between the two key unions involved, the FSI and the Workers Union. There was “much reluctance to bring the WU men out’, according to the Derby WU DC and there were arguments about who was to run the dispute, which drove the unions concerned apart. The WU complained bitterly that the FSI was “anti-WU”, and while there was much truth in this statement, the dislike was entirely mutual. [28] The FSI sent a circular to all craft unions “charging WU members who are moulders with working under price”. The WU protested that this was untrue and asked for full details from the FSI of their allegations. [29] Meanwhile the FSI took in some other small unions to become the National Union of Foundryworkers, which many years later joined the AEU one of the key components ultimately of amicus.
In the engineering industry generally the newly powerful shop stewards were determined to prevent the loss of their prestige and one reflection of this was a desire for unity amongst craftsmen, which took the form of a widespread demand for organisational solidarity. Eight skilled engineering unions joined together, the principal society being the ASE, to form the Amalgamated Engineering Union (AEU) in 1920. In Derby, there were at least two societies along with the ASE which were brought into the new union. The Steam Engine Makers were well established at Haslam’s, along with the ASE. The Number One shop was organised by the former, the latter taking the membership in Number Two and Number Three shops. The Steam Engine Makers were present in most of the organised factories, as was the ASE. Similarly, the United Machine Workers Association, which was particularly strong at Rolls Royce, brought many members in Derby to the merged AEU. Councillor Arthur Sturgess, the convenor of shop stewards at Haslam’s and the part-time District Secretary of the ASE in Derby for some eight years, became the first full time organiser for the AEU, being based at the Labour Party offices in Green Lane.
A massive rally of members of all the unions forming the AEU was held at the Central Hall in Derby, presided over by H Grey. Councillors Ansell and Sturgess proposed and seconded a resolution welcoming the amalgamation. But without doubt the highlight was the speech by the new general secretary of the AEU. This was Tom Mann, veteran socialist, one of the leaders of the 1889 Dock Strike, founder of the Workers Union and originator of the pre-war syndicalist movement. Mann made an uncompromising speech, which was warmly welcomed by the mass audience. He declared himself a “Socialist, Bolshevist, Spartist or any other ‘ist’ and lay great stress on the fact that he was out for the complete control of industry by the workers”. [30] (‘Spartist’ was presumably the local newspaper’s mishearing of ‘Spartacist’, the name recalling Spartacus the famous leader of the slave rebellion against the Roman Empire, which had been adopted by one of the left wing tendencies which would form the Communist Party in Germany.) Mann proudly approved the Soviet system, making special play of the role of shop stewards’ committees as a kind of British soviet.
In a test of strength between this new, strong union and Rolls Royce, the biggest engineering employer in Derby, 6,000 workers from all departments, including office workers, struck at the company in May 1920, ostensibly over the dismissal of a shop steward. The firm at first accused Bolton, the dismissed man, of bad workmanship, but later said it was because of insufficient production. Bolton conceded a minor error, but pointed out that it had been rectified within two hours, whilst the lack of production was entirely due to his trade union duties. Three days into the strike, Rolls Royce claimed to have no knowledge of Bolton’s position as a shop steward, a claim which had little impression on the daily mass meetings which consistently backed the stance of the strike committee. To counter many public and media distortions about the dispute, the shop stewards produced a leaflet over the names of J Clarke and William Wilkinson, Chairman and Secretary of the joint committee. One rumour about the strike was that it was over the right to smoke at will, still a disciplinary offence, or only during meal breaks. The workers’ committee was quite clear what was at stake. “The Strike was caused in the first instance because we believe our brother and workmate, Bolton, was unjustly dismissed, and in the second place because the Management of Rolls Royce refused to remove the cause of friction pending negotiations.” [31] That is to say, to re-instate Bolton while the matter was discussed around the table.
Moreover, the whole attitude of the company annoyed the men and women on strike and the strike committee summed up their feelings. “We are not going to remain slaves and chattels, but are free thinking individuals, and in our Trades Unions and Shop Committees we are banded together for mutual help and protection. We stand by our brother as we would stand by any worker worthy and in need of protection.” Beyond arguing that the strike was held outside of the agreed procedure for the resolution of disputes, the company and the Engineering Employers Federation kept remarkably quiet. Within only a few more days, a compromise solution was found which avoided embarrassment, but left the company in no doubt as to the collective strength of their employees.
It was an important lesson for Rolls Royce, which embarked upon a more benevolent course of employee relations, which recognised the especially skilled nature of its employees’ work. Increasingly, a job at Rolls Royce was seen as a particularly worthy one and the quality of employment became ever better. Even so, such disputes had been common throughout the engineering industry, but it only took a national lock out in 1921 to tilt the balance of power back towards the employers. Meanwhile, the national shop stewards movement which had emerged in 1917 was formally wound up in 1922, as the official trade union movement took up the challenge of shop floor organisation more seriously.
The railway workshops in Derby faced an even more daunting task than the Rolls Royce workers in changing their work environment. A visit to the Litchurch works in Derby in the early Twenties, more than any other experience, converted to socialism the noted Methodist, Donald (or Lord, as he was later to become) Soper. The noise, dirt, lack of safety and the rigid discipline created a lasting impression upon the young man. The manager’s office was called the “Baron’s Fortress”, a term which reflected the warlike behaviour of the management. The foremen wore bowler hats, as if to place them above the workers who had to stand to attention when talking to them. The foremen’s blue suits were almost a uniform, designed to intimidate and the practice of distinguishing supervisors by dress only died out after 194S. Men were hired and fired at will.
One former worker in the railway workshops, Les Clay, was taken on when hundreds of men waited every day outside the gates for a company official to appear. “Any joiners?” the foreman would say. “Any blacksmiths? Any turners?” Clay was in the front row on one occasion when the last to be taken on was called. When he thrust himself forward, he was rewarded with a job. Casual work even for skilled men was the norm and security of employment was equally risky once in the works. Clay had an average of one in four weeks unemployed and was always in the first batch to be laid off on account of his trade union commitment. The employer tended to hire labour when needed that day and to fire it as soon as work dried up. Forward planning was not a concept then familiar to the railway workshops.
Shop stewards, or to be precise ‘shop committeemen’, were provided for in a new agreement concluded for the railway workshops in 1923. In the Derby loco works, these committeemen were subjected to terrific harassment. Les Clay’s foreman, Healey, was a “bastard”. When Healey stood as a Liberal candidate in the local elections, Clay responded to a comment by the chairman of one of Healey’s public meetings, even though Sir Henry Fowler, the head of the Midland Railway, was also on the platform. The chair remarked that the men who worked under Healey would testify to his qualities. To the surprise of all, Clay announced to the meeting that the only thing Healey lacked in qualities was a whip! A member of the press fell off his seat on a window ledge in amused amazement at Clay’s audacity. [32]
Amongst other skilled engineering trades there was also sign of the desire for organisational unity of the kind displayed by the AEU. In 1919, the National Union of Vehicle Builders (NUVB) came into existence by the merger of the old established UKSC and three London based coach making societies. In Derby, the new union was particularly well based in the rail workshops having 313 members in the local branch compared to only 80 in 1915. The branch secretary was one T Osman and he steered the NUVB locally through its amalgamation and beyond. The effect of the new union was very positive in this highly specialised section of the engineering industry, for within two years membership had risen substantially.
ii) General and Municipal Workers
The Gas and General Labourers Union (G&GLU) was still strongly based among quarry workers in the north of the county, which was largely rural and remote from the major towns. Not that they were at all docile. One thousand quarrymen and lime workers in the Buxton area came out on strike for a week in May 1920, to satisfactorily resolve their grievances. But it was only with expansion into other fields, which was assisted by mergers, could the union emerge as the massive body that is today’s GMB. The G&GLU had been taking members in a variety of industries for some time. To underline this fact, the union changed its name in 1922 to the Amalgamated Society of Gas, Municipal and General Workers. However, the merger of three big general workers unions in 1924, which brought about the National Union of General and Municipal Workers (NUGMWU) really laid the basis for growth, particularly in the municipal sphere. In the lead up to the merger, the veteran leader of the gas workers, Will Thorne, visited Derby to address a mass meeting in the Temperance Hall in June 1923. Members of his own union joined in to listen to the merger proposal with those of the Municipal Employees Association, which had members employed by the Borough Council in Derby, and the National Amalgamated Union of Labour, which had members in the coalfields and elsewhere in Derbyshire. [33]
iii)        Printing and Paper Workers
The female printing and paper workers of Derby were able to win an agreement in early 1919 to provide for wages of between 12/- at 14 years of age and 30/- at 20 years, which significantly was inclusive of war bonuses, thus protecting the increments. Skilled printers also received increases, taking them to 69/- a week in May 1919. The Operative Printers (NATSOPA) and the Paper Workers Union, representing male warehousemen, cutters and packers extracted rises taking the most experienced workers to within 3/- a week of the most highly skilled men. Their union, the Typographical Association, responded by asking for a 10% increase, but by the beginning of December the semi-skilled unions had obtained an immediate 6/-increase and a 1/6d increase to apply from January 1920. [34] The general thrust of all this is to only underline the fact that the general experience of the printing unions during the war continued immediately afterwards. Organisation of the workers was high, control of the trade was firm and demand for the products of the labour of print workers was still rising rapidly.
iv)        The Mining Industry
The mining industry had been relatively quiet during the war, as demand for energy was at a premium. The Derbyshire Miners Association (DMA) was even able to expand itself in other, unusual areas. The price of lead rocketed during the war years and in consequence the mineral was once more actively mined in the county. But as the price of lead was left to rise or fall in an open market, the onset of peace presented serious problems for DMA members in the Mill Close mines in Darley Dale. This was Derbyshire’s largest ever lead mine, producing half a million tons of lead concentrates over three centuries of exploitation. Mill Close experienced no less than four defensive strikes over 1918-9, the last being in August 1919, when union members were made redundant at the same time that non-unionists with lesser service were given their jobs, after being transferred from other areas of the mines. 86 DMA members came out and the strike dragged on for months – until early 1921 in fact!
Under Derbyshire’s ancient lead mining regulations, a claim could be made for possession of disused mines, so the DMA decided to do just that in order that the men could be provided with work. A claim for three disused mines near to the Mill Close operations was made, the idea being to run the workings as a worker co-operative. But the capital required to fund such a project was too much for the union. Meanwhile, the owner of Mill Close, H Denman, sold out his interests in the mine, but the new owner still refused to take the DMA strikers back. In 1922, New Consolidated Goldfield Ltd, which now controlled Mill Close, injected much needed capital in the mines. [35]
The experience of the DMA’s coal mining membership over the next few years was to prove to be every bit as exhilarating as the struggle of the lead miners and sometimes as bitterly disappointing. As the demobilisation of the troops took place, some coal owners dismissed men to make way for returning servicemen, a course of action that led to disputes at Tibshelf and Normanton. The employers argued that they could not keep ‘uneconomic’ levels of labour on their books unless they had some help from the Government. This line of approach led in turn to definite calls for nationalisation of coal mines, as pit after pit faced the same problem. Another repeated demand during this period was for the abolition of the butty system. This operated throughout Derbyshire and the mass of the men were thoroughly opposed to it. They did most of the work whilst the butty took the lion’s share of the wages. Even so, there were some workers who believed that piece work maximised earnings. After decades of controversy, the unfair aspect of butty was finally ended in 1919, when a ballot of the DMA showed a three to one majority for a new system whereby every man would share equally in the results of a butty contract.
The ease with which such a long-standing grievance was resolved must have given great confidence to the DMA. A national claim for a 30% increase, a six hour day, full wages for the unemployed displaced by returning servicemen and nationalisation of the mines was made against the background of bold confidence in every coalfield. Of Derbyshire’s men, 93% balloted in favour of strike action. Wages had not kept up with the price of coal. Since the establishment of the datum line of 1888, wages had risen threefold, but prices had risen fourfold, so the demand for a 30% rise was not seen as unreasonable. Only the involvement of Lloyd George, as Prime Minister, averted the strike. A proposal to set up a Royal Commission was accepted by the Miners Federation, so long as they could have a say in the appointment of the members of the Commission.
Its Chairman was Mr Justice Sankey, hence the Royal Commission began to be called the ‘Sankey Commission’. It eventually reported that the high prices and low wages of recent years had allowed the owners to make extremely large profits, despite their inefficiency in managing their own businesses. But differences in the Commission resulted in three separate reports being presented to Parliament. Six on the Commission voted for the majority report, which provided for the MFGB’s demands for a 30% increase, a six hour day and a guarantee for those laid off due to demobilisation. A minority report, put by three of the Commission’s members and supported by the coal owners, argued for a 1/6d a day increase, a seven hour day for underground workers and an eight hour day for surface workers. A third proposal, which the government accepted, dubbed the ‘Sankey Report’, envisaged a 2/- a day increase, a seven hour day in 1919 and a conditional six hour day in 1921. The coalfields were in ferment at this manoeuvring and the MFGB balloted the men. Railway workers were in a similar struggle and were also on the verge of a national strike. It seemed impossible to hold the miners back to await the result of the ballot. In Derbyshire, sporadic strikes of pit deputies took place and, on 27th March 1919, 8,000 men in twelve of the coalfield’s pits walked out on unofficial strike. But the DMA advised acceptance of the Government’s terms and eventually the men came around to this.
The question of nationalisation had yet to be settled and the Sankey Commission began another inquiry. This time four reports emerged, but all of them favoured some form of state involvement. This apparent sense of unanimity to some extent lulled the miners into a false sense of security, rudely shattered when the Government rejected nationalisation. There were also difficulties in implementing the shorter working week, as the Government hedged on whether the reduction in hours would mean a reduction in wages. Unrest in the coalfields reached a new high, especially when it became clear that fewer hours would also mean fewer wage. 20,000 Derbyshire miners came out from 21st July in 30 pits. The DMA leadership laboured in vain to head off the strike wave, which was paralleled in the rest of the country. On 2Sth July, Lloyd George agreed a formula ending the strike, but nationalisation was still an unresolved issue. Mass meetings were held in the coalfields to win the miners for action on the issue over August and September. But the failure to generate support in other industries for sympathetic action ensured the failure of this struggle. In early 1920, Derbyshire miners voted nine to one for action. The MFGB as a whole was more evenly split, but nonetheless still voted in favour of a strike. However, the TUC took the initiative and decided by an overwhelming vote not to call a general strike on the affair. Nationalisation became a dead issue for a generation.
Not that this experience dented the resolve of the miners to tackle their immediate problems. The introduction of iron and steel props in underground workings at the Butterley mines in May 1920 led to a threatened strike and the idea was hurriedly withdrawn. The notion had proved controversial because the cheaper props would not give out a cracking sound when excessive pressure might lead to a roof collapse, as did wooden props. More emphatic than this was the major wages confrontation of 1920. The Derbyshire miners voted in a national MFGB ballot by well over two to one to strike for a claim to reduce the price of employees’ coal and increase wages. The owners made the fixing of a datum line to calculate production bonuses the main issue, but this was clearly rejected by the miners. The extent of feeling amongst the men can be gauged by the stormy reaction of the historically less militant South Derbyshire miners. There was a special reason for their outrage; the wages of miners in the Swadlincote area were about 3/- a day less than their fellows in the north of the county around Chesterfield. South Derbyshire joined with most other miners in the national strike, which started on Saturday 16th October. The DMA immediately made the decision to conserve its funds by paying a reduced strike pay of £1 a week to full members.
The miners naturally looked to the Triple Alliance, formed in 1915, for support from the transport unions. Rowsley NUR, like other railway union branches, formed a strike committee. But the domination of the solidarity action with the miners by the NUR was not well received by Staveley ASLEF, which voted 12 to 54 against supporting the NUR action. Instead, a proposal to stand by a decision of their own EC, once it had consulted ASLEF branches, went through with 40 for and only 22 against. Despite such bickering, at a national level the rail unions warned on October 21st that unless the miners’ demands were met, they would strike within days. The Government rushed through an emergency powers bill to give it authority to stand up to this challenge, but in also began negotiations with the MFGB. After four days, a proposal was made sufficient to avert the solidarity railway strike. Amidst much confusion and a split in the DMA’s leadership, there was a small majority in a ballot for acceptance in the county. Nationally, there was a wafer thin majority for rejection of the Government’s offer. Despite the ballot result, a special MFGB conference abandoned the strike.
Subsequent increases gave the Derbyshire men 3s 6d a day more than they had been previously earning. But, essential, very little in terms of lasting gains had been extracted from the strike. Essential strike funds had been drained away, weakening the miners’ bargaining position if a sudden fight came. The valuable offer of solidarity action by the Triple Alliance had frightened the Government, but the firmness of such offers had not been put to the test. Within a single year, the employers would be back to reassure themselves of their dominance over the miners.
(v) The Railway Industry
The eight hour day was introduced on the railways as part of the process of establishing a peace-time national agreement for the industry but not until after a fight. Discussions with the Government took place, amidst an atmosphere of intense militancy amongst the workforce. By the end of November 1918, the rail unions were deciding upon industrial action unless the Government definitely indicated that the eight hour day would be introduced. In December, Derby ASLEF considered that the “time has arrived when the question shall be settled once and for all”. A strike committee was elected, in a determined mood, while the branch pledged to “abide by whatever decision the EC considers the best”. Faced with the certainty of a major national railway dispute, the Government determined that discretion was the better part of valour and calmly retreated. The eight hour day was introduced from February 1st 1919, a momentous occasion. As Derby ASLEF called it, a “red letter day”.
As soon as rail workers realised their full strength, other issues came to the fore. In particular, after the tensions generated by the preparations for a national strike had revealed the potential extent for strike breaking, the question of working with non­-trades unionists emerged as an issue. The future ability of railway unionism to face up to the employers was seriously affected by this. The isolated Rowsley branch of the NUR in North Derbyshire was, in those days, the centre of a major marshalling yard. Yet this rural NUR branch was just as affected by the prevailing mood of determination to seize material improvements as any big city branch. Rowsley NUR carried a resolution that a strike committee be formed and pickets “appointed to carry out the EC decisions of January 7th re their call on the non-union question”. In anticipation of future conflict, the branch set up a 15 man strike committee and another 15 members constituted a special picket group. [36]
These developments had been a reflection of the improved bargaining position that had been brought to railway unions by the war and its aftermath. National conformity of wages and a big improvement of the lot of the rail worker went hand in hand with the massive increase in union membership which had taken place over the war years. The Railway Clerks Association (RCA) won the right to represent station masters and other supervisory workers in national negotiations in early 1919, a fact which no doubt had a direct bearing on the sudden jump in RCA membership. The Derby branch reached the heady heights of some 1,500 members by the end of 1920. [37]
Throughout 1919, the Government and the rail unions negotiated over the question of a national wage agreement based on the standardisation of the hundreds of grades which the various companies used. Both sides naturally adopted postures designed to maximise their bargaining strength. The NUR especially sought to revamp the Triple Alliance, a fact underlined by a special discussion at the Rowsley branch in June at which “absolute support for the Triple Alliance” was declared. [38] A major crisis was reached in September 1919, when the Government proposed a wages settlement which would supposedly end wartime controls and lay the basis for the future rail negotiations with the independent companies at a national level. The proposal gave special concessions to drivers and firemen who were organised by ASLEF. The entire 33/- war bonus, which had been arrived at in seven stages was to be added to the highest pre-war company footplate rate. However, for the other grades, reductions of between one and sixteen shillings a week would apply from the beginning of January 1920.
A national strike was the only thing to be expected in the circumstances and this began on midnightFriday 26th September 1919. The obvious attempt to split the unions by treating loco drivers and firemen and the bulk of NUR members differently failed miserably, for the 57,000 members of ASLEF stopped work in solidarity. Derby ASLEF took a hard line over any of its members who might be tempted to waver. The branch resolved that “all members that remain at work during the strike shall be expelled from the society and forfeit all benefits”. The motion was carried unanimously. Moreover, to ensure complete solidarity, the branch decided not to resume work until “every man has been reinstated” and that “we unanimously agree that we will not resume work till the whole of the men that remained at work during the strike have been dismissed”. Seven men were given four hours notice of expulsion unless they ceased work, but in contrast seven non-unionists joined up from September 14th onwards. [39]
The wider labour movement geared itself to mobilising support for the rail workers. The United Machineworkers No 69 Derby branch simply reflected the overwhelming mood of solidarity with the rail workers, when it declared full support for them. The public at large were decisively in sympathy with the rail workers’ struggle. Meanwhile, the rail unions began to make arrangements for a long dispute. The joint strike committee In Derby approached the board of Derby Co-operative Society (DCS), after the Government ensured the withholding of wages duly earned. The Co-op was asked to supply food to strikers by voucher on their honour to redeem the full costs later. A similar request came from the iron founders who were themselves also engaged in a dispute at the same time. The DCS Board unanimously agreed to assist both groups of workers. [40]
This central strike committee of the railway unions met constantly during the dispute. In particular, NUR and ASLEF held their own and joint branch meetings practically every day. 11,000 railway workers were out on strike in and around Derby, so naturally the effect on industry was both immediate and dramatic. Thousands were laid off in the Derbyshire coalfields and many pits, such as Barlborough, Whitwell and Southgate were completely closed. 150 trains normally came out from Derby each day, but only three appeared on the first day of the strike. [41] After that there were no trains for five days out of Derby and the Trades Council later summed up the general view of the movement, when it “congratulated the railwaymen on the splendid stand made by them during their recent strike”. [42]
The Government waged a fierce propaganda battle against the rail workers, with newsreel films in the cinema and full page advertisements in the newspapers. It was the first, systematic use of such sophisticated techniques of mass persuasion during an industrial dispute. The Government’s campaign so infuriated members of Derby ASLEF that they decided to ask assistance of the Vehicle Workers Union, a recent merger of the London based bus and tram union and the Manchester based Amalgamated Association of Tramway Workers, which had a branch in Derby. The union was asked to “refuse to handle any transport (of) any capitalist papers seeing they are trying to influence public opinion by making false statements about the railway dispute”. The NUR countered the propaganda by commissioning the Labour Research Department to present its case to the public. Well argued advertisements appeared in the newspapers, asking workers whether they wanted to see their own wages cut in a similar way, for their turn would come next. The tremendous public support was maintained partly due to this professional aid from the LRD, which was an independent body much influenced by Marxist elements. The use of the LRD was an important first step for unions in utilising intellectual skills in a coherent and modern way.
Another major aid was the threat by print workers to strike if their own newspaper put the strikers’ case unfairly. It was very quickly apparent that the rail workers were due for a stunning victory and they were magnanimous in their strength. A party of soldiers returning home on leave were stranded in Derby by the strike, but were sent to Birmingham in taxis paid for by the local branches of the NUR. [43] The strike did not spread to other industries, simply because the rail unions did not call for such solidarity action. Nonetheless, the Derby builders’ labourers working on railway contracts came out in support, although they need not have done so, such was their sympathy for the dispute. The ABL subsequently sought official dispute benefit from the union’s head office for their members “who left work with the railwaymen in the recent strike”. [44]
After nine days of struggle, the strike ended on October 5th 1919, when the Government met with the railway union leaders to settle the dispute in No 10 Downing Street. The terms of the settlement allowed for no victimisation and the guarantee of existing earnings until September 30th 1920, when new negotiations on standardisation of wages would begin on the basis of a 5/- a week minimum wage. Following this success, it proved no difficulty to negotiate a series of agreements which were signed during 1920. The extremely complex wages scales were simplified. Enhanced payments for overtime and shift work and a guaranteed week were all introduced, as the NUR maximised its advantages by adopting a strongly militant posture within the Triple Alliance.
The rail unions tried to achieve 100% membership within the industry. Derby ASLEF considered in December 1919 that “the time has arrived when all men joining the footplate fraternity shall be compelled to join a trades union”. The victory ensured that it began to be much easier to pick up membership. One Derby member of ASLEF, T Wasley, received a medal from the EC for proposing 60 new members in eight months during 1920. [45] Bargaining opportunities also arose that year, when the unions put a proposal to the Minister of Transport to establish national conciliation machinery. Derby No.1 ASLEF voiced a common concern, when it decided to keep its rank and file Vigilance Committee, “while the new machinery is set up and then we shall see what is required to work it”, thus hedging their bets. [46]
Railway workers were still subject to the rigidity of stern disciplinary rules. For example, instant dismissal for smoking on duty was not at all rare. Despite these restraints, perhaps because of them, the unions were able to prosper in the aftermath of 1919 strike. This was so even in what might be considered the more remote areas. Rowsley NUR, for example, went from strength to strength. The branch affiliated to the Matlock Trades and Labour Council in 1919, with as many as four delegates attending the council. Links were forged with the Matlock, Cromford and Ambergate NUR branches and the NUR in North Derbyshire even supported Hibbs of ASLEF as a Labour candidate in the Darley Dale Urban District Council elections of 1920 with some vigour. Rowsley NUR set up a branch library and with great pride recorded their intent to buy a volume of a Keir Hardie biography for this. The branch became an intrinsic part of the daily life of the locality, engaging in house to house charity collections – especially for the local hospital – amongst other community activities in the Darley Dale area. This work was so advanced that a formal “collection committee” was set up.
In a similar way, Derby ASLEF branch tried to view its activities with a broader perspective. A “workers education class for the younger members” was set up in 1921. However, a different mood was to be detected already, as recession began to set in. The ASLEF branch thought that their initiative ought to be followed by other branches “with a view to lifting the workers out of the apathy that they are in at the present time”. [47] We shall see in due course how this came about.
(vi) Teachers
In sharp contrast to manual workers, the lot of the teacher was infinitely less disagreeable, in terms of the standard of working conditions. Yet it is a measure of the seriousness of unrest amongst all employees in Britain at this time that the profession was beset with ‘industrial’ relations problems. The failure of DerbyshireCounty Council (DCC) to more effectively deal with the still inadequate salary of its teachers caused a strike in the county in early 1919, quite an unheard of development. The Derbyshire area of the NUT had by now achieved the not inconsiderable membership of 1,459. In the course of its dispute over county rates of pay, it became clear that only a nationally set level of payments would resolve the teachers’ problems. Indeed, the Derbyshire area demanded such.
A similar process of unrest was evident throughout the country and resulted in the convening in 1919 of the Burnham Committee of enquiry into teachers’ pay. This accepted the NUT’s demands for a national salary scale, although much pressure had to be exerted upon DCC to implement the terms of this decision. Two years later, area scales were still in existence in Derbyshire. [48]
More controversial still, was the pressure from women teachers for equal pay. A separate organisation, the Union of Women Teachers had been formed in 1909. But little progress on fairer treatment for women had been achieved and the war years had exacerbated the discrepancies which existed. The perfectly sound, egalitarian principle of equal pay caused much dissatisfaction amongst male teachers. Despite the fact that the NUT’s membership was 70% female and that equal pay became union policy in 1919, the NUT maintained an ambivalent attitude, causing support for the continuation of separate women’s and men’s only teachers’ unions, as hostility towards each others’ positions developed. [49]
(vii) Police Unionism
Even more astonishing to modern experience is the unionisation of police and – perhaps less surprising – prison officers, which came about in this turbulent period. A process which began in 1914 culminated five years later in the terminal defeat of the National Union of Police and Prison Officers (NUPPO), a bona fide trade union in the contemporary sense of the word. NUPPO was defeated in the course of a major dispute, which seriously worried the Government and establishment. For the very survival of British capitalism rested upon notions of neutrality of the state and its instruments. To have the police engaged in conflict with the state raised very profound questions.
Pic: police on strike in 1919
At first NUPPO grew very slowly, its members having to meet in secret. A branch began organising in Derby in 1917. [50] As the war came to an end, discontent about pay and conditions spilled out into the open, as it was to with so many other diverse industries and occupations. Some local authorities, the technical employers of the police, were prepared to concede advances in pay. The DerbyshireCounty Council Standing Joint Committee asked the Home Secretary for sanction to improve reserve police pay. It submitted an entire new scale of payments for approval in 1918. [51] Demands for the reinstatement of a dismissed leading member of NUPPO in 1918 were initially refused and led to a strike in some parts of the country on 29th August.
Within days a settlement had been reached and membership of NUPPO rose to five sixths of the entire force. Like any other trade union, NUPPO had learned the value of solidarity, both for its own members’ problems and for other workers. In the summer of 1919, the Derby branch of NUPPO decided to affiliate to the Labour Party. Nationally, the union had already affiliated to the TUC. Locally, NUPPO benefited from the organisational and financial assistance of the Derby Trades Council. The DTC gave Derby NUPPO a donation of £1 4s 0d to help it on its feet. Generally, there was widespread sympathy in the labour movement for the policemen’s’ case. Charles Duncan, the WU leader, was an honorary official of NUPPO and was himself involved in a libel action on the latter’s behalf in 1919. [S2]
But the Home Office had moved very little on police pay and by the summer of 1919 had rejected NUPPO’s demands outright. A strike broke out principally in London and Liverpool, as the wider trade union movement declared itself decidedly in favour of the union. The Derby Trades Council did so on July 9th 1919. Despite the earlier signs of militancy, in common with most other police areas, Derby’s NUPPO branch did not come out on strike. The branch would only comment that they were “not on strike for the present”, implying that their hesitancy arose out of misconceived tactical considerations on the part of the union.
Whilst Derbyshire police did not actively join the dispute, there is an interesting sidelight which provides a link with the county. One of the key leaders of the strike was Leonard Petchey, who had served with the Derbyshire Constabulary in 1903 and 1904. His experience as a 19 year old in a North East Derbyshire mining village was decisive in preparing him for the leading role he played in the police strike of 1919. When in the county, he had to work a 63 hour week for £1 4s 6d, with no holidays, no bicycle and with primitive lodgings. Petchey resigned out of disgust at the high handedness of the police authorities. Yet, for him, the local people were “real decent and warm-hearted, they took a bit of knowing, but once you knew them, they presented no problem at all”.
Because of the spilt amongst the men themselves in 1919, well exemplified by the hesitancy of NUPPO activists in places like Derby, the Home Office was able to ride out the dispute. After a humiliating return to work, mass dismissals of militant policemen began and an emergency Police Bill was introduced in Parliament. This had the objective of stifling police trades unionism, once and for all. Strike action by the police would be illegal from the passing of the Bill into legislation. The wider trade union movement registered its opposition, for example the DTC in August and Rowsley NUR in November but it was to little effect, for the Government had got its way and independent trades unionism amongst the police was at an end. Whatever professional bodies which were subsequently established to represent the police would say about their own representativeness, these would remain quite divorced from the wider workers’ movement and would operate in a manner quite alien to trade union traditions.
(viii) Co-operative and Other Distributive Workers
In the period which followed the war, not even the Co-operatives – which were supposed to be on the side of organised labour – avoided industrial disputes. In 1919, the South Yorkshire Amalgamated Union of Co-operative and Commercial Employees (AUCCE) fought a battle for the merging of war bonuses into a complete wages scale. The Co-ops realised that the dispute could escalate into a fight for a national arrangement along these lines. Consequently, the employers decided to pre-empt this by threatening a lock out of North Midland and Lancashire employees. Co-ops in Derbyshire would have certainly been affected by this. But a negotiated settlement resolved the immediate conflict, although the argument about wages scales rumbled on for eighteen months.
This experience encouraged the mood for greater trade union unity in the sector and the three societies which mainly organised in the Co-ops decided to opt for amalgamation. AUCCE had over a thousand members in Derby, when the union joined with the Shop Assistants Union and the Warehouse Workers Union. A mass meeting to promote the fusion of the three was held in Derby in November 1919. Held at the Temperance Hall, this was chaired by Councillor W R Raynes, who put the rather suspect view that Derby was “at one time a black spot in the trade union world”. This was presumably by contrast with the rapid growth of unionism in his time. [53]
But, as it happened, only the Warehouse Workers joined up with AUCCE. However, a merger with the Journeyman Butchers’ Federation (JBF) enabled the union to change identity to the National Union of Distributive and Allied Workers (NUDAW). The Shop Assistants remained aloof from all this until as late as 1947. To complicate matters further, the Shop Assistants suffered a breakaway in the form of the National Chemists Assistants, which became the National Union of Drug and Chemical Workers by a merger. In 1936 shortening its name to the Chemical Workers Union (CWU), this earned a long-standing reputation for being a maverick union. It was to leave the TUC in 1923, rather than conform to a Disputes Committee ruling on membership recruitment from another union altogether. There were very strong objections from the TGWU and NUGMW, which both suffered from the casual approaches of the CWU to snatching the members of other unions. Oddly, the union subsequently merged with the TGWU in 1971. Apart from sporadic attempts to organise in British Celanese, the union never really featured locally.
As for NUDAW, the new union broke into its chosen sphere of activity with enthusiasm. Its paper, New Dawn, was not only a slight pun on the name of the union, but was really symptomatic of a sense of a new beginning that the establishment of the union gave co-op workers. Some evidence of an initially militant industrial policy exists. For example, after permission had been given to NUDAW members at Ripley Co-op to engage in official strike, the Society agreed to pay the “Boot Repairers’ Log”, a disputed payment claimed by shoe workers. [54] While a total strike of all the employees of the Derby Co-op was called by the local representative and later approved by NUDAW’s executive. This was actually averted in the end, but a strike of butchery department members did occur when some employees changed membership to the craft butchery union, the JBF, before the merger which created NUDAW. The craft union advocated a higher rate of pay, as generally observed by Derby’s specialist retail butchers. Arbitration was proposed, but there was still a strike, which eventually was ended by agreement to refer the affair to a joint committee of the TUC and the Co-operative Union, the latter being essentially a trade society of the co-op organisations. Another instance of local militancy was in the early 1920s, when Derby Co-op Society workers came out in sympathy with craft bakers in their national dispute, whilst bakers at Long Eaton Co-op unsuccessfully campaigned for night work to be abolished in 1921. [55]
A more serious and lengthy affair was the insurance workers’ dispute. The Co­operative Insurance Society (CIS) dismissed W Stokes, District Manager in Derby, “due to his actions as a trade union secretary” for sending out in his own time a circular to his members telling them not to accept new conditions of employment until they had been considered by the union’s executive committee. [56] This event took place against the background of another dispute on a new scale of wages, which had been raging for eighteen months that had been set off in South Yorkshire. These insurance workers were just unable to resolve their problem and the dispute bubbled on, with morale beginning to flag.
In September 1922, the CIS rejected arbitration and nine months later the issue was discussed at the Derby Trades Council. There, one delegate argued that “it is ridiculous (since the CIS) were preaching the ideal of the Co-operativeCommonwealth”. [S7] But if dissatisfaction with the co-operative movement was evident, then this was equally the case with NUDAW. Insurance workers set up a rival union, seceding from their own union. The new formation, established in 1923, was called the National Union of Co-operative Insurance Society Employees (NUCISE). Due to technicalities of a constitutional nature, NUCISE was not considered eligible for affiliation to the TUC and therefore, in 1934, it affiliated (not merged or amalgamated) to the TGWU. Affiliation ensured continued autonomy, while access to all TGWU services and facilities was possible by the payment of an annual affiliation fee. In 1982, NUCISE formally merged with the TGWU, after a ballot of its members, to become part of that union’s clerical and supervisory trade group, ACTS.
Apart from the initial hostilities with NUCISE, NUDAW had problems with the National Amalgamated Union of Shop Assistants, Warehousemen and Clerks (NAUSA) all during the Twenties. The tensions were so strong as to receive a report on the problem at the DTC in 1923. [58] The antagonism continued for some time, but the two unions were destined to unite in 1947 in the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers (USDAW), which today is the main union in the Co-ops. In the meantime, the forcefulness of the two unions mellowed, as the Co-ops themselves now began to cope with the notion of effective trade unionism amongst their employees, A special relationship with the Co-op unions was nurtured. This was exemplified by the introduction of worker directors, as in the Long Eaton Co-operative Society in 1922, when NUDAW member Arthur Church took his seat. [59]
However, there was little trades unionism in the distributive trade outside of the Co­ops. Major stores like Woolworth’s were then noted for their anti-trade union outlook. The DTC launched a boycott in 1924 of Woolworth’s store – the first in the area – for its open refusal to employ union labour, [60]
(ix)The Builders Labourers Union
Charles Brown, the former branch secretary of the Derby ABL, only came back from the army to take up his union activities in October 1919. It was an opportune moment to return, for the membership of ABL was about to phenomenally explode. An enormous amount of building work began to be undertaken for British Celanese (or British Cellulose, as it was called at first) at Spondon. This enabled the ABL, and also the craft unions, to make major recruitment gains during 1919. A shop steward was elected for the ABL on site by October of that year and the union decided to extend the election of shop stewards to all yards organised by itself in the Derby area and on all jobs where there was in excess of twenty men.
Throughout this period, the minutes of the ABL show an almost obsessive concern for the “non-union question”. While the organisation of the shop stewards’ system grew apace and in October 1919 the ABL voted to meet monthly instead of quarterly. Apart from the expansion of the Spondon site, there was generally a building boom and this reflected itself in some startling recruitment levels. National membership of ABL in 1918 was 9,969, so the local branch was not an insignificant part of the whole union.
Derby ABL membership [61]
                  1917                                      65
                  1918                                    281
                  1919                                    248
                  1920                                    835
A number of locally and nationally well-known firms were organised by the ABL. McAlpine’s had employees in the union in Derby in 1918. [62] W Ford’s, which had been organised as early as 1913, were still organised in 1920, when the company was warned about paying under the union rate. Gee’s, which later became Gee Walker, were organised. In 1920, they too received a union warning; this time about allowing bricklayers to unload brick lorries, obviously the work of labourers. [63] Ford and Weston had a number of labourers organised by Brown, when he visited a Melbourne job to check on membership. Astral Company in Kedleston Road were organised in September 1920. [64]
Faced with this growth, the Derby branch of ABL began to feel the need for some more permanent arrangement of an officer. This would be a departure from the past practice of periodically appointed district delegates, when a working member of the branch would be paid loss of earnings to attend to problems on the job of branch members. A new rule book adopted in 1916 at a national level – and supported by the Derby branch – for the first time made provision for the existence of full time officers. [65] The branch discussed the idea of a local full timer, as a general principle, in the spring of 1920. [66] A working group reported to the branch committee that it was a feasible proposition and on July 1st the branch voted to make Brown the full-timer at the remuneration of £5 a week, paying for this by means of a levy of 2d per week per member. Such decisions were being made in a number of towns where the ABL organised. The head office determined a standard rate for the job later that month of £6 a week, so Brown got an increase earlier than he might have expected! [67]
The work of an organiser was fairly strictly controlled by the membership. It was agreed by the local ABL committee in 1921 that to check “the organising work done by the secretary … a report in writing be made weekly (and) to each quarterly meeting”. [68] £6 was a good wage for the building industry, even though rates had risen quite dramatically, compared to the pre-war position. Building labourers got 16s 8d for an eight hour shift in 1920, compared to 6s 0d for nine hours in 1914. Labourers managed to maintain a rate moderately close to that of the skilled men. Plasterers, plumbers, bricklayers and carpenters could expect around 19/-, or just under, for a ten hour day in 1920. [69] This was very much due to the pressure on the wages front that the entire industry felt from 1918 onward. During the course of 1918, the ABL lodge in Derby decided to press their head office to “apply to the Government for the payment of the 121/2% for all members working in controlled establishments and on work of public utility”. [70] Great changes began to be made in the industry. In October, a new local federation of building unions was established under the rules of the newly set up National Federation of Building Trade Operatives.
The significance of both the local branch resolution and the new structures was that, effectively, local bargaining in the building industry had come to an end. In 1920, this became formally confirmed after the ABL head office circulated branches indicating that all future claims for pay and conditions improvements would be handled nationally. [71] A major demand for the building unions in this period was for a reduction in basic hours of work. Derby ABL balloted 194 for and 3 against the claim for a 44 hour week in May of 1919. Only one year later, after all building unions had agreed to press for this without reduction in pay, the reduced working week came in.
(x) The Textile Industry
At the end of 1918, the Ilkeston Hosiery Union (IHU) voted to press for the 44 hours, at a time when average hours in the textile industry were in the region of 54 a week. The hosiery unions throughout the East Midlands were generally a little more cautious than the IHU and asked for a 47 hour week in negotiations with the employers. After five hours argument, an agreement was reached for a 48 hour week and increases in overtime premia and piecework rate.
Despite this advance, some textile workers were not happy with the deal. In parts of Derbyshire, the S4 hours were accepted as quite normal and the full amount of earnings lost by the six hour reduction in standard hours were not totally compensated for by the increase in piecework agreed to by the employers. Union members demanded that in future no agreement should be made at the negotiating table without reference back to the membership at large. More positively received were the series of cost of living rises agreed on at the joint forum. [72]
Even largely unorganised firms were affected by the general agreement in the textile industry to improve pay and conditions. The English Sewing Cotton Company issued the following circular early in 1919, concerning working arrangements at its DerwentValley mill in Derbyshire. [73]
Changes in Working Hours
It has been decided to make an experiment for three months commencing from February 17th 1919 of a Forty-nine-and-a-half working week at this mill and during the period the daily hours of work will be as follows:
8.00                             am to 12.30 pm
1.30                             pm to 6.00 pm
SATURDAYS:          8.00 am to 12.30 pm
Piece rates will be unaltered and the weekly wages of Time Workers will remain as at present.
The directors look with confidence to the workers to use their utmost endeavours to see that, as far as practicable, production is unaffected as little as possible as a result of the reduced working hours.
Breakfast will have to be taken before starting work, but in the case of those workers who come a long distance, the gate will be open at 7.30 am, and Breakfast can be taken in the Dining Room between 7.30 am and 8 am, when Tea will be provided if sufficient names are handed in.”
While responding to the advances won elsewhere, the company maintained a studied attitude of, on the one hand, benevolent working conditions and, on the other, firm resistance to trade unionism. A move on hours was made, but there was no question of paying for it out of anything other than reduced earnings.
But the textile industry was about to experience major technological change, albeit over a long period. The British Cellulose Chemical Manufacturing Company Ltd was first established in the Derby area in 1916 and the company thoroughly developed the cellulose acetate process during the war, By 1921 this had been applied to yarn production, as modern techniques were explored. Knitting, dying and finishing units were soon installed in the Spondon fibre plant. This new artificial fibre industry would give rise to massive factories, more like chemical plants than clothing establishments. A union like the Workers Union was well placed to take advantage of this development. As early as 1919, when the giant Spondon plant was only in the first stage of expansion, the WU was fighting the company over the issue of shop stewards’ representation. Although the WU executive sanctioned an official dispute over the sacking of a shop steward in 1919, the company was unmoved and maintained a vigorous resistance to the influence of shop stewards for decades after. [74]
More traditional industries like the lace making trade viewed the immediate future somewhat differently. The three lace making unions had established some degree of unity in 1919 and engaged in a long running dispute aimed at raising the level of wages outside of Nottingham, in the Eastern Derbyshire area, In November 1919, the delegates of the various unions in Long Eaton, Ilkeston and Derby met to decide what to do to break the deadlock. A joint leadership, consisting of Wood of the Long Eaton Operative Laceworkers and Warburton of the Derby WU unsuccessfully pressed the employer for an increase in the bonus of 30%. The Nottingham bonus was 50% on basic rates – the lower rate prevailing outside the city. Despite much strengthening of the trade union movement in the trade, this differential proved very difficult to break down. [75]
(xi) The Workers Union
There was still much speculation in the local labour movement as to the way in which the WU had negotiated a conclusion to the Darley Abbey affair. This was characterised by a rift between Derby Trades Council (DTC) and the union itself. The conflict was fuelled by events elsewhere in the textile industry. Workers at Doulds engaged in a dispute in the summer of 1919, when the DTC Executive Committee initially condemned “the action of the Workers Union official”. This approach was backed at the July meeting of the full council, when the DTC strongly protested against the conduct of Stokes. The WU DC protested equally robustly at the DTC’s intervention. [76] Irrespective of the rights and wrongs of the case, there was resentment at outside intervention. In the end, the DTC at its August meeting simply withdrew the letter of complaint.
At Darley Abbey, the local branch began pressing for an improvement on the length of the working week in 1919 and a resolution on this was forwarded on through the DC to the WU executive. [77] A fact which re-enforces the probability that the settlement of the recognition dispute had envisaged only national bargainers dealing with local matters affecting the mill. Such a set of circumstances rather implied a hollow victory in the 1917-8 strike. The WU branch had found itself without rights to raise grievances directly with their employer. The shorter hours hoped for did not occur, for early in 1919 short time working hit the company as recession followed the former boom in the textile industry. The short time working was applied within the mill so unfairly that the WU had to intervene to unsuccessfully negotiate on the matter. Despite this, the Darley Abbey WU members still pressed for a reduction in hours and the claim was put in the hands of the Divisional Organiser, J Clarke of Burton-on-Trent and Julia Varley, the National Women’s’ Officer, based in Birmingham, towards the end of 1919. [78]
In January of the following year, the Darley Abbey branch made an application for an increase in wages, but this appears to have been referred to national level. [79] The branch protested to the DC about the long delay in handling their problems in April and this was again referred to the executive. [80] Despite the inevitable disillusionment which surfaced at the mills, trades unionism did hold firm in the company at least until some time after 1920. No doubt the decline in organisation evident in the town generally, following the end of the militant years, had an effect on confidence of workers at the company as well. Nonetheless, it was a far cry from the brave words of support which had been spoken for the ‘Darley Abbey girls’ to the dismal end which unionism at the company faced. During the course of 1921 trade union organisation at the firm came to end altogether and the company ceased trading some two decades later, without a union ever again breaking ground.
Another cause of friction between the DTC and the WU was the dispute at Alderman Green’s Agard Street tape mills late in 1919. A dispute had broken out in the summer, but due to dissatisfaction with the progress the union had made, the employees dropped out of the WU. The DC noted in August that their “EC had decided to pay strike pay to our members employed at Aid. Green’s Ltd, but it had come to the knowledge of the organiser that the girls did not intend to pay any more money into the union”, Stokes was given a free hand in dealing with the situation by the DC, [81] Yet, somewhat contrary to the impression created by this, the workers went to the DTC for assistance. The DTC executive organised a deputation to Green, much to the displeasure of the WU, which protested at what it saw as inaccurate press reports. But the correction subsequently made by the local paper was considered by the WU as worse than the initial statement, so the union sent a sarcastic letter to the DTC “thanking them for disorganising our women members at Greens’s”. Relations, following these controversies, between the WU (and even the TGWU, its subsequent ‘heir’, locally at least) remained distinctly cool for more than a decade afterwards. Defending the fact that not one single WU branch was at this stage affiliated to the DTC, Hind retorted that “none of the women (at Green’s) had been taken back”. The affair would not die down, for in 1924 it once more surfaced. [82]
Disappointing experiences like this apart, the WU began to expand throughout the county. While it had established a branch in Ashbourne at least as early as 1914, it was not until 1920 when membership exploded in that area. Declared branch income, a rough and ready indication of membership, in Ashbourne in 1914 was £44s 0d; six years later this figure had reached £842 3s 21/2d. A District Committee was set up with C Holmes of Green Lane, Clifton, Ashbourne as secretary. Elsewhere in the county, branches were begun in Borrowash, Youlgreave, Belper, Spondon and Langley Mill. [83] The union spread into new sectors, notably public services. A strike of WU members employed by Heanor’s Urban District Council (UDC) ended quite successfully in October 1919, giving the green light to other municipal employees in manual grades to try out the WU, even as far north as Bakewell’s UDC. There, on Christmas Eve 1920, Stokes withdrew the threat of a strike by WU members at the gasworks, after a 1/- increase was conceded. It was claimed that these were the worst paid group of its kind in the entire country prior to the increase. [84] Clearly, the threat of action at Christmas had some publicity pressure value. These furthest reaches of Derbyshire were gradually organised by the WU, operating from Derby. The union found a friendly response when the Bakewell branch approached the Rowsley NUR for the first ever dispute at OP Battery. [85]
In another trade, the WU made inroads, to the displeasure of the small specialist unions, in the furnishing industry. As in textiles and engineering, the WU showed itself capable of an almost priggish independence when it came to joint industrial action. The furniture unions for their part thought that the union should follow their lead. The industry faced a lock out in 1919, which was discussed at the WUDC held at the Mikado Cafe in Ilkeston on August 9th. An official of the National Furniture Trades Union had called out the WU members in the trade in that locality. But Stokes “ordered the girls back to work pending a decision of the Executive Committee”. [86]
(vii) Agricultural workers
The mood of buoyant confidence rubbed off onto this very difficult to organise group. Derbyshire rural workers were largely non-unionised until this period. The main body was the National Agricultural Labourers’ Union (NALU), later to become the National Union of Agricultural Workers and, from the 1980s the T&G’s Rural, Agricultural and Allied Workers trade group. NALU began to find a basis in the villages around Derby. A Findern branch of NALU was founded in early 1920; the secretary, C JeIf, initially arranging a social evening to which he invited local farm labourers. The event was entirely successful, with enough recruits made to enable the branch to be declared well and truly established. The trend to greater organisation on farms and in the countryside aided the difficult set of negotiations which decided farm labourers’ wages. A county wages board set the standards, often to the dissatisfaction of the labourers.
In 1920, the board decided on a minimum scale, affecting 2,000 workers, of £2 2s 0d, a considerable rise from the previous figure of £1 17s 6d. But NALU had wanted a minimum of £2 105 0d and many members were reported by their area organiser, Charles Wozencroft, as being upset. The rise of 11.5% was obviously extracted by virtue of the prevailing state of unionisation in this and other industries, Pressure on central government to introduce an Agricultural Wages Act bore fruit eventually in 1924. Predictably, the farmers in Derbyshire opposed this. Alderman Peat, Chairman of the Derbyshire Farmers’ Union, said that they were “prepared to pay their labourers adequate wages”, but their objection was to the insult of the “penalties of imprisonment and fines” which the legislation imposed. The effects of the overall militancy of the working class were very quickly lost in agriculture, even more so than elsewhere. Wages had dropped to as little as £1 11s 6d in 1924, as effective unionism became more difficult; but the new Act did bring in a minimum of £1 16s 0d. [87]
(viii) Boot and shoe operatives
Boot and shoe workers in the village of Eyam in North Derbyshire stood their ground for some three years in an extraordinary dispute. The trade had first established itself in the village in around 1906. Ankle and bar shoe work was carried out at Eyam, while pit boots were made at the village of Stoney Middleton. J Buckle of the National Union of Boot and Shoe Operatives began organising these workers in 1918. (NUBSO, after a name change and a merger, became part of KFAT, which in turn merged with the ISTC into `Community’.) But the employers, determined to maintain the very low rates of pay, sacked the Eyam NUBSO branch secretary, as well as the president and his son and daughter. In fact, the entire branch committee was dismissed – and all because they had dared to join a union. There was no pretence on the part of the employer that the action was anything other than a calculated attempt to smash the union. An immediate strike would have taken place, but NUBSO officials advised the workers to stay at work, whilst attempts were made to arrive at a negotiated settlement. But, in the event, the employers stubbornly refused to even meet with the union.
So, the strike began, with the workers immediately maximising demands by asking for a reduction in hours from 59 to 52 hours 30 minutes, a war bonus payment and of course the re-instatement of the dismissed trades unionists. However, the employer adopted an entrenched position and the battle was to be a long one. The strikers organised marches, headed by a band, and paraded between the two villages at which open air meetings were held. Over £9,000 – then a small fortune – was paid out in dispute benefit by the union, which decided to adopt an old stratagem as the months slipped by, by placing shoe-making machines in the homes of strikers, to provide some form of work. Then a bold suggestion was made – that of starting a rival factory – some two years after the dispute had begun. Many of the men had been supplementing their strike pay by home-working, quarrying or farm work during all that time.
Clearly, some more stable solution had to be found. Buckle purchased an 80 foot by 15 foot hut on the outskirts of the village for £250. A roadway and a small stone building were built and the whole of this was paid for by voluntary subscriptions, collected within the space of two months. The total cost of this venture was £2,000. The new ‘strike’ factory was capable of producing much better work than the employers were and also had a greater capacity. The old employer paid 13/- a week maximum with some of the women getting less than 10/-. The new factory paid the union rate of £2 a week minimum and piecework earnings of up to an extra 10/-, all in a 43 to 48 hour week. It was a bold solution to a bold-natured dispute. But it eventually “petered out without any definite settlement being reached”. The perennial problem that has arisen over all history, for all worker co-operatives or employee-owned businesses, of a shortage of capital bedevilling the project. The strikers’ factory closed down and strikers who had not obtained employment elsewhere returned to their former occupations. [88]
(xiv) Painters
The painters’ (NASOHSPD) New Mills branch had established a closed shop at Howard’s in 1915. [89] Within four years the branch was organising painters at Whaley Bridge and Chapel-en-le-Frith, all within the boundaries of Derbyshire, but close to the influence of Manchester, [90] A total of four shops were now ‘closed’ to all but union members: Alsop and Clayton’s, J Barbers, G & J Howard’s and Jackson & Potts. [91] From time to time, problems surfaced over the employment of non-unionists, but these were usually solved as when, in 1920, Howard’s were given an ultimatum that unless a non-society man became a member before May 1st an indefinite strike would begin, Needless to say, the union got its way! [92]
Pic: Derby Painters’ lodge minute on branch correspondence paper.
The New Mills NASOHSPD branch under its secretary, Potts, and its president, Stewart, operated very tight rules and regulations. This was exemplified when nine society members from outside their area were taken on by the DerbyshireCounty Council Education Committee, without reference first to the branch. The men were fined 10/- for operating contrary to society rules, [93] Even though the NASOHSPD executive seemed not to be in sympathy with the action of the New Mills branch, it decided to summon the men to the branch to explain their actions in taking the local men’s jobs without their endorsement first, [94] Conflict with their executive was not necessarily a strange feature of the life of the New MiIIs branch. When the EC had granted permission in 1920 to members in Matlock to work 44 hours in 5 days, the branch sought to challenge the ruling via their delegate at the Building Trades Federation meeting.
(xv) Public Services and Professional Workers
Public service workers of all kinds began to organise. Post office workers were ruthlessly preventing from organising easily, especially in rural areas, In March 1924 and again on August Bank Holiday 1925, the Union of Post Office Workers had a demonstrative event to put their case for recognition, which was held at the Whitworth Institute in North Derbyshire. Other trades unionists, including Rowsley NUR, turned out to assist them. Between 1906 and 1920 firemen were sporadically organised by the Municipal Employees Association (which later helped to create the NUGMW) and the National Union of Corporation Workers (which later became NUPE, today part of Unison). Most of this work was concentrated in and around London, but some slight signs of interest existed locally. More concretely, the Poor Law Officers Union (a section of the Asylum Workers Union, later to become the Confederation of Health Service Employees – COHSE, now part of Unison) was set up in 1919. Both the section and the main body had members in Derby at the local asylum employed by the Board of Guardians. Even white collar public service workers were beginning to combine, The Civil Service Clerical Association (later the Civil and Public Services Association, or CPSA, now part of PCS – the Public and Commercial Services Union.) was founded through the amalgamation of a number of unions in 1922. A product of the contemporary vogue for organisational unity, the new union had some membership in the locality, but its activities were very limited.
White collar workers in the private sector saw unionism as an extension of their professionalism, Draughtsmen at Rolls Royce and the railway workshops began to join the Association of Engineering and Shipbuilding Draughtsmen during the war. The first formal step towards recognition of the AESD locally was in 1918, when the engineering employers were one of two of the first district associations to agree to negotiate with the union over draughtsmen’ salaries. [95] The Derby AESD specialised in organising monthly trips to engineering firms in the North and Midlands, to examine new techniques in design and engineering. Over a hundred members went on a visit to Hadfield’s steel works in Sheffield in December 1923, for example. [96]           Interestingly, in recognition of new developments in the trade, in 1922, a special section for tracers,  a job that would become dominated mainly by women, was created.
There were other private sector white collar workers who organised locally. The National Amalgamated Union of Life Assurance workers emerged in 1918, a branch being created in Derby in 1922, with the help of R E Stokes of the Workers Union. [97] Whilst the National Union of Clerks had some significant membership at Stanton Ironworks in 1918. The NUC would later become the Clerical and Administrative Workers – CAWU – later the Association of Professional, Executive and Clerical workers – APEX – which subsequently became the white collar section of the GMB. [98] A Derby branch of the NUC had catered for local government clerks for some time, when a second branch was set up in 1920. The absorption of some smaller unions saw a name change to the National Union of Clerks and Administrative Workers (NUCAW). This then organised a wide range of membership in areas not today the province of its heir, APEX, the white collar section of the GMB. Municipal clerks, education departments, income tax offices, labour exchanges and pensions offices were all organised to some extent by the NUCAW. [99] A NUCAW office was set up in Ilkeston in 1920, but the finance committee of the borough refused a written request from the union’s local secretary for sole negotiating rights. [100] It is clear that concern for the position of the National Association of Local Government Officers (NALGO) existed here. NALGO had yet to establish its dominance of Britain’s town halls, which is today inherited by Unison.
Finally, the National Union of Journalists (NUJ), which had been founded in Birmingham in 1907, set up a chapel, or branch, in Derby in this period. Thomas Jay, the president of the union, visited the town in May 1921 to speak to the local NUJ, which was well based in the local press, The president of the branch was Walter Piper. [101]
Some Strikes in Derby 1917-24
September 1917 Darley Mills v Workers Union
September 1917    Midland Railway Loco Works v Boilermakers
April 1918        Ambergate Timber v Woodcutting Machinists Society
June 1918 Rubber Cable v Asbestos Workers Union
April 1919 Scarle & Co. v Upholsterers Union (a)
July 1919   Building Trades Employers v Building Trades Federation
July 1919 Doulds v Workers Union
August 1919 Derby Master Bakers v Bakers Union
October 1919 Foundry Employers        v Moulders and Iron founders
May 1920   unknown v Piano Workers
June 1920 Woolworth’s v NAUSA
October 1920 Lysol v Chemical Workers Union
1921   British Celanese v Workers Union
March 1922 Maypole Dairy v NAUSA (b)
1922              Rolls Royce v engineering unions (c)
February 1923 Building Employers v Building Trades Federation
March 1923 Smith’s of Drury Lane        v Garment Workers
March 1923 Stokes and Hudson v        Elastic Web Weavers
June 1923 Borough Asylum v Asylum Workers (d)
July 1924 A Green Ltd v Workers Union
Most of these disputes, reported in the local press or in Trades Council minutes were over wages. Some interesting exceptions are:
(a) over trade union recognition
(b)          to resist an increase in contractual hours worked
(c)          a nine day strike over a dismissed shop steward
(d)          to resist an increase in contractual hours worked
4 (i) Political Radicalism in the Early Twenties
It was but a small step from opposing imperialistic venture in Soviet Russia to support for the right to self-determination in Ireland, Especially as the national struggle of armed rebellion and civil war in Ireland reached crisis proportions. The Sinn Fein nationalists had won an absolute majority in Ireland itself in the general election of 1918, but refused to take their seats in the British parliament. The mass of the Irish people no longer recognised (if they had ever!) the authority of Britain in Ireland and were determined to achieve self-determination for their country. The British Government sent vast numbers of troops to Ireland to prevent this.
Derby trades unionists and socialists were mainly solidly in support of Irish independence, The Trades Council viewed with concern “the state of affairs in Ireland, where men are arrested, imprisoned and deported without charge or trial and expresses its sympathy with the men suffering in Mountjoy Prison in the cause of Political and Social Freedom”. Significantly, the resolution was passed unanimously. [102] Partition of Ireland had yet to come, so there was little sense of the need to defend ‘loyalists’, while distaste for repression was strong. In September 1920, the DTC attacked the Government’s treatment of the Mayor of Cork, who was on hunger strike. [103]
Derby’s Labour Party (DLP) came down in favour of Irish independence in an unambiguous decision. The quarterly DLP meeting supported the immediate liberation of all Irish political prisoners and the offering of a truce. The party looked forward to the time when all armed forces would be withdrawn and the time when the “keeping of order has been placed in the hands of the Irish local elected bodies, thus creating conditions under which the Irish people may determine their own form of government’. The DTC was as equally clear in its policy for complete withdrawal of troops from Ireland and for complete self-government, as expressed in its resolution adopted in March 1921. [104]
Many were alienated by the viciousness of the so-called ‘Black-and-Tans’, the troops sent to Ireland. The nick-name arose from the half police, half army uniform this rag­tag and bob-tail outfit were clothed in. Derby No.1 ASLEF voted 32 to 3 for a motion in February 1921, condemning with horror the “atrocities committed upon innocent railwaymen” in Ireland. A strike over the situation, particularly over the shooting of ASLEF members in Mallow, near Cork, was proposed by the EC of the union. The move was supported by the local activists, until a joint Derby branches meeting revealed that the decision would not obtain ‘a great deal of response from the membership. Nonetheless, the threat of a strike brought pressure to bear on the Government, which agreed to an inquiry into the Mallow atrocities. [105]
Faced with widespread criticism of its policy in Ireland, the British Government opted for a political, rather than a military settlement. In negotiations with Sinn Fein, an offer was put of an Irish Free State of 26 counties, still owing allegiance to the British Crown, but effectively independent in political terms. In due course, this institution would become the Republic of Ireland. However, six counties were to remain within the British Union. This compromise attracted the support of a small majority of the nationalist camp and laid the basis for a temporary solution to the Irish problem, albeit in an atmosphere of extreme controversy amongst the Sinn Feiners, leading to a civil war and the long-running hostility to Northern Ireland of the remnants of the IRA. This minority within the nationalist camp, which refused to accept the settlement and attempted to maintain the armed struggle, were subject to fierce repression. The labour movement in Britain did not immediately loose interest in the affairs of Ireland with the settlement. The Trades Council voiced the concern of the movement at the imprisonment of James Larkin, the outstanding Irish trade union leader, in the USA in 1922 and sent a message to that effect to the American Ambassador in London. [106]
Interest in political matters at home was largely based on the seriousness of the economic situation. Prices of wholesale goods in the spring of 1920 were 225% above the 1913 level and the cost of living, or retail prices, in November of that year reached a peak of 176% above August 1914. [107] Workers could only maintain their position by the exertions of industrial militancy and this in turn fuelled political passion. In this situation, it is hardly surprising that Labour’s electoral fortunes took a favourable turn. The first signs of this in Derbyshire were in the DerbySchool Board elections in April 1919, when Labour gained an extra five seats to add to its existing two, out of a total of fifteen available places. In Belper, Labour gained five seats at the UDC elections the same month. Jabez Walker unseated the ‘independent’, a sitting councillor since 1904. Gains were made throughout the county in Ockbrook, Codnor, Blackwell, Clay Cross, Ilkeston, Duffield and at Derby – all in County Council elections. [108]
In November 1919, the small Labour group on the Derby Borough Council of four was joined by an extra ten councillors. In the following year, another five joined the group, bringing the total to 19 out of 64. Labour had arrived as a major force in municipal politics. [109] In these circumstance, the Tories made a special appeal to the working class voter, going beyond their traditional stance of patriotism and blind faith in the economic system. A Derby section of the ‘Labour Committee’ of the National Unionist Association was set up in 1920. The function of the committee was to foster anti-socialism and support for the Tories in the unions. The committee had members in the NUR, the WU, the ASE, the Tailors, the Moulders, the Motor Drivers and the Burton Coopers. [110]
But such devices had little real effect in denting the surge of interest in working class politics, which reached a new height. There was even a locally printed, leftist rank and file newspaper aimed at trades unionists, the Derbyshire Worker. This would play an important role in the north of the county in the General Strike of 1926. The Worker circulated in the mining districts of the county, in particular, throughout the period and the DMA officially gave a subsidy for 1,500 regular copies of the paper. The Worker proved to be a sufficient thorn in the side of the establishment to justify special attention. A novel way of trying to close down the paper was found. John Reynolds, the printer of the Derbyshire Worker was prosecuted for “employing” workers on overtime, contrary to the Factories Acts. It appears that Reynolds’ hours of work were supposed to be 8am to 8pm, but the Factory Inspector caught Reynolds, his wife and their three children all at work at 805pm. Despite his defence to the court that the children were only “amusing themselves”, Reynolds was found guilty and fined £5. The Worker was of course merely a self-help initiative by political activists, but the authorities treated it as a business. [111]
The spread of popular socialist ideas really ensured the development of a modern look to British politics, with the Labour victory at the Spen Valley by-election in January 1920. Over the next four years, the challenge of Labour as a major electoral force became more than evident. As this came about, the Tory leadership destroyed the Coalition, the Liberal Party and Lloyd George. As the Liberal Party disintegrated, middle-strata opinion clustered for comfort around the Tories as the guardians of law and order, the Empire and the “British Way of Life”. Under Baldwin’s leadership, the Tories won the 1924 general election and were to dominate Britain for the next two decades without serious challenge, apart from short intermittent periods.
The arrival of Labour as a significant electoral force revealed the degree to which the establishment feared a repeat of the traumatic events of the 1917 Russian Revolution in Britain itself, even if that were moulded by British experiences and traditions, The newly arrived electoral power of Labour was treated in the Tory press to almost the same sense of horror as the Bolshevik revolution had been. The Derby Mercury featured a weekly column throughout 1920 by ‘Ruskinian’, entitled “Labour’s Forum”. This was in fact one continuous, lengthy theoretical diatribe against the generality of socialist ideas.
Inspired by the events in Russia and the call by Lenin, with all the prestige he commanded as leader of the first socialist revolution, to found revolutionary parties on the model of the Bolsheviks, many socialists joined together with militant trades unionists from the shop stewards’ movement to form the Communist Party in August 1920. A variety of socialist groups amalgamated into the Party, including the BSP, the SLP and the South Wales Socialist Society. The biggest group, the BSP, had re-affiliated to the Labour Party in 1916 and so it seemed natural that the new organisation should apply for affiliation. Although a significant minority from the SLP were opposed to this, But the leadership of the Labour Party departed from the established federal basis of the party and aimed to exclude the Communist Party from its ranks right from its very foundation. Persistent attempts to reverse this at the Labour Party annual conference were always defeated, albeit sometimes relatively narrowly. For most of the 1920s, however, individual members of the Communist Party were able to attend Labour conferences as delegates from trade unions and even be nominated for public office as official Labour candidates by local constituencies. Gradually, each inroad the Communists had into the wider federation of working class politics was closed off.
At its foundation, and for much of its history, the Communist Party had strong roots in Scotland, Wales and London. In towns like Derby and Chesterfield, the party was able to establish a significant presence in the local labour movement, basing itself on pre-existing socialist groups. The Derby SLP branch and its key figure Willie Paul enjoyed some prominence, but there was also a BSP branch in the area. At the time of the foundation of the Communist Party, Willie Paul lived at ‘Pen Bryn’ in Littleover, Derby. He became a member of the Provisional Executive Committee of the Party and was particularly involved in the debates inside the SLP over the unity process and the nature of the new formation. Paul was in fact a major influence in coalescing those in the SLP who favoured joining the Communist Party. [112] At the founding conference however, Paul displayed much of the revolutionary zeal which the SLP had made its hallmark, by speaking against affiliation to the Labour Party in a most scathing and cynical way. This was of course entirely consistent with the SLP’s view of the matter. Nevertheless, the anti­-affiliationists were beaten in the debate and the Communist Party’s policy was to be for affiliation. The Derby Communist Unity Group was one of many smaller, local societies represented at the founding Unity Convention. The Communist Unity Group was the faction inside the SLP which had convened a special national conference at Nottingham to win the SLP to the notion of unity of all communist organisations. The SLP official leadership expelled the CUG for this action but was left only with a rump and quietly faded away over the years.
Paul stood unsuccessfully in 1923 as official Labour candidate in Manchester, bravely following Communist Party policy, even though he disagreed with it. Publicly well known to be an individual member of the party, he had strong connections with Manchester. Paul had often “rendered songs of the Irish potato famine” at the Openshaw BSP meetings for Harry PoIlitt, later to become the long-standing leader of British Communism. Paul has been described by PoIIitt’s ‘official’ biographer as a “powerful and expressive baritone”. He polled a respectable 21% of the vote against strongly fielded Tory and Liberal opponents in the 1923 election. The following year, he stood again with much the same result, but increased the share of the vote, this time as an official Communist with Labour backing. Paul later edited the Sunday Worker newspaper in the late 1920s but left the national stage during the period of the ‘Bolshevisation’ of the CPGB, even if he remained on the fringes of Communist politics all his days. In the 1930s and l940s he was closely identified with Soviet friendship activities in Derby and was a prominent supporter of the Derby Peace Council in the 1950s, until his death in the latter part of that decade. He was to leave his considerable personal library to the Party in his will. [113]
Derby’s Labour Party was not really affected by significant Communist involvement. Perhaps the DLP’s decidedly right-wing leanings encouraged residual anti-Labour attitudes amongst local Communists, which were inherited from the SLP. As with all working class political organisations in the immediate post-war period, the DLP experienced a period of growth. Branches were being established everywhere, even in rural areas of Derbyshire, as with the founding in March 1920 of the Mickleover branch, then a small village on the outskirts of the town. The DLP’s membership and income rose phenomenally and the healthy financial situation meant that by the end of the year new premises were to be acquired at 63 London Road in Derby.
                                    DLP annual income                        DLP affiliated membership
           1910                               £92                                                   –
           1918-9                          £398                                                 7,634
           1919-20                     £1,100                                                         14,244
Little wonder then that the working class movement viewed the future optimistically. The success of the pro-Soviet councils of action, the rising industrial militancy and the increasing electoral support for Labour all seemed to bode well, There was also an enormous growth of interest in socialist ideas and a general belief that world peace had at last been achieved and this made for a sense of security. The joint DTC-DLP May Day celebration in 1920 was a big event. W R Raynes declared that “May 1st should be reckoned as a general holiday” and trades unionists and their families crowded the streets of Derby in a carnival atmosphere to watch a parade of decorated carts and drays. One represented “S.S. Co-operation”, another portrayed a garden allotment. Every union had its banner out in what was probably one of the largest May Day processions ever held in Derby. [114]
ii) The Co-operative Movement and Labour Politics.
For the first time, the 1917 Congress of the Co-operative movement recognised that it needed a political voice and founded the Co-operative Party. From herein the Co-ops around the country, in varying degrees, began to exert political authority. The first act of Derby Co-operative Society (DCS), along these lines, was to set up a Political Committee, the first meeting of which was held on February 20th 1918. A list of possible parliamentary and municipal candidates who would be approved by the DCS was composed. Additionally, a political structure was established in Normanton ward and Jessie Unsworth stood in Pear Tree ward in the Board of Guardians elections. It was thought that a good campaign was waged, even though the seat was not won. Formal co-operation was established with the Labour Party, which had agreed to leave a gap in its list of candidates to enable Co-operative candidates to stand unimpeded. Utilising this agreement, A J Tapping was elected in Dale Ward in 1919 as the first Co-op councillor.
Affiliation or alliance to the Labour Party became a controversial question in the Co­operative movement and in 1920 the DCS, for the first time, accepted the need to affiliate to the Derby Labour Party. The radicalism of this period affected almost every section of the working class movement. The almost exclusively retailing role of the Co-op movement had not entirely been defined and there was a potential for political conflict with other sections of the movement arising from this. For example, the DCS by 1918 had lent no less than £400,000 to its members for housing purposes. Was this a role for the Co-ops, or for direct works departments of local authorities? More profoundly, the conjunction of political and economic values represented by the Co­ops lent itself to an abiding interest in and fascination for all things Russian. J J Wooley, secretary to the Cooperative Producers Federation, was invited to lecture DCS members at the Co-op Hall in 1923 on his visit to Moscow.
Others were not so certain about the propriety of the co-ops being linked up with politics. In the mid-1920s, the Long Eaton Co-operative Society (LECS) did eventually disaffiliate from the Labour Party after a series of arguments. In doing this, the LECS was showing how influenced it was by its president, Wilkins, who made the objective of disaffiliation a personal crusade. The decision was taken by a referendum of the membership of LECS and the question posed not only the disaffiliation from the Labour Party, but also from the Co-operative Party. 1,859 voted for ending affiliation, with 846 voting for continuing the relationship. It had been the decision of the Co-operative Party to work with the Labour Party, on fixing the number of Co-op candidates overall and to label such candidates in future as ‘Labour and Co-operative’, that had finally pushed people like Wilkins of the LECS to move in this direction. The long term future of LECS was to remain with the Co-operative Party, but it was not for very many years that the Society would eventually drop its determined resistance to links with the Labour Party.
In Derby, “very cordial relations” existed between the DLP and the Political Committee of the DCS, resulting in the implementation of the Co-operative Party’s agreement with the Labour Party and the appearance of joint candidates in local elections. An organised disaffiliation campaign was waged in Derby, but it was not one which had highly placed support. An attempt was made in June 1923 at a quarterly meeting to get the DCS disaffiliated but was lost on a vote of 359 to 214. In an attempt to meet the criticism that not all DCS members voted Labour, the Society affiliated on a figure of only 5,000. It being claimed that this was a “fair estimate of those who held sympathy towards the Labour Party”. [115]
5. Unemployment and Depression 1921-5
The immediate future for working people was bleaker than could have been imagined. Unemployment and short-time working became a common feature of industrial life during 1921. 5,085 were reported as being unemployed permanently or temporarily. The DTC demanded work or maintenance at full trade union rates at its January 1921 meeting. The figures were reported in detail. [116]
Category                   men         women     boys   girls
Unemployed             1,720        1,238     166        307
short-time                      489           962       17       191
At the peak of the depression, unemployment in the engineering industry had risen nationally to the astonishing figure of 27%, while 17.8% of all insured workers were out of work. One observer wrote that “the unofficial shop stewards movement is at ebb tide, because of the percentage of unemployed in the metal trades, the man at the gate (i.e. the unemployed worker awaiting work) determines the status of the man at the bench”. [117]
In the three years from 1919, trade disputes accounted for an average annual figure of some 49 million working days. But the following ten years, even excluding the General Strike, involved only 7.5 million lost days. For every dispute in 1918 there were well over three in 1921. This level of activity climbed steeply over those three years, apart from a slight cooling of the rate of increment in late 1919. But, from the beginning of 1921, dispute levels fell to that of 1918 in a single year and over the next three years to half that level again. The impact on wage levels was dramatic. Workers’ earnings declined relative to their 1914 value by some 50%, thus abolishing the relative gains of 1919-20. [118] R E Stokes of the Workers Union made clear that these gains were under attack at the WU DC in November 1920. “There would not be much chance to get an increase in wages as he put in for an advance of wages in one industry and the employers had put in for a 25% decrease.” That was the bad news. Now for the good news! “But he had been successful in getting it put off until January of next year.” [119]
Wage cuts and increases in Derbyshire 1921 – 1924
June 1921
Tarmac        CUTS 1 1/2d an hour in April and 1 1/2d in May
July 1921
WagonBuilding           CUTS 3/- in July and 3/- in August
October 1921
Engineering                  CUTS 7.5 % to 12.5 %
WagonBuilding           CUTS 7.5%
Plain Net                        CUTS 7.5%
Plain Net Threaders    CUTS 12%
Levers Net                     CUTS 16.66%
Timber                            CUTS 1 1/4d an hour
Clay Industry                CUTS 7/- a week
December 1921           
DP Battery                     CUTS 10%
November 1922           
Wagon Building           CUTS 6/- a week
Clay Industry                CUTS SI- a week
DP Battery                     CUTS S% in stages
July 1923                      
Brewing                         CUTS 3/- a week
DP Battery                     CUTS to a weekly wage of 52s 9d
September 1923          
Offiler’s’ clerks             CUTS 1/6d a week
March 1924                   
Derby Brick                   5/- a week increase
Building Trade             1/2d an hour increase
Gas Industry                 1/2d an hour increase
Electric Cable Making 1/6d increase a week
Electricity Supply        1/2d an hour increase
Cement Industry          4/- a week increase
May 1924                       
British Celanese          1d an hour increase (machinists)
British Celanese          1/2d an hour increase (spinners)
i) The Textile Industry
The textile industry went through a sudden recession which was in part borne out of a glut in the whole of the European textile market. In the autumn of 1920, Bemrose’s reported that orders were affected; Boden’s laceworks had been working short-time for some months and expected the situation to get worse. Walter Evans Darley Abbey Mills described trade in the sewing cotton industry as “very bad”. The workforce had just been put on a reduced working week of 30 hours. Moore Eady and Murcoft Goode Ltd reported that the hosiery industry was affected by the possibility of a coal strike.
H Cheshire, the WU Laceworkers branch chairman in Derby reported at the end of 1920 that 1,500 were out of work for good or on short-time in his trade within Derby. “150 worth of relief food had been ordered from the Co-op.” [120] The distress was acute and gave rise to feelings of bitterness. The Long Eaton Laceworkers’ leader, Ernest Wood spoke at the local Trades Council, telling the delegates that “there would be trouble if something wasn’t done about the local unemployment problem”. [121] The WU’s greatest strength in the lace trade was amongst the plain net twisthands in Derby, nevertheless the union made a move which seemed almost calculated to generate inter-union conflict. The WU agreed to a cut in wages of 7.5% in the plain net rate and as much as 16.66% in the levers rates. To enable this extraordinary move, the union withdrew from the Lace Operatives Federation. The Amalgamated Society of Laceworkers resisted the agreement and accused the WU of “scab-hunting tactics”, of deliberately seeking to poach the less resilient membership of the Amalgamated Society. [122] The other main union in the trade, the Weavers Union took a similar attitude.
The fourth union in the trade, the independent Long Eaton Operative Lacemakers Society, had maintained itself aloof from the Amalgamated Society for two decades with Ernest Wood as their full timer, based at their office at 8 Gibb Street. In July 1921, however, this small craft society amalgamated with the Workers Union, providing the union with a remarkably firm base in textiles. The Long Eaton union voted unanimously to merge at a meeting of members held on 12th May 1921. Clarke from Burton had been present to stress that amalgamation would bring the benefit of full financial support from the WU during disputes.
The Workers Union had only recently set up a Draycott lace branch, just next door to Long Eaton, when Wood brought his members across to make the union the largest force within the plain net sector. The strength borne out of this amalgamation was to be needed for, in September, the WU was to be rewarded for its dubious tactics towards the other unions in the previous year. The Lace Conciliation Committee met to consider the employers’ demand for a 10% cut for twisthands and a 25% cut for auxiliary workers. The union side countered this with a sliding scale proposal, only to be faced with the employers’ new demands of a 25% cut all round. Moreover, they sought an increase in women’s working hours from 48 to 55, a suggestion that Wood thought was “inhuman”.
In an atmosphere of gloom and despondency, the Long Eaton laceworkers decided to call a mass meeting to be addressed by “some of the Workers Union chief organisers”, who no doubt advised caution in the face of the obviously aggressive stance adopted by the employers. At any rate, the essence of the employers’ demands went through without action against them by the unions. [123] With recession adversely affecting the ability of the unions to prove their worth to potential members and with the growing number of jobless, they were themselves under pressure to keep or obtain the maximum possible number of members. Bad feeling already generated between the lace unions would be exacerbated by the rivalry thus created. While the Long Eaton union merged with the WU, the Amalgamated Laceworkers, with a base both in Nottingham and in the surrounding towns in Eastern Derbyshire, maintained their own union. To face the challenge of the WU in Long Eaton, the Amalgamated Society decided to appoint a replacement full-time officer for the area. The successful candidate, John Fletcher, took over in 1916 and continued in the post until his death in 1939.
The WU benefited most from the competition, even though the Amalgamated Society favoured the more skilled worker. Membership of the WU amongst laceworkers was greatly expanded. By 1924 there were four branches in the lace trade in and around Derby and income in that year for these branches alone was four times what it had been six years previously. New members were acquired in Heanor and its lower level of membership contributions assisted the WU in competitive recruitment. But other unions were eager to enter the field and the WU had no monopoly. In December 1922 and January 1923, the Derby Trades Council promoted itself once more as an organiser and recruiter of all labour. It gave attention to the organisation of workers at Smith’s of Drury Lane and at Stoke and Hudson’s, both textile firms. Banham of the Garment Workers Union attended the DTC’s meeting to discuss Smith’s and by March it was reported at the DTC that a meeting of the employees had been held, but that it was very poorly attended. Complaints about conditions at Stokes and Hudson’s were resolved however and the Elastic Web Weavers had begun recruitment there.
The WU found itself back in the news with fresh difficulties at Alderman Green’s Tape Mills in Agard Street, Derby, during the course of 1924. A measure of how much a union was needed at the firm was reflected in comparative wage rates at union and non-union establishments in the same sector. Mayfield’s, the union firm, paid 35/- a week for a 48 hour week, or 8.75p per hour. Green’s paid 28/- a week for a 551/2 hour week, or 6d per hour. On top of this enormous disparity in earnings, Green’s were proposing to reduce the rate to 18/- a week for 551/2 hours, or almost 4d per hour! Not unnaturally, this awakened interest in the union and a strike broke out. This was resolved after a two minute conference! Initially, it seems, the notice proposing an alteration of the payments system which was displayed at the factory, was wrongly interpreted as meaning a reduction in wages. Leastways, that is how Alderman Green explained it. He argued that it was all a misunderstanding and that, if he had been in the town at the time, the strike would never have happened. Naturally, he reasoned, as soon as he was able to deal with the problem, he unreservedly confirmed that no cuts were intended. [124] Having supposedly resolved the matter, Green promptly dealt with the ring-leaders in his own way. When three of the women approached him, asking for a general increase, he sacked them.
The Trades Council intervened to extract a promise of action from Green. Weeks later, he had still failed to respond, so a DTC delegation again waited on him and received a promise of re-instatement of those dismissed. But once more, the Alderman showed himself to be slow in implementing his promises and the DTC put further pressure on him. It was only at its December meeting, half a year later, that the council was satisfied to note that a letter from Green had promised that there would be “re-instatement of the women the council had seen him about’. [125] Although there seems to be no further evidence of any union organisation in this company thereafter, whether or not Green kept his promise to re-employ the women. In the hosiery industry, the Ilkeston Hosiery Union (IHU) was predominant in the area.
During the course of 1920, it had begun to feel its way to the north of the county. A branch was opened at Matlock and membership modestly increased to 7,600 in the process, nearly all within the county of Derbyshire. [126] The majority of the textile unions kept very much to their own trade. But the Tailors and Garment Workers Union proposed a more efficient approach, by drawing together all textile trades into a wider federation. (This union eventually merged into the GMB.) The federation idea was welcomed by J S Amatt, the secretary of the IHU’s Derby branch, but he was on his own. Amatt suspected that the opposition of his union to a federation was much related to the refusal of H Bassford, the IHU General Secretary, to contemplate change. He was, after all, by then in his early seventies and had been in the job for a good thirty years. [127] Federation was seen by some in the trade as a way of preventing the disintegration of unionism in the face of depression. But for others, the habits of a lifetime and the traditions of a generation were just too ingrained.
In the hosiery part of the textile industry, over half of the workers in the county were on short-time by June 1921 and naturally the distress was terrible. In April, the executive of the union had decided to pay out-of-work benefit for only one more week; such was the pressure on funds. [128] The hosiery employers demanded a 25% cut at the Joint Industrial Council, but a ballot of the workers showed a ten to one vote against acceptance. The employers changed their position slightly, proposing a sliding scale, which would be less painful, but as effective in the long run. [129] But, by the next year, the unions were able to obtain a list of agreed wage rates with the hosiery employers in Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire. Equal rates throughout the trade were established for full-fashioned underwear, in itself an important advance in organisation. This was largely based on the need to compete for labour with the relatively high wages paid in the coal mines of the area. As the IHU secretary, Bassford, put it, “the colliers had got such big wages that others were forced to pay them good wages or lose their hands”. By 1924, average earnings in the hosiery industry had stabilised fairly well at 55s 0d for males and 28s 1 0d for females, with an overall average earnings figure of 35s 0d. [130]
ii) The Workers Union
Naturally, the recession enabled those who had always hesitated to use industrial militancy to now argue that the time was not ripe for boldness of approach. A fad for the philosophy of industrial peace and non-political unionism emerged, much aided by the ‘popular’ press. R E Stokes of the WU was prominent in advancing these notions, most noticeably from the beginning of 1921. Tensions between ‘Mick’ (H A) Hind and Stokes became obvious. The former, as a lay member of the executive theoretically had the power, while the latter could claim local leadership by virtue of administrative advantage. Hind made a doubtful speech of congratulations, in a silver wedding presentation to Stokes and his wife. While speaking of the good work done by the organiser, Hind said of him that “it was not possible for him to please everybody it had been his lot to make decisions which were unpalatable at times to some people, but Brother Stokes had always tried to see both sides of the question and had endeavoured to hold the balance between employers and the members of the union, and if he thought the member was in the wrong he would not hesitate to say so”. Unmoved by these back-handed compliments – after all the role of a union officer was hardly to act as some kind of neutral arbiter between the membership and the employer – Stokes was happy to express his view that the future lay in “the better understanding between employers and workmen”. [131] It was a far cry from Tom Mann’s view of the role of the Workers Union.
There were 27 branches of the union in the Derby area by 1921, all of which had sprung from the original Derby No.1 branch of which Stokes had been pioneer. He was to remain a WU full time official until his death in the Thirties, but was somewhat undermined by the creation of a new organisational division in 1921. This new WU administrative area covered Burton and Derby and Stokes became very much overshadowed by the Divisional Organiser, Joe Clark, who was based in Burton-on­-Trent. Clarke’s position in the union, as easily the youngest officer in that kind of position in the country, positively assisted the stability of the WU in the area he covered. Clarke proved better able to withstand the demoralising effects of this period. He himself attributed his success, in part, to his refusal to popularise the scheme whereby new members could claim immediate welfare benefits, rather than have to wait for a qualifying period as would normally be expected in trade union benefits. No doubt, a complex of factors was at play, including the relatively sheltered nature of the industries in the division. Clay pipe making, artificial fibres, railway workshops, the Rolls Royce industries and the breweries were all sectors which coped fairly well, in relative terms, at this time and in consequence made for a healthy future for the WU.
However, wage cuts were the order of the day during this period in every industry. A trade which usually had few industrial relations difficulties was the leather tanning industry. Derby Workers Union members in the trade came out on strike in July 1921 to resist a reduction. It was one of the first moves to effectively resist wage cuts in the town. But soon a trickle of cuts, followed by a six month period of quiet, rushed into a flood. In October 1921, R E Stokes reported to the WU DC that “he was sorry he had not got a more favourable report to give”. He went on to list five major industries where wage cuts of between 7.5% and 16.66% had been imposed. A minor strike at Spondon occurred in the summer, but it failed to prevent a 15% cut in wages. The picture was the same everywhere. At the end of 1921, Stokes was still complaining at the DC that it was “a most difficult job … to stop employers from reducing wages without any agreement”. As the fierceness of the recession calmed somewhat, in the spring of 1922, “some employers (were) hinting at a longer working week to cope with orders being received during the slow climb out of depression”. [132]
That year saw a re-assertion of confidence amongst some sections. Around 4,000 WU members in the Derbyshire clay industry were involved in resisting the demands of the employers for up to £1 a week reduction in wages. A “somewhat critical situation” was created, some employers indicating their intent to withdraw from the industry’s collective agreements. [133] Two year later, at DP Battery, six months of negotiations with the WU resulted in a reduction in hours from 491/2 to 48 without loss of pay. (The DP, or Dujardin-Plante, Battery Works had been established in 1897 on an old site of one of Arkwright’s cotton mills at Bakewell.) Additionally, a week’s paid holiday was agreed as was the introduction of premium times for overtime pay. A strike of the two hundred employees was thus only narrowly averted, while the overall change in the company’s treatment of their employees was quite startling. Seven years previously, a normal working week had been 60 hours, all on plain time rates. [134] It was perhaps some measure of how far it became possible to get away from the nightmare of cuts after cuts in wages.
In between these two experiences, the WU was involved in a number of strikes – all for offensive rather than defensive issues. The brick manufacturers, Derby Silica Firebrick (DSF), near Youlgreave, faced a successful strike in March 1923 for a 100% union shop. Schweppes aerated waters were involved in a strike over wages. 350 spinners at Spondon came out on strike over a local issue. During 1922 and 1923, the union began to register considerable success in the recruitment of new members, contrasting sharply with the failure of other unions to do so. Extreme flexibility in handling any industry, in cohabiting with militancy when it seemed prudent to do so and being able to create a friendly working relationship with employers, all seemed to favour the WU. Moreover, it lacked the skill snobbery that handicapped other unions at a time when speed-up and mechanisation was deskilling much of Britain’s industry.
New areas organised were in a wide spectrum of workplace sectors: [135]        
·        a new branch of school caretakers in Derby, November 1922
·        a branch of 30 women in Alfreton, May 1923
·        a branch of county council employees at Stretton, September 1923
·        350 spinners at Spondon, September 1923
·        30 new members at Leys Foundry, September 1923
Perhaps more significant, and certainly more impressive, was the ability of the union to retain and expand membership and organisation in the railway workshops, where branch income, and therefore probably membership, increased by almost six fold in the period between the end of the war and the General Strike.
WU Railway Workshops Branch Income [136]
Loco Works Derby No. 11 branch Carriage and Wagon Derby No 9 branch
        (national No. 1122)              (national No. 1084)
                   £         s        d                        £          s          d
1918      1,083    2         6                  215        14          71/2
1920     2,992    11       7                  578         2           21/2
1924     2,474    13   111/2              305        12          6
1925     3,488    7       81/2               340         4           10
1926     5,472    3       91/2               422         8           41/2
Total income of Derbyshire Branches of the Workers Union 1914- 26
(figures for individual branches extracted from WU Annual Reports and aggregated)
   year                  £               s                   d
1914           2,540             13                   4
1915           2,560             17                   101/2
1916           1,419             18                   111/2
1918           2,496               1                   4
1920         13,033             19                   61/2
1924           8,756               8                   8
1925           8,348               3                   6
 1926        10,858               5                   5
The figures tell their own story, but the point can be re-enforced without tedium. In the militant years, there was a sudden and dramatic growth, followed by a distinct drop as the recession bit. But membership lifted once again, in the case of the Loco Works quite dramatically. The recession had certainly knocked the wind out the Workers Union as with others, but the union soon re-asserted itself. Not that life was easy for the union, even in the new industries, While the British Celanese Company accepted the fact that it had trade union membership on a large scale and had to talk to the unions, it did not encourage shop floor involvement. Indeed, this was a special feature of the company’s attitude over several decades. It was entirely a typical comment on affairs inside the plant for Stokes to report in September 1925 that he was “always receiving complaints from our members employed (at Celanese) such as unjust dismissals and the tyranny of some of the Foremen and Heads of Departments”. [137]
Unlike other trade unions which peaked at their 1919-20 membership, in a few cases forever, mostly until the Second World War or afterwards, Derbyshire WU grew over the whole of the period after the 1914-18 war. In 1918, the union had a total of 6,057 members. But, atypically, in 1924 it had more members than it had had immediately after the war – approximately 8,000. In itself this was a remarkable achievement. But the union’s success was its downfall. For the WU was almost a bankrupt organisation throughout the 1920s. The Unemployment Insurance Act of 1920 made it compulsory for workers to be insured against unemployment and allowed trade unions to administer the state scheme, where they had an additional union out-of-work benefit. The WU nationally seized upon this to launch a major recruitment campaign, with a spectacular offer of “a pound for sixpence”, immediately on joining. If a member was made unemployed and had contributed even minimally to the fund, no matter how short the length of membership was, then they were entitled to benefit. Amazingly, even unemployed members who had joined when unemployed could benefit. Payments were extremely generous; all WU benefits were like that, not just unemployment benefit. Strike pay was 12/6d a week, accident benefit was 10/-for two weeks. Optional extras, like out-of-work benefit and sickness pay were available. It was a bargain, for a minimum contribution of only 4d a week in 1921. [138]
The first real sign locally of impending difficulties for the union was in June 1922, when the DerbyDC received a circular from the Central Office asking branches to help the union out financially. Derby WU sent £5 as a free grant and £5 as a loan to their own central organisation, which faced a serious cash shortage situation. Notwithstanding Clarke’s view that the Burton and Derby WU Division was solvent because it avoided recruitment based on these false premises; the whole union was beset with a strategic difficulty. Not only were union benefits too high, higher than any sensible insurance society would pitch them, but the organisers’ salaries had become increasingly relatively generous at a time when most of their members were facing wage cuts. This is well illustrated by the annual salary received by R E Stokes in Derby over the period from before the war:
year                                  £        5           d
1909                              79        0           0
1915                            101      15           0
1916                            121        2           6
1918                            216      16           0
1920                            377        0           0
1926                            279      10           0
While some of the reasons for these increases were to keep pace with inflation, there were other pressures. The NUGMWU paid their officers no less than £10 15s 0d a week, or not far short of £600 a year. Naturally, the WU officials pressed for similar wages, for broadly similar work. But, then the NUGMWU cut their officers’ wages by £2. The WU found it had to reconsider its outgoings on officers and lay members’ expenses. But the failure to attack the root cause of the union’s financial problems would eventually lead to the merger with the Transport and General Workers Union (TGWU) in 1929. [139]
iii) The Mining Industry
At the heart of the employers’ offensive was the long running battle against the coal miners’ attempts to maintain their improved standards won during and immediately after the war. The mines were finally released from government control in March 1921 and it was immediately clear that the private owners would not honour the new conditions. Specifically, there was a war bonus of 3/- a shift, the Sankey increase of 2/-, 20% in 1920 and the datum line increases. Bargaining had of course been carried out purely at a national level in respect of these increases, but the coal owners made clear their intent to revert to county bargaining, a tactic which served to disunite the miners. Against the background of recession, the MFGB was reluctant to engage in battle to resist the owners’ strategy. Despite the attitude of its leaders, Derbyshire joined a small band of coal areas prepared to stand firm. The rank and file national conference of the Federation agreed with the determination of these areas and rejected the hesitancy of the executive. The scene was thus set not for a strike, for the miners demanded nothing but what they already what they had, but a lock out for failing to accept the demands of the owners that inferior conditions be introduced, The entire labour movement had expected that it would be called upon to assist the miners from 1919 onwards and there had been many an expression of sympathy amongst the trade unions in Derbyshire. The Trades Council in Derby opposed the Government’s attitude to the miners at its September 1920 meeting and again at its May 1921 meeting in the midst of the lock out, when it donated £5 to the DMA. The Derby Builders’ Labourers gave £4 to the strikers of Orgreave Colliery in Yorkshire, when they had their own local struggle, in two payments in June and July 1919. At the start of the lock out in 1921, the ABL reaffirmed their generosity by donating £10 in two payments to the miners.
But there were sections of the movement that did not immediately react with class consciousness, The Long Eaton Co-operative Society bought supplies of wood, coke, briquettes, slack and part of the town’s allocation of Welsh coal. A motor driver, bringing wood from Watnall was stoned by some miners and “it was decided to cease fetching wood and cancel the contract for it”. The 1921 lock out was a major test for the Triple Alliance of coal, rail and docks. Britain’s miners were deserted on April 1st and, within days, the railwaymen were pressing their leaders to more positively support the miners. The Chesterfield NUR men demanded a solidarity strike. Rowsley NUR unanimously offered support to the Triple Alliance concept. Indeed, they even formed a strike committee immediately and appointed despatch riders. Volunteers were sought to inform the NUR membership in the locality of all the latest developments. Three groups were appointed to see everyone within the immediate vicinity of the marshalling yards at Rowsley. “1) all between Tor Farm and South Junction and North Wood, 2) to inform all in the cottages, 3) all in Green Lane”. [140] Derby ASLEF declared the fullest possible sympathy for the miners, but was upset at the “arbitrary attitude displayed by the Triple Alliance towards our society”. It was another case of the NUR being seen as taking decisions for ASLEF, as far as the loco men and foremen in Derby were concerned. Such rivalries apart, Derby ASLEF unanimously decided to “instruct the EC to call a national strike of ASLEF in support of the miners”. [141]
J H Thomas, leader of the NUR, ignored the obvious pressure he was under from below and delayed making any positive moves, hoping for the MFGB leadership to loose their nerve. In fact, most of the miners’ leaders were now prepared for a struggle, given the level of support from other workers that the first indications led them to expect. Although J Hancock, the MP for Mid-Derbyshire and also Financial Secretary of the Nottinghamshire miners, at last displayed his true colours as the Liberal that he had always seemed to be, when he publicly denounced the actions of the Federation. [142] As it became clear that the MFGB would not weaken, the NUR, ASLEF and the Transport Workers Federation notified the miners that they could not expect their support. The day was Friday 15th April 1921 and it would immediately be dubbed ‘Black Friday’. The disillusionment of workers throughout the country at the seemingly inexplicable cowardice of their leaders was sharply expressed. Railwaymen at Chesterfield and Shirebrook voted overwhelmingly against the actions of the Triple Alliance leadership.
W R Raynes explained that “when the news came through to Derby that the Triple Alliance strike was off he saw men with tears of vexation and sorrow in their eyes because they had been told that they must not strike in favour of the miners”. [143] The full story of the betrayal was kept quite secret at the time, the leadership implying that great affairs of state were involved and contributed to their tight lipped attitude. Under the headline: “Secrets kept Secret”, the Derby Mercury reported on the ninety minute speech of J H Thomas on the reasons for the breakdown of the Triple Alliance pact at the annual May Day rally in Derby’s Market Place. Thomas refused to tell of the “inner history of the refusal of the NUR and the Transport Workers … to strike in support of the miners”. Whilst Raynes, ever helpful, moved a rhetorical and verbose resolution that spoke of the greater glory of the international workers’ movement. [144]
Within four years railway and other transport workers were to redeem their honour by providing firmer support for the miners, but in 1921 most workers were simply unaware of what was going on, or were totally misled by their leaders, in whom they had what today would be considered a naive faith. Rowsley NUR, which had been so geared to action before Black Friday, gave total support to their leadership on their attitude to the matter, while they displayed impatience with what they saw as divisions within the Triple Alliance, believing that “sectional’ aspects of Trade Unionism hinder the progress of ‘Industrial unionism”. [145] Staveley ASLEF, which had only a year earlier voted to strike against the war in Russia, was tired with it all and distrustful of the motives of its leaders. In a mood of despondency, the branch passed a resolution complaining that their EC spent “too much time involved in political action”. [146] Perhaps reflecting similar concerns, the branch on more than one occasion in the early 1920s seriously debated the worth of continuing to affiliate to the Chesterfield Trades Council.
Meanwhile, the miners had to stand alone. For three months they withstood adversity, during that spring and summer. Stocks of coal became scarce and parts of industry faced difficulties. Some firms were able to ride out the crisis. Leys Malleable in Derby were even able to allow their employees 100 tons of coal on the basis of a hundred-weight for 2/6d per household per fortnight. [147) The miners and their families had to endure months of hardship. Soup kitchens were set up with money donated by trades unionists. Free supplies of clothes from the same source were distributed. The miners’ communities, as always, served to bind those in dispute together. In Clay Cross, a women’s section of the Labour Party was set up after the dispute. Women involved in the soup kitchens and the like found themselves politicised during the course of the lock out. The men were subjected to tremendous pressures to concede defeat. Archdeacon Crosse published a letter in the Derbyshire Times on May 7th asking the men to return to work, claiming that the situation had been brought about by “a small number of irresponsible extremists”. [148]
The government proposal of the compromise of arbitration was rejected by the miners without hesitation, while some employers decided to resort to firmer tactics. Some owners, like Morewood of Swanwick Collieries, offered to open their pits to any that would attend work, hoping to break the strike. The DMA’s finances were stretched to the limit and the union desperately searched for financial assistance of a substantial character. Their Chesterfield offices were proposed as collateral on a loan, but the union was very disappointed with the Co-op, finding that the DMA’s bankers, Farr’s of Chesterfield were of more assistance. The miners and their families acted swiftly, and in large numbers, demonstrating wherever there was evidence of an attempt to diminish the effects of the struggle. On June 20th, a midnight demonstration took place against outcrop working, that is to say the illegal surface mining of coal. What concerned the miners was not the deprival of the owners of their property rights, but the fact that substantial quantities of coal thus mined were being sold to the public, thus undermining the effect of the strike. Large numbers of miners were charged at Whittington Moor and at Brierley Wood by the police, when protesting about the outcrop working. Such digging and the picking out of isolated pieces of coal on tips for the use of miners’ families was common, especially in Chesterfield and Ilkeston districts. After the last lock out benefit payment had been made by the union on May 5th, things got very bad.
At the Butterley Company, crowds of men and women raided the premises “withdrew the fires for the boilers, collected every bit of loose coal and wood they could find, pulled up fences, damaged gates, smashed a few windows and commenced digging of coal in the pit hills”. [149] But more common was a determination to calmly wait out the dispute, only when the authorities or the owners stupidly (or cleverly?) committed some act of gross provocation did such incidents occur. To occupy their time, miners would engage in activities such as pit pony races. In West Hallam, local stories are said to abound concerning these races. “The ponies were brought to the surface and raced bareback across the football pitch at the rear of the social club. The jockeys wore their pit caps on back-to-front and it seems they were mostly lucky if they stayed on the pony to the end of the race – a good time was had by all.” [150] But, as the hunger grew and the finances diminished, defeat looked certain. The MFGB looked for a way out and, after negotiation with the government, the EC proposed to the area councils that the strike be ended. The DMA council agreed, despite the protests that inevitably followed. Hicken thought that there had been one important lesson learned, that struggle was necessary, but that “we will choose the time and the ground when we have to fight”. [151]
Many miners had fallen into great debt, the Chesterfield Board of Guardians heard in November that it would take over 58 years for loans from the lock out to be repaid. [152] Unemployment and industrial defeat took its toll quite heavily from the miners. Over two thousand members were drawing out of work benefit when, in January 1922, the DMA decided to levy their members sixpence a week to cover the extra expenditure thus forced upon the union, so great were the numbers involved. [153] Confidence diminished and in some collieries membership of the DMA dropped significantly after the defeat. In 1920, the union had 59,035 members and this had fallen to 39,455 by 1922. [154] The employers were confident and tried to assert their authority by taking even more new ground. Disputes over fork-filling and the butty system erupted for months afterwards in the Derbyshire coalfield. The butty system was largely re-introduced, but fork filling came in only in parts of the county, albeit most parts. But some areas were able to reach local agreements on shovel-filling. Some owners demanded further wage cuts, as when notices were posted at Hartington and Ireland collieries, declaring that the pits would otherwise close. While the Staveley and Butterley companies reduced local allowances, despite a threatened strike.
Others, seriously worried by the militancy of these years believed that the way to beat the miners was to contain their ‘revolutionary’ leaders and the notions of a non-political trades unionism and indeed even non-unionism began to be fostered by the employers, The National Democratic Labour Party operated in industry under the name of the British Workers League. Meetings called by the latter organisation were held throughout Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire in 1921 and 1922. Much of the initiative came from the owners and the butty contractors in the Bolsover area, but little support was found amongst the miners themselves. It was, however, an ominous development, especially for Nottinghamshire, [155]
iv)   The Building Trade
The depression naturally caused many and varied responses by the unions to the ????4çby problems created economic downturn. The Builders’ Labourers in Derby were seriously worried about the decision of the Corporation to offer relief work to the unemployed on road making. After all, it was the very work that their own employed members would normally do – and on trade union rates at that. In an endeavour to limit the effects of the recession on their members locally, the ABL made strenuous efforts to stop all overtime, Members began to be fined for contravening the branch’s policy. Particular difficulties were experienced at the British Cellulose plant, much of which was still under construction. A fine was not usually imposed for the first offence, but subsequent infringements could result in heavy punishment. One member, “Brother Wragg”, was fined £1 plus 5/6d committee costs on November 26th for working overtime, while a “Brother Dann” was fined 2/6d plus 6d costs and “Brother Cobden” ???1 0/6d – all significant sums of money and no doubt related to the actual gain of working overtime in question. Despite the rise in job losses, clearly the union’s ability to exert discipline to some extent had not been totally discredited.
Indeed, the national basis to negotiations in the building trade revealed some progress, but there was a tendency to equal out good as well as the bad; national negotiations did not prove popular with the Derby ABL. The notion of a sliding scale of wages was discussed but vigorously rejected by the branch in 1921. The Conciliation Board, on which the ABL nationally was not represented, had with the agreement of the Workers Union approved a reduction of 3d an hour, Meeting on April 1st, Derby ABL resolved to resist any cut. Understandably, the matter was of serious concern to the whole membership and over a hundred turned up to a special meeting on June 17th to decide what should be done. A further meeting a couple of weeks later decided to get their EC to withdraw from adherence to Conciliation Board settlements and to get the National Federation of Building Trades Operatives to act on the matter. If the NFBTO did little, then Derby ABL believed their union should withdraw from that body also. [156]
The reason for the unsatisfactory representational position of the ABL, which gave rise to the dissatisfaction with the Conciliation Board and NFBTO, was the initial refusal of the craft dominated federation to admit the four national builders’ labourers’ societies unless they agreed to fusion. However, only partial success was possible for this plan. Two societies resulted, the National Builders’ Labourers’ and Constructional Workers Society and the ‘Altogether’ Builders’ Labourers’ and Constructional Workers Society. It was the latter, the ‘Altogether’ – or the ABL as it is referred to here throughout – that organised in Derby.
The builders’ labourers were amongst the last of unions to relinquish the tradition of the club house. The end of the use by the ABL of the Star and Garter clubroom was reflective of the demise of the unique ties that had existed between unions and pubs. These ties were, if not exactly relinquished, certainly were to be qualitatively changed. It was only in 1917 that the ABL committee had released its officers from a commitment to man the clubroom every Saturday night of the year. It was agreed that, to provide the branch officers with a holiday, that there would be “4 nights when the clubhouse is not opened Easter, Whitsun, Christmas and August (Bank) Holiday”.
In 1921, this was all to come to an end. The landlord of the Star and Garter gave notice of an increase to 5/- a week in the rental of a clubroom. The ABL committee considered the increase as “altogether unreasonable”. They had after all been paying only 12/6 per quarter since the last increase in November 1920 and had been
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subjected to successive increases in the space of only one year. The rent had remained stable at £1 a year until October 1919, when it had jumped to 30/-. Another massive increase to 12/6d per quarter followed and the latest demand caused the committee to reconsider its position. It proved no difficulty, to obtain the use of a room at the new Labour Party headquarters at 63 London Road for periodic meetings. The idea of their own clubroom could no longer be maintained. [157]
Clearly, one aspect of the forced move was the pressure of inflation on room rents, but breweries were beginning to exert monopolistic pressure on pubs by obtaining tied houses to market their own beer and drinks. There appears to also have been a semi-conscious attempt to force out unions and other benevolent societies to make room for more paying customers. There may even have been an eye cast on the political implications of restricting facilities from bodies which would have been viewed as militant enemies by the notoriously Conservative brewing industry. Sometimes, landlords would consort with breweries in this. Certainly the days when a trade could invariably count on a former colleague to be the landlord were well and truly over. Perhaps the ABL encountered just such a problem.
The massive rise in unemployment obviously had severe repercussions on trade union income generally and this was no less so for the ABL. A reflection of the difficulties is in the level of pay received by the full time officer, Brown. He was paid £6 a week in 1920, but only £4 10s 0d in 1921, further reduced to £4 flat in 1922. At the same time, shop stewards’ commission of 3/- in the pound collected in subscriptions was cut to 2/-, while delegates’ expenses for attending meetings were cut from 2/6d a meeting to 1/6d. During the course of 1922, Brown’s salary was further cut to £3 5s 0d a week. In October, the committee had to instruct the secretary that he would receive “such sum as the previous week’s income would allow”. For, with membership loss, revenue loss inevitably followed. Only 246 members were admitted during the whole of 1921, compared with 835 the previous year. In 1922, this rate of recruitment was halved down to 108. The impact on the branch was disastrous, for the union relied on a high turnover of members; a slow rate of recruitment meant in practice an actual drop in total membership. A poorly attended branch meeting concluded that the branch could not maintain a full time secretary, but would keep the 2d weekly levy on members until Brown could find a job within the building trade once more, out on the sites.
By the beginning of April 1923, this had not happened. But the ABL branch committee decided to keep Brown on as full timer. Within two weeks he was able to inform the branch committee that he had been appointed District Organiser by the central organisation and that “payment to him as Branch Delegate should cease”. He became responsible for membership of the ABL within the East Midlands area. Happily, the membership position of the Derby ABL branch much improved as 1923 progressed. Membership was 273 in July, up 60 over the previous quarter and by October membership was up by another 23, to 296. But Brown’s promotion put paid to the full time delegate’s job. For never again did Derby ABL have such a position and in many ways the loss of Brown as a purely local organiser had a material effect on the future of the branch. [158]
year                    quarter          admissions                          yearly total
1919                          1                             31                               248
                                   2                             38
                                   3                           109
                                   4                           170
1920                          1                           151                               835
                                   2                           240
                                   3                           348
                                   4                             76
1921                          1                             63                               246
                                   2                             74
                                   3                             70
                                   4                             39
1922                          1                             23                               108
                                   2                             27
                                   3                             36
                                   4                             22
1923                          1                             28                               208
                                   2                             96
                                   3                             51
                                   4                             33
1924                          1                             85                               275
                                   2                             91
                                   3                             67
                                   4                             62
1925                          1                             89                               258
                                   2                             49
                                   3                             75
                                   4                             45
A common problem for the unions was ‘defalcation’ – shortfalls or misappropriations of union money. Collectors, branch secretaries and shop stewards handled enormous sums of money and, in times of great hardship, it was often very tempting for individuals to dip into union funds temporarily held by themselves. Often this was with the intention of repaying the money, but sometimes the sheer scale of the debt proved too much. Workers at Gee’s of Osmaston Road complained to the ABL committee in April 1921 that they were out of benefit because Warren, the shop steward, had not paid in their contributions. It turned out that he owed £31 0s 4d and the branch decided to make him repay it at the rate of 10/- a week. By June, his failure to make any repayment at all raised the question of his expulsion, a fact which roused him sufficiently to pay 7/6d immediately. [159] Of course such problems rarely arose because of any disregard for the union and often simply reflected the dire straits which workers found themselves in.
The whole experience of cutbacks and financial stringency which unions faced was but a mere reflection of the difficulties actually faced by their members. In 1922, when some trades were just about recovering from the worst ravages of depression, the building employers had little confidence of an upturn in their industry. They proposed a reduction of 2d per hour in the national minimum rate from June 1st. There was widespread opposition to this by the workers themselves, exemplified in an ABL ballot in Derby which resulted in 120 voting against and 8 voting for the employers’ proposals. In April, the cuts were nonetheless imposed. The following year, the employers demanded a further reduction of 20%, or 1 1/2d an hour, for labourers. A ballot of ABL members in Derby rejected the idea by a vote of 55 to 1, calling on their EC to resist the cuts. The employers linked wages and hours proposing to alter the agreed 44 hour week and for the ABL in Derby, now conscious that some improvement in their organisation was being made, this was totally unacceptable. The local ABL suggested that the union opt out of all national agreements, for the branch had noted with some satisfaction that “we were making some headway in re­organising the men in the shops that had been taken in hand”. In the end, the issue went to arbitration, the award from which extended summer working hours to 461/2 hours and kept winter hours at 44. On wages, future variations would be related to the cost of living, while a clause allowing for increases due to exceptional circumstances was also removed. [160]
As for painters in the NASOHSPD New Mills lodge, they revealed a mood of desperation, remaining rather insular and not a little right wing. The branch opposed the union’s affiliation to the Labour Party in 1921 and a proposed levy in support of the engineering workers’ dispute of 1922, by a narrow majority in a nearly tied vote. In a move consciously rejecting the worldly wise trades councils, the branch decided in 1923 not to affiliate to their local one. While, in the following year, apathy over internal union elections led the branch to decide that “voting for organisers, Executive Committee and Trades Union Congress be left for the Big Branches to decide”! Even so, when it came to strictly trade matters, the obvious distaste for things political was not so evident. In the local painting shops, the union maintained a certain tightness of organisation throughout the 1920s. When non-society men were spotted in the employ of any of these, as when Jackson and Potts were reproached in 1925, these were soon sorted out. [161]
A trade associated with the building industry was woodcutting. The Amalgamated Society of Woodcutting Machinists (ASWM) had rejected amalgamation, in a ballot vote of the members, with the woodworkers, the ASW, by 5,054 to 4,540 in 1921. It was, however, as in so many sectors, a time when woodworkers were seeking organisational unity. In March 1921, the ASW and the General Union of Carpenters in Derby were pleased to announce the national merging of their unions. [162] But the narrow majority against merger in the ASWM was, in effect, a statement that many wood machinists saw themselves as more aligned to skilled engineers than carpenters. The ASWM had a reasonably strong base in Derbyshire. There were four branches: [163]
     Branch                                   Meeting Place
     Derby                                     Unity Hall
     Ambergate                            Canal Inn
     Chesterfield                          Hady Cottage
     Glossop                                 Gladstone Street
v) National Union of Vehicle Builders
An alliance of the ASWM and the National Union of Vehicle Builders (NUVB) in the machine woodcutting trade was formalised into the United Kingdom Joint Wages Board (UKJWB). Such a development made amalgamation inevitable eventually. The state of trade in the UKJWB companies was considered by the Derby NUVB to be good in the town itself in 1925, but fair to poor elsewhere in the county. Hours of work varied from 44 to 47 and wages from 1/6d to 1/8d an hour. [164] But the effect of the recession on NUVB membership generally was disastrous. Derby branch membership strength was much reduced over the five years from 1920 and had only begun to show some signs of recovery in 1925. [165]
year                     Derby NUVB members
1920                             351
1921                              355
1922                             262
1923                             235
1924                             187
1925                              196
While the demise of horse drawn vehicles seriously hit the NUVB’s traditional base, the skills of their members proved adaptable to the mass production of railway carriages, especially as passengers in standard coaches began to be treated to more comfortable decor and furnishing. So, the union had quite a base at the Midland Railway. The NUVB however also organised in areas which would have been foreign to the old UKSC, bus and tram garages for example. The Manchester based organiser who covered Derbyshire, while in Derby to discuss proposed reductions in wages at the rail workshops, visited various shops in the town and in Chesterfield and Pilsley. At the latter there was “a decent shop employing between 30 and 40 members”. Moreover, the Chesterfield tramway’s maintenance men rejoined the union. [166]
But one bar to growth in their field was the division between the NUVB and the Amalgamated Wagon Builders, which had a presence in eastern Derbyshire. There was also some conflict of interest between the two and the TGWU, but all three unions reached an agreement on spheres of influence in 192S. [167] This tended however to isolate the NUVB and the AWB from each other. The end result was that, shortly before the Second World War, the AWB merged with the AEU and in the 1970s the NUVB merged with the TGWU.
vi) The Engineering Industry
This period saw two lock outs of general significance, the miners and the engineers. These were important in moulding the outlook of all trades unionists, for these two sections were often seen as providing a lead to all others. In engineering, the employers unsuccessfully made demands for wages reductions of 20%. Countering this, the unions posed claims for mutuality in controlling overtime, piecework production and other sweeping demands. The employers rejected these outright and argued for management prerogative, or management’s’ right to manage, especially in determining overtime working. The AEU rejected the employers’ stance, after a national ballot decided to insist on mutuality in all agreements. The employers demanded the signing of a declaration that the AEU would not interfere in management functions and, failing this, locked out all of that union’s members from March 11th 1922. When the other engineering unions failed to concede the required declaration, they too were locked out.
Both sides dug their heels in and, by the ninth week of the lock out, the employers re­opened their factories, announcing that those willing to accept the new terms could be taken on, all to little effect. But, by a slight concession in the eleventh week, the employers were able to break the ranks of the unions and all but the AEU accepted the new terms, as modified. The AEU fought on alone until June 13th, but by then it was clear that the unions were broken. The employers imposed reductions in the national minimum rate. There had already been a cut of 16s 5d at the beginning of the year, now a new cut was to be imposed of a similar amount, bringing the new rate to £2 16s 0d a week. A ballot vote resulted in a two thirds majority, rejecting the cuts, even after the long and difficult struggle. But the employers were adamant and, in the circumstances, the union’s national negotiators ignored the result of the ballot and accepted the wage reductions. The whole affair had dragged on for several months and ended in great bitterness. A legacy that would take half a century to jettison was an imposed procedure for the handling of disputes.
Wages after the lock out remained low and the engineering unions sought to remedy this throughout the 1920s, unsuccessfully until 1927. There were of course some firms which paid in excess of the minimum by giving local bonuses. In 1924, the engineering unions in Derby unsuccessfully demanded an all round increase of £1 for skilled and 10/- for the unskilled, in common with all the engineering districts nationally. The AEU was joined by the Associated Smiths and Ironmakers, the Workers Union, the Foundry Workers, the Patternmakers, the Brass and Metal Mechanics, the Coppersmiths, the Iron and Steel Dressers and the Sheetmetal Workers. [168] A mass meeting of all unions was held, addressed by Stokes of the WU, Bates and Sturgess (who was by now a councillor) of the AEU, Alderman Bower of the Smiths and Alderman Varley of the Foundry Workers.
Despite some obvious determination, the employers would not budge. A year and a half later, in September 1925, a mass meeting of AEU members at the Central Hall in Derby listened to a report on the claim. [169] The national application had been on the table all this time, with no effect, A Government intervention to discuss the 48 hour week and suspend the £1 claim stimulated further movement, at least in some localities. But the onset of the General Strike was to interfere with these moves. Localised bargaining in some industries, plants or localities did bring some restitution for the losses of the 1921 lock out. It would however take many years to rectify the position at national level within the industry.
vi) The Transport and General Workers Union
On the initiative of dockers’ unions, for some two years the unions in transport had been discussing unity. The bulk of the multi-union Transport Workers Federation joined together formally within one organisation, which came into existence on January 1st 1922. Many of the members of the new union – the Transport and General Workers Union (TGWU, later more popularly shortened to T&G) – had distinct and separate loyalties and the new constitution reflected that. Six quite separate ‘trade groups’, or sections, of dockers, bus and tram workers, carters and lorry drivers, ships’ clerks and others formed the basis of the giant new body, some 350,000 strong at the outset. The initial membership of the TGWU in Derbyshire seemed to have been restricted to its new Passenger Services Group, of mostly bus and tram workers. These had been inherited from the Manchester based Amalgamated Association of Tramway Workers (AATW), which merged with a London based union bus, taxi and tram union in 1919 to form the United Vehicle Workers (UVW). But, within a very short space of time, some membership of the Commercial Services Group of lorry drivers and carters was established, initially in the Long Eaton area.
A particularly strong upsurge of trades unionism in London’s public transport system encouraged the unionisation of public passenger transport throughout the country. To siphon off discontent, the Government encouraged the setting up of Regional Joint Industrial Councils for the industry, paralleling a national body, set up in 1919. Major revisions of wages, conditions and hours were accompanied by important new transport regulations, although the framework was still rather rudimentary. While a special tribunal award saw significant improvements in the previously low wages of conductors and conductresses. The UVW greatly benefited from all these developments.
Tramway workers tended in the main to be less militant than the newer job of bus worker, for the former could expect long and stable service with a municipal employer, not necessarily on high pay, but at least with some security of employment. Bus workers were then usually employed by private companies, operating routes in rural and suburban areas, the whole operation being rather casually arranged. Little public control existed and operators, who gradually began to face unionised workforces, were presented with employees who sought to get what they could whilst it was possible, for the enterprise could be gone the next day. Moreover, the ethos of bus firms was decidedly focused on profit rather than service. Working conditions and rates of pay were therefore relatively inadequate, when compared with the circumstances of tramway workers. In Derbyshire, this meant that employees of institutions like Derby and Chesterfield Borough Councils faced quite different problems than did a private firm like the Derby based Trent Motor Traction.
In 1922, Haslam, the TGWU branch secretary covering Trent Motor Traction’s bus workers, revealed the degree to which there was apathy within the company. At the Derby Trades Council, he somewhat desperately raised the need for the entire trade union movement in the locality to “make every effort to get the men to organise to improve their present conditions”, there were then very few women, if any, even in the conducting role and none as drivers. Clearly, while there was a substantial base to the union within the company, there was a some way to go, but the momentous events of the next few years would see bus and tram workers play a vital role in the life of the wider labour movement.
viii) The Railway Industry
The final settlement of the 1919 dispute was when an Industrial Court made Award 728, which determined that legislation should be passed. The Railways Act of 1921, following the period of industrial militancy, strikes and lock outs as it did, was designed to remove the industry from the arena of confrontation, The Act ignored the vital question of nationalisation of the railways, but did recognise some of the arguments for greater efficiency by re-grouping the private firms. More positively, the Act provided for statutory recognition of the main rail unions. A complex system of legally based local and national negotiating bodies was also introduced under the Act. Local Departmental Committees, Sectional Councils for each grade and Central and National Wages Boards were created. This highly formalised approach rather took power away from local rank and file representatives and sought to incorporate the unions with the interests of the employers.
For the railway workshops, the Act was a controversial development. Other unions than the three which were based upon the operational side of the industry were concerned that the right to strike was taken away by this formal conciliation network. Unions like the WU and the AEU in particular, with its commitment to shop stewards’ systems, were very worried by the Act. Only by specifically excluding the railway shop workers from the Act was it possible for it to be effective. [170]
The Act had an instant change upon the rail unions. The Vigilance Committees, which had been a kind of shop stewards’ committee dealing with problems where they arose as soon as they arose, were sidestepped by the new machinery. Rowsley NUR reflected the shift in attitude in the union, when it decided not to invite representatives from the unofficial Manchester and Derlick Guards’ Vigilance Committee in late 1921. [171] This contrasted sharply with the obvious enthusiasm with which the branch invited a Derby workshops militant active in the NUR, Harry Pearce Senior, to speak to the branch on the work of the committees. (Pearce, incidentally, was to feature fairly prominently in Derby’s left-wing politics over the years, on the Trades Council, in the Minority Movement and in the Labour Party – a role his son, Harry Junior, was to replicate a generation later.)
A factor in Rowsley NUR’s attitude may have something to do with its torn loyalties. The Manchester district of the NUR always had a stronger reputation for militancy than the Derby District of the NUR, Rowsley, though closer to Manchester, was firmly part of the Derby District from 1919 to 1924. Peppered throughout its minutes are constant references to the need to “write to Derby”, whenever a problem arose. In late 1924, for unrecorded reasons, the Rowsley NUR branch decided to “switch to the Manchester District Council for 1925”, to which it remained affiliated for the next two decades. [172]
Despite the intentions of the new Act, episodes of militant industrial action continued for some time. In 1921, over a hundred Derby NUR loco men joined in with a strike called by ASLEF activists against the proposal to cut mileage bonus rates which operated for drivers and firemen. The NUR’s official attitude was that, like it or not, the men must accept the changes as they were the product of the new conciliation scheme. Events like this generated a sense of unease at the direction which railway trades unionism was taking, as when in August 1922 Derby’s Vigilance Committee passed a resolution expressing strong disapproval at the NUR’s tacit acceptance of the LMS’s re-classification of signal boxes, a move which de-graded many men. Dissatisfaction with the NUR was strong amongst signalmen also. [173]
The tensions already evident in the workshops between the rail unions and the engineering unions were not eased by the arguments over the 1921 Act. At the beginning of 1923, there was a proposal to reduce the bonus of the shopmen. A mass meeting of WU workshop employees was held at the Co-op Hall in Derby. In a sceptical vein, Stokes and Hind addressed the men about the posturing of not only the company, but also the NUR. A rail strike then mooted was described as being the “greatest piece of bluff’, for negotiations had yet to be totally exhausted. [174] By the end of the year a major programme of passenger and freight carriage and wagon building was embarked upon at Derby. The full complement of around 10,000 employees in all LMS workshop activities were in full time work for the whole of the next year. This positive employment situation certainly moderated attitudes in the workshops. [175] But, on the track, a major unsuccessful strike was experienced in the course of 1924 on the LMS. Derby ASLEF organised a strike committee of 20 and on the first day of the strike the union arranged a mass picket at midnight. The strike emerged from the dissatisfactions over events following the 1921 Act, which began to be seen as a poor settlement of the 1919 dispute. There were three special developments in the strike locally. ASLEF made substantial recruitment advances out of it, 96 new members were admitted in Derby after the strike. Another aspect was the special involvement of the loco men’s wives in the struggle. Out of this came a women’s’ group. A subsequent open meeting of the branch attracted large numbers of women, which “spoke volumes for the women’ society”. The third interesting thing was that Derby ASLEF disaffiliated from the Trades Council over its role in the 1924 strike. [176]
The DTC secretary had offered assistance to Trent Motor Traction bus employees during a dispute they had. But when ASLEF was involved in the 1924 strike, in January the DTC made no such similar approach. This was much to the annoyance of the branch, which pointed out that, in contrast to the bus workers, Derby ASLEF had been affiliated for 20 years. Over the course of 1925, a series of trite arguments carried on between the branch and the council. [177] Relations between ASLEF and the NUR, never very sound, were not improved by the new bargaining position, despite attempts by the TUC to encourage closer working. But the move was not popular with ASLEF members. Staveley ASLEF expressed the mood well, when they voted “full support to the EC to keep out of the amalgamation” with NUR. [178] Similarly, the railway clerks, the RCA, turned down the idea of fusion of all rail unions, keeping very much to itself in its own sphere. Although the RCA was obliged to come to some kind of working relationship with a non-rail union which had a professional base in the design sector of the railway workshops, the draughtsmen of the AESD. The RCA and the AESD however aimed to promote closer working between themselves in 1925, when the two held a joint meeting at the Cavendish Cafe, because the “company had hitherto played off one union against the other”. [179] The NUR and ASLEF had a similar problem in the manual sphere, but failed, or were not willing, to reach an understanding.
6 Unemployed struggles 1920-5
Percentage of Insured Workers Unemployed 1920-23
   year                              approx percentage
 1920                                           5
 1921                                           17
 1922                                           14
 1923                                           12
The recession really jolted Derbyshire as 1920 came to an end. Jobs were lost not only in the big towns like Chesterfield and Derby, but also in the smaller towns. There were some 600 reported as workless in remoter areas, 80 of whom were ex-servicemen, 50 were labourers and the rest were hosiery and wire workers. Women workers were, then as now, often the first to be laid off. The effect of this was especially serious where the woman was the main, or only, breadwinner, for the authorities were far from sympathetic to their plight. The Trades Council in Derby took strong exception to female unemployed “being compelled to go to domestic service or be refused out-of-work payment”. [180] Indeed, the DTC was obviously very concerned about the general unemployment situation. So was the Town Council, with 5,401 unemployed and 5,350 on short-time in Derby in May 1921, it is not surprising that the council called a special meeting to debate the widespread anxiety over unemployment. [181] One immediate result of this was that the children of unemployed parents were soon receiving free Sunday dinners at the National Restaurant on The Spot, in Derby town centre. [182]
Other proposals were more substantial, if perhaps less easy to achieve. The Town Council unanimously agreed to provide special work, mainly on improving the arterial roads in Derby, Manor Road being the prime development. However, this seemingly philanthropic gesture, supported by Labour councillors, would be dogged by controversy. Initially, the problem was that the Borough was inordinately slow to actually start the project, but subsequently the same concerns which motivated the ABL to query the very concept of relief work on public building projects came to the fore. Relief funds were also organised throughout the county. In Chesterfield, the Borough Welfare Committee appealed for second-hand boots, clothing and toys for Christmas.
In June 1921, unemployment reached a national peak of nearly 18% and the Government, in an attempt to meet criticisms of failing to look after the unemployed, especially ex-servicemen, increased male unemployment benefit from a weekly sum of 15/- in November 1920 to 20/- in March 1921. But three months later, as the sheer cost of maintaining the rapidly growing unemployed escalated, the Government cut benefits back to the 1920 level. This single act caused an enormous national campaign around the slogan of “Work or Full Maintenance at Trade Union Rates of Wages”, spearheaded by the Communist dominated organisation, the National Unemployed Workers Committee Movement. (The word `Committee’ was soon dropped and the body is referred to as `NUWM’ throughout.) At local level, campaigns against the Boards of Guardians were organised to win improved relief from economic distress. The unemployed pressed for more and more attention. A march to the Shardlow Board of Guardians’ workhouse in 1921 was a spontaneous local protest against the appalling distress. [183] But most protests were more consciously organised, within local self-help unemployed workers’ organisations, but mostly being led by the NUWM, which dominated the struggles of the unemployed in the inter-war years.
The NUWM had a mostly Communist leadership, but support was surprisingly widespread amongst the unemployed themselves and the party was not exclusively involved in the organisation. ILP militants, trade union and Labour Party activists fought side by side with Communists to advance the cause of the unemployed. 90 town’s committees, including Derby, were represented at the 1921 conference of the NUWM, testifying to its strength. The local branch naturally campaigned on the NUWM slogans and utilised the style of action which so characterised the movement. A big gathering of many hundreds of unemployed interrupted the DerbyTown Council proceedings in September 1921, when a special meeting was held to consider a motion to ‘invest’, or confer honours upon, the Duke of Devonshire. [184] For the unemployed of Derby, the Borough had its priorities all wrong. No municipal work projects had yet begun, for the council dallied, arguing that the Manor Road scheme would cost £32,000 simply as relief for the unemployed, let alone taking into account all costs. Instead, other projects for the widening of roads were suggested by the authorities.
In response to pressure, the Liberal and Conservative dominated Town Council in Derby, perhaps with an eye to the forthcoming local elections, granted the use of a disused derelict house in Willow Row as a headquarters for the unemployed movement. On visiting the premises, however, the NUWM rejected the suggestion on the basis that the buildings were totally unsuitable and accepted the Labour Party’s offer of the use of part of their London Road centre. A split developed in the unemployed movement when a committee claiming to represent the unemployed, consisting of the chairman, Green, and two others, Cassidy and Hollis, asked to see the Mayor of Derby to discuss better facilities for the unemployed, so that “the headquarters would not have to be on political party premises”. [185] How serious this development was must be in doubt, for little is heard of this group subsequently, whilst the NUWM continued to dominate the scene in Derby, as elsewhere,
The recession bit harder, Ogles’ foundry closed on a temporary basis, redundancies were announced at the Butterley Company’s own railway sidings and 20 were discharged at the Waingroves brickyard. Butterley’s mines were ordered to start filling coal tubs with screens, which would sieve out the slack and hence obtain maximum production for minimum payment. Denby’s Salterwood colliery also laid off 100 men. To help with the severe hardship experienced by many, trade unions often arranged their own relief funds. Derby AEU ran a concert in November 1921, which raised £34 for boots for their own unemployed members. [186] While the DTC launched a “children’s’ Boot Fund” in early 1922. [187]
The economic recession had its consequences in the political sphere, as the authorities became concerned at the impact the Communist Party was having on the unemployed. The national Secretary of the Communist Party, Albert lnkpin, had been sent to jail for six months hard labour for publishing the Comintern’s statutes, on the grounds that these were in themselves seditious. Meeting in the New Year, the DTC demanded that the Home Secretary seriously consider lnkpin’s release from what they saw as a politically motivated prosecution, concerning possession of imported books written by Lenin and copies of the Comintern journal, Communist International.
Hundreds of demonstrations took place in Britain during February 1922 to demand scales of relief from local Boards of Guardians which would be nearer to the NUWM’s basic programme of 36/- a week for a husband and wife, plus 5/- for each child up to 16 years of age and up to 15/- for rent and a hundredweight of coal. Compared to the official rate of 20/- for husband and wife and 1/- for each child, this would have been a significant improvement in the conditions of life for the unemployed and their families. The activities in spring were rapidly followed up by more of the same in the summer. But the high spot that year would be the initiative of the first Hunger March, the first national NUWM march, in late 1922. Two separate strands of the march came from Lancashire; one came through the West Midlands on its way south. Two others, starting from Bolton, came through Manchester, Staffordshire and Derbyshire, with support joining up along the way. Labour’s Derby MP, J H Thomas, called upon the unemployed to disassociate themselves from the event, but while this must have certainly dented official labour movement support, it does not appear to have held back the activities of the NUWM amongst the unemployed. [188]
The organisation of the march revolved around the fact that the Poor Law allowed the marchers to arrive at a town and make claim for workhouse accommodation and food. No luxury involved here, by any means, but it was at least enough to keep the marchers going. Often, the authorities would try to treat them as tramps and provide only the ‘casual diet’ of bread and tea, an attitude which inevitably generated conflict when it was attempted. More sympathetic Guardians would issue instructions for more than the legally established minimum diet to be given to marchers. Derbyshire must have seemed an unfriendly county at first, the north-western strand of the march coming through Ashbourne and the rural west. The situation was described as “grim, for there was a desperate search for enough food”. By the time the marchers arrived in Derby, the welcome was much improved, despite the unwillingness of some in the labour movement to assist. The borough allowed the marchers the use of Orchard Street Schools for the weekend. The Sherwood Foresters donated a hundred tins of bully beef and the Co-op supplied £30 worth of food. Although the Poor Law inspector was to reprimand the clerk at the Board of Guardians for paying the Co-op for feeding 23 men from Bootle.
40 demonstrators from Scotland, who had marched from there in another stream tramping all the way through Yorkshire, arrived shortly after the north-western contingent, with tales of fights for work at the Sheffield Labour Exchange. Their worst experience had been at Clowne, in the north of Derbyshire. The police were quite uncooperative and the end result was that the new additions to the march, which had joined it at Sheffield, had to sleep out in the open through a cold freezing night of rain and snow. The local villagers, seeing them out in the morning, took them into their own homes. In complete contrast, at Derby, the 320 men on the north-western march ate a stupendous breakfast at the York and Clarendon hotels, along with the Scots­-Yorkshire contingent, both enjoying the hospitality of the town after their arduous experiences. The next day, the joint march was yet again fed and pampered. During the course of that Sunday, a dinner, social afternoon and high tea were provided and the men marched from one event to the other, wearing red rosettes and singing the Red Flag. [189]
The chief marshal thanked the Board of Guardians in Derby for the best treatment of all the towns so far. Derby had redeemed the honour of the county, so let down at Clowne and Ashbourne. The men marched the seven miles to Shardlow for tea, bread and cheese. By the end of the day, and another ten miles, they had arrived at Loughborough to a very different reception than that which they had at Derby. Once again they experienced poor accommodation and meagre food. This newly expanded and now single column met up with a total of 20 such contingents from across the entire nation, all converging on London on November 17th. The entire march was greeted by a crowd of 20,000 supporters, the event having been eagerly awaited. On Remembrance Day, only a week earlier on November 11th, 20,000 unemployed ex-servicemen fell in behind the official parade and filed silently past the Cenotaph. The marchers wore their own medals; those of the dead and severely wounded were pinned to the red and black banners of the NUWM. At the front rank of this march was carried a wreath inscribed: “From the living victims, the unemployed, to our dead comrades who died in vain.” [190]
The massed marchers of the 20 regional contingents of the NUWM march were all billeted at various public institutions across London. Daily protests demanding that Bonar Law, the Prime Minister, see a deputation were held using these forces. While reinforcements from towns throughout the country, including Derby, arrived in the weeks up to Christmas, despite a deliberate policy of discouraging such recruits by the Guardians in very many places. The national leadership of the TUC joined in with the NUWM to organise a massive demonstration on Sunday January 7th, Unemployed Sunday as it was called. So influential had the NUWM become that it could arrange a joint committee with the TUC. Despite all endeavours, the obstacles to maintaining the protests were just too many. The impetus of the campaign began to slow down, especially when Bonar Law positively refused to meet a deputation of the unemployed. After a full two months in London, the columns of the Hunger Marchers began to disperse.
This was but one phase of the entire battle for the NUWM. A major area of action for local NUWM branches was the test introduced by the Government to determine whether an unemployed worker was genuinely seeking work. Those deemed not to be, often as a result of an entirely arbitrary and unwarranted decision, were classed as ‘Not Genuinely Seeking Work’ (NGSW) and deprived of benefit. In May 1923, R G Ansell, president of the Derby ILP, and his colleague Frank Porter reported on the work of the Guardians. 181 men were on the “test” in Derby. Their benefit had “run out” and the Board was attempting to determine whether they were NGSW. Some of these men were employed on a major public works scheme at Alvaston, the intent being to provide them with work they could not refuse on pain of loss of benefits. This was the “test”. The catch was that the work was paid 25% less than the going union rate for such a job. The majority of the Guardians refused to pay more and any unemployed workers who declined to accept this under-cutting of the union rate were simply classified as NGSW. [191] As unemployment passed its high water mark, the Guardians were able to drop the local Poor Law rate, or levy, where this existed, In Derby, the Guardians dropped the local rate in 1924 to is 9d in the pound for the latter half of the year, compared to the figure of 2s 3d which the rate had been earlier in the year. Instead of such a course, the rates could have been held at the higher rate and benefits could have been increased, but the majority of the Guardians would have none of it. [192]
As the economic situation improved somewhat, the activities of the NUWM diminished until the crisis which affected the capitalist world in 1929 onwards once again produced massive unemployment. It would be a time of the greatest activity of the NUWM. Despite its Communist leadership, which remained until the fading away of the movement in the early stages of the Second World War, the NUWM retained a mass following and in the 1920s still had official recognition from the TUC. The course of events leading up to the General Strike, in which industrial militancy was tested against political reform, would of course be decisive not only in determining the future response of the trade unions and the political parties of the working class, but also the very direction of the unemployed movement. The attitude of the trade unions towards the unemployed movement and vice-versa was especially important in conditioning the response of both to the situation that confronted each. Another Communist influenced body which turned its attention to this was the Red International of Labour Unions, a sort of Comintern for revolutionary trade unions. RILU attracted support from some sections of Britain’s trade union movement in its 1922 campaign, in which it called for a “Back to the Unions” movement, Higher wages and shorter hours were but one aspect of the campaign to reverse the serious losses of membership and power of the unions. There was a determination to achieve the “concentration of all local forces of the movement in the Trades Councils”. The Derby Trades Council, with 20,000 trades unionists affiliated to it in 1923 and with finances increased tenfold over the 1917 level in 1924, was clearly an obvious target for local Communists in seeking to implement the RILU strategy. Some success was achieved and the DTC displayed its leanings when it called on the working class study organisation, the National Council of Labour Colleges (NCLC), to “give the workers the education they need i.e. that known as the Marxian philosophy”; although this was not a Communist Party inspired organisation.
But the main concern was over the “apathy of members of Trades Unions and the failing off of interest taken in Trade Union matters and the present method of organisation”. In an endeavour to put some life back into the local movement, the DTC launched a “Back-to-the-Unions” campaign for the summer of 1923. The campaign was kicked off by calling a conference on industrial unionism, that is to say creating mergers and amalgamations in particular industrial sectors. 16 full time organisers were invited to visit Derby during one week from July 30th to August 5th. The Shop Workers, the Foundry Workers, the NUR, the Building Trades Federation, the AEU, the TGWU, the Municipal Employees, the Metal Dressers all sent officers to assist in the membership drive. Ben Tillett MP, figurehead leader of the TGWU, and famed for his involvement in the dockers’ strike decades before, was the main speaker, along with George Hicks of the Building Trades Federation. The approach reflected the breadth of representation on the DTC, which is exemplified by the wide ranging character of its Executive Committee and affiliated membership.
Successful Candidates in the Derby Trades Council Executive Committee Elections of 1922
(details from DTC minutes of February 8th 1922)
     Name                     Union                           Votes received
Cllr E Paulson          Boilermakers                           43
Mrs Chalkley             Darley WU                                42
Mr C Brown               Builders Labourers               41
Mr A E Field               Shop Assistants                     34
Mr F Guest                 Typographical Assn              30
Mr W Gamble            ASLEF No 1                             29
Mr J Trowell              Bricklayers                               28
Mr I Amatt                  Hosiery Union                         28
Mr G Reader              NUR No 2                                 25
Mr P Wilton                NUR No 4                                 27
Known Local Union Branches Affiliated to the Derby Trades Council 1913 – 1926
Details extracted from DTC minutes, when an affiliate was either new or the subject of some dispute, hence it cannot be taken as an exhaustive list. The terminology used is generally that detailed within the minutes book, thus the names are not necessarily entirely historically accurate, but reflects the popular name for the bodies concerned. The names of newly amalgamated unions are sometimes also used, so some societies are named twice in different forms. However, there is some value in reproducing this analysis, since many of the unions mentioned in the minutes are entirely local or not otherwise touched on elsewhere in the text.
??/Society Post Office Workers
Amalgamated Musicians Union     
Amalgamated Society of Farriers  
Amalgamated Tramway and Vehicle Workers   
Amalgamated Union of Co-operative Employees         
Association of Engineering & Shipbuilding Draughtsmen
Asylum Workers (first affiliated in 1913, then lapsed and re-affiliated in 1919)
Bakers and Confectioners      
Basket Makers
Boilermakers Society
Bookbinders Union                 
Boot and Shoe Operatives
Brassfounders Society
Bricklayers Labourers Society
Carpenters and Joiners
Chemical Workers
Coachmakers (later the NUVB)
Elastic Web Weavers                
Electricians Trade Union         
Garment Workers
Hairdressers Association
Hosiery Workers
Journeymen Butchers
Licensed Vehicle Workers Union  
lronspring Trades Union
Moulders and Iron Founders  
Municipal Employees              
National Brass and Metal Mechanics       
National Union of Clerks
National Union of Life Assurance Agents           
National Union of Paper Mill Workers       
National Union of Railwaymen (several branches but especially Derby Nos 3 and 4)
National Union of Shop Assistants
National Warehousemen & General Workers
Operative Bricklayers
Operative Plumbers                 
Operative Stonemasons         
Postal Telegraph Clerks
Pottery Workers                         
Prudential Assurance Agents         
Railway Clerks Association   
Rubber, Cable and Asbestos Workers     
Steam Engine Makers
Stove and Grate Workers        
Tailors Society
Toolmakers Society
Tutbury Plaster Mineworkers
Typographical Association
United Machine Workers Association
Upholsterers Society
Woodcutting Machinists
Workers Union (several branches including Lacemakers, Women’s’ Branch, Carters, Brick makers)
In all, 42 meetings were held as part of the campaign, but unfortunately several were cancelled due to the very thing the campaign aimed to eliminate – apathy! But, apart from the new membership gained by a few unions, the campaign for all its intentions faced a formidable enemy in the despair and disillusionment that fear of unemployment brought. The role of the NUWM in stiffening the resolve of the employed in standing up for their rights, by demonstrating that the unemployed were prepared to do so, was especially important. The NUWM organised the unemployed not to break strikes, to undercut trade union negotiated wage levels and to respect trade union won rights. [193]
7 Electoral Battles 1921-5
At the 1921 local elections, anti-socialists of all kinds combined together, as in many places, into the “Municipal Association”, fielding candidates jointly under the guise of a supposedly non-political body. No doubt for many involved in the alliance, the aim was to ward off what the Derby Mercury called the “Labour attack”. While that year, in Derby, the attack was fairly successfully rebuffed by the Municipal Association device, Labour was able to console itself with the largely ceremonial position of Mayor. W R Raynes was elected Labour’s first Mayor of Derby, not the first in the county, however. William Smith had become the Mayor of Ilkeston the year previously. Raynes’ election was secured by the fact that, while the Liberals dominated the council, Labour did potentially hold the balance of power should the combined forces of Liberals, Tories and ‘independents’ ever see their shaky alliance dissolve. Thus, it made sense to placate Labour to some degree. Especially since Raynes could claim seniority and was a respected figure in the council chamber across all parties, by virtue of his dedication and competence.
One of Raynes’ first acts as Mayor was to set up a “Mayor’s Fund for the Unemployed”, which attracted immediate support, especially from trades unionists. £627 was donated within ten days and the eventual total was almost doubled. The Fund provided a Christmas dinner, a gift and a cinema or music hail visit for over 5,000 children. Over 600 pairs of boots were distributed as well. Within three years the Labour group on the DerbyTown Council was able to boast of a second Labour Mayor, Allen Mycroft, a Typographical Society official. The Labour Party began to experience many a trade union official, lay and full time, begin to take on the job of a local councillor. Soon, there was not a councillor or a union that was not in some way inter-connected. Trade union relations with the party became organically very close. When the Derby Labour Party (DLP) launched its own local weekly paper, the Democrat, in 1922, this was the culmination of a project which had been mooted first in August 1919. The unions offered immediate and enthusiastic support for the Democrat. The Builders Labourers, which had never been very close to Labour Party circles, came nearer. Derby’s ABL branch had re-affiliated to the DLP in June of 1921 and Brown, their secretary, was adopted as a candidate soon afterwards for the Kingsmead ward. Months only after the union had affiliated to the party, Brown was a town councillor. Meanwhile, also reflecting this new sense of purpose, Derby’s ASLEF set up a weekly fund for “the purpose of running … for local bodies such as the Town Council and the Board of Guardians”. [194]
The party approached the 1922 general election with high hopes. Its electoral fortunes had progressively improved from 1918 onwards and their Parliamentary leader, Ramsay MacDonald, was well respected. By now, his war time pacifism -oddly contrasting with his decidedly right wing stance – stood him in good stead. As a former leader of the ILP, even that left-leaning body favoured him. While the group of ex-Liberals, who deserted that party after the war to join Labour, naturally gravitated to his leadership. Derby was still a double member constituency and, for the first time, Labour put up two candidates for the two seats in 1922. One of them was Raynes, a natural choice given his municipal reputation. He had hoped to stand in 1918, but that had been vetoed by the party’s national executive. There had then been the suspicion that the sole Labour MP for Derby, J H Thomas, favoured an unofficial Lib-Lab situation and feared that Liberal support for him would dissolve if he had a running mate. But the local party was determined to break the Liberal connection and Raynes was thus selected to stand alongside Thomas, who did not take kindly to the decision. The outcome was a close result, the bottom and top of the poll being less than four percentage points from each other. Raynes was bottom of the poll and the two seats were divided exactly as before, one Labour and one Liberal. So Thomas had got his way, but things would never be the same again. Three party politics had arrived for good in Derby.
At Ilkeston, G H Oliver, standing for the second time, took the seat against a National Liberal and a Conservative. His share of the poll was somewhat diminished compared to the straight fight he had waged on the previous occasion, but he took a bigger, actual vote, He was to hold the seat for the next three decades, with a break of only four years out of Parliament. In North East Derbyshire, Frank Lee took the seat for Labour by only a handful of votes after a series of recounts, beating the former MP, a Liberal. In the first recount Lee had a majority of only two, in the second recount this had increased to a majority of only three! However, the third count boosted this to 201 and by the fourth he was ahead by a thousand votes. Even so, the Liberals persisted, demanding and getting a further four recounts, none of which were decisive. At the end, five ballot papers appeared to be missing, but Lee was declared elected. Holmes, the defeated Liberal, afterwards went to court, seeking a new election, but the judges eventually ruled in Frank Lee’s favour. As for the two Liberals who had been elected with miners’ support in 1918, one was not allowed to stand unchallenged by a genuine Labour candidate. This was Oliver Wright, who was selected as early as 1921 to stand for Labour, as an officially supported Derbyshire Miners Association candidate, in the Belper division against the sitting MP, Hancock, who was also a Nottinghamshire miners’ official. When Wright was adopted formally as candidate at a meeting in Belper, the Red Flag was sung for the first time at such an event. The Labour candidate’s commitment to socialism contrasted sharply with Hancock’s ambiguous position, but the sitting MP was to retain his position in Parliament on this occasion. [195]
Barnet Kenyon (pictured left) was the other Liberal who had miners’ support, but he shrewdly stood in Chesterfield as a “Radical”. Kenyon had been returned unopposed with Labour support in 1918 and this was the case again in 1922. Support for him as an individual was still very strong and his connections with sections of the miners gave him an important base. So much so that he was able to win the backing of the Chesterfield Co-op, which followed the lead of his key supporters in disaffiliating from the Labour Party in April 1921, on the basis that “by introducing politics into our society they were shaking the very foundation of the movement’. [196] Nonetheless, the DMA itself was increasingly dissatisfied with Kenyon. “Ours is the only mining county in the kingdom in which a Miners’ Agent is sitting in Parliament as a member of a Capitalist Party, and supporting Capitalist employers.” [197] This was a reference to the aggravating fact that he was still technically a retained official of the Derbyshire miners.
The Clay Cross division was taken by Labour with a convincing majority by the Charles Duncan, a non-mining candidate and senior official of the Workers Union. That the Liberal vote was spilt between a National Liberal and the official candidate had some effect, but on the other hand there was no Tory standing. Some thought it a minor miracle that the seat had been won with a candidate such as Duncan. He had been a Labour candidate before, but neither Keir Hardie nor Ramsay MacDonald had ever supported his candidature. MacDonald was supposed to have said that Duncan had run in 1906 as a LRC candidate in the Conservative interest and with Conservative money, since his candidature had clashed against the Lib-Lab electoral pact of 1903. [198] Whatever the case, his extreme ‘moderate’ views caused his rejection as a Labour candidate by the local Labour Party in Barrow and his subsequent defeat in the 1918 general election. Once in Parliament as the MP for Clay Cross, Duncan’s contribution was not one of great significance. He was chiefly remembered as “the best dressed man in the House of Commons”, not the best or the most inspiring of memorials to have! [199]
As for the less militant and largely rural areas of Derbyshire, there was no Labour candidate in West Derbyshire, but the party contested HighPeak for the first time, a constituency which was to be a permanent preserve of the Tories. Nonetheless, in 1922 Labour pushed the Liberals to the bottom of the poll. In South Derbyshire, Sam Trueman put up a brave fight once more. The Derby Daily Telegraph openly campaigned for the Liberal, declaring the Labour man to be a revolutionary candidate. But Trueman came nowhere near the eventual victor, the Tory. Despite press support, the Liberal was pushed to the bottom of the poll. Interestingly, the turnout was significantly higher than in 1918, rising from 57% to 80%.
In 1918, Derbyshire had returned only one Labour MP, along with two Tories and no less than seven Liberals of assorted hues, National, Coalition and Independent. But in 1922 there were equal numbers of Liberal and Labour MPs, four each, to the two Tories in the county’s seats. Labour had more than showed that it was set to challenge the Liberals. However, the election settled little in parliamentary terms and the new Government soon declared another election on the issue of tariff reform, with the Labour and Liberal Parties favouring such a policy and the Tories opposing it. The election was held in 1923, with the results declared in January 1924. It was notable for the elimination of the Liberals as a serious contender for government and the appointment of Labour as a minority government – the first Labour ministry ever.
The national trend was reflected in the results in Derbyshire. Oliver Wright stood again in Belper for Labour in a three corned contest in which the Lib-Laber, Hancock, was pushed into last place. His attacks on trade union and labour leaders as “wild men”, “extremists”, “those who want another Russia” and other such choice epithets lost him much support, especially by the strident and aggressive tone in which this onslaught was carried out. The seat was actually won for the Tories by Herbert Wragg, who was to hold the seat for the next two decades, all but for three years. In Chesterfield, Barnet Kenyon was at last challenged officially by Labour. His connection with the DMA as an official was finally terminated as a result of his refusal to endorse the Labour candidate at this election. Despite this, using his strong personal following and exceptional local base, he was able to retain the seat in a three cornered contest. Duncan kept his seat at Clay Cross, despite complaints about his failure to visit the constituency even once during the period of his tenure as MP.
Derby returned two Labour MPs, for the first time, with Thomas at last being joined by Raynes in a fairly close run race against the sole Tory nominee. Significantly, the Liberal vote more than halved compared to the previous, recent election, There was also an interesting and unusual intervention of a fourth candidate, T C Newbold, who saw himself as representing the interests of ex-servicemen as an “Independent’. The day following his nomination, a meeting of the Full Street branch of the British Legion in Derby adopted Newbold as their candidate by 25 votes to 7 with 4 abstentions. Due to the shortness of time to polling day, it was claimed that other Legion branches which might have supported Newbold were unable to do so, their normal meeting dates coming after the election. There were resignations at the Full Street Legion, as some members claimed that Newbold’s adoption was unconstitutional and undemocratic. The circumstances of his candidature remain obscure, but he did admit that there were several Conservatives amongst his sponsors and it “appears probable that he had the backing of a number of Conservatives supporters in Derby who felt that their party should have contested both seats”. [200] Given the fact that electors had two votes to cast and that some traditionalists might not have wanted to back Raynes, the more left wing of the two Labour candidates, it is clear that Newbold’s candidature was designed to assist rather than harm the sole Tory. Whatever the case, his creditable 11% of the poll did not affect the outcome.
G H Oliver was returned again for Ilkeston, as was Frank Lee in North East Derbyshire. This time, Lee was well ahead of his closest rival, the Tory, with the Liberal at the bottom of the poll. In HighPeak and South Derbyshire, Labour fared badly. In the latter, the lace manufacturers held a meeting at New Sawley, with some operatives declaring the Tories to be the only salvation for their industry, no doubt arising from their concern over free trade. In West Derbyshire, Labour once again failed to stand a candidate.
Nationally, the Conservatives took 257 seats, while Labour had 192 and the Liberals had 157. Thus, with Liberal support, it was possible for Ramsey MacDonald to become Labour’s first Prime Minister. J H Thomas was elevated to cabinet rank, a matter “learnt with satisfaction” by many in the NUR. [201] As the Liberals had agreed with Labour on the key election issue of tariff reform, it was not perhaps unnatural for them to propose the larger party as the new Government. Clearly, Labour could only form a ministry if the Liberals were prepared to back them. Yet, there were dangers and the relative wisdom of accepting the challenge could be a matter for debate. Labour had after all only recently formally arrived at the point of a socialist programme. An anti-socialist majority in Parliament would not make it easy for Labour to introduce radical measures and maybe this had attractions for the party’s enemies. Placed in the invidious position where Labour had office, but very little power, it was almost inevitable that disillusionment with the performance of the new Government would be great amongst its supporters, whilst those who opposed Labour would have their fears simply confirmed.
Needless of these considerations, which in any case are made strong with the benefit of hindsight, the labour movement enthusiastically celebrated the forming of the first Labour ministry. The Clarion Club in Derby gave a concert party to 130 children at the Co-op Hall, while the Labour Party invited Raynes and Thomas to a “Victory Social” at the Central Hall. [202] During its brief life of nine months, the Labour Government did not gain a reputation for any intent to radically change British society. There were major industrial disputes and the Government displayed a reaction very little different to that which would have been adopted by a Tory, Liberal or Coalition government. Moreover, preparations were made, as part of a general policy, to set up procedures to enable the Government to withstand any key strike; these would be followed assiduously by a Tory Government in 1926 to beat a solidarity General Strike with the miners.
The new “workers” Government took a distinctly aloof attitude to the grievances of workers in struggle during its lifetime, an attitude which may explain the cooling of feeling for it amongst those who ought to have been its greatest supporters. The immediate technical cause of the downfall of the Labour Government was the affair surrounding the prosecution of John Ross Campbell, editor of the Communist Party of Great Britain’s journal, Workers Weekly, on the grounds that he had published an article calling on soldiers not to fire on strikers when so ordered. Despite the fact that the Government had initially decided to proceed against Campbell, the fact that it had reconsidered was much criticised by both major opposition parties, the claim being made that undue pressure had been put on the Attorney General to drop the legal proceedings against Campbell. Both anti-socialist parties combined to force an election just at a time which would be most unfavourable to Labour.
The Tories benefited strongly during the election campaign from the so-called “Zinoviev Letter”, which purported to be a communication from the leader of the Communist International to the British Communist Party. It was supposed to prove the Soviet Union’s interference in British affairs, with Labour consigned to the role of benignly watching on. Over the years, many have believed that the letter was a forgery, created by émigré Russians with the connivance of Conservative Central Office as an election stunt designed to boost the campaign of the Tories. Document releases at the public record office now establish clearly that Stewart Menzies, a security forces operative, later to become head of Ml6, was indeed responsible at the very least for the dissemination to the Tory press of the `letter’. Menzies ordered the destruction of documents relating to his youthful activities in April 1952.
Linking the Campbell affair with the Zinoviev Letter was a stroke of brilliant proportions, for its effect was devastating. Four days before the election, the Daily Mail splashed headlines saying: `Civil War Plot by socialists’ masters; Moscow Orders to our Reds; Great Plot Disclosed’. In Belper, the Tory leader, Strutt, freely cast doubts about the political background of the Labour candidate, Jack Lees, implying without justification that he was a member of the Communist Party. Despite these dubious tactics, Labour actually gained ground at Belper in a straight fight with the former Liberal votes apparently divided evenly between Lees and the victorious Tory, Wragg. In North East Derbyshire, the Tory candidate, Bowden, called the Communists the tail that wagged the Labour dog. But this did not affect the re-election of Frank Lee, who was in for the third time and actually took very many votes from the Liberals. In South Derbyshire, Alfred Goodere, a local newsagent stood in the Labour interests and only narrowly failed to beat the Conservative. The Tories produced a leaflet accusing the mild-mannered Goodere of assisting in Labour’s plan to help the Soviet Republic paralyse the armed forces. A big effort was made by them, the Conservatives spending £1,267 in the campaign in the constituency to Labour’s £432. [203]
The out-going premier, Ramsey MacDonald, had visited Derby during the election, passing through by car and stopping for lunch at the Royal Hotel. Not that his rather detached style of campaigning seemed to have made any difference to the result in Derby. Raynes was defeated after his brief sojourn as local MP, the Tory pipping him at the post, although with the Liberal vote halved Thomas retained his seat. Barnet Kenyon, in his charismatic way, retained Chesterfield in a straight fight with Labour, the votes dividing three to two in Kenyon’s favour. In another straight fight with the Tories, Duncan took Clay Cross again quite comfortably. Oliver retained Ilkeston with an improved vote, while the Tories cut very sharply into the Liberal vote there. Labour did not bother to contest their weak areas of HighPeak and West Derbyshire.
It was a mixed pattern of results, reflecting the continuing trend of electoral contests in the 1920s. More straight fights, a transformation of some industrial districts into Labour strongholds, a polarisation of the vote which tended to crush Liberal strength where Labour seemed in danger of not winning. Nationally, the Tories benefited most from all this. Not only had they the stunning propaganda effect of the Campbell affair and the Zinoviev Letter, but they had also jettisoned the unpopular and controversial policy of tariff reform. The party took the astonishingly large number of 413 seats, while Labour had 151, a similar number to that previously held. The Liberal Party in Parliament was but a shadow of its former self, having a mere 40 seats. It was the main loser of the whole campaign and the character of British politics for many decades to come was thus set.
The Labour Party in Derby had regained much of its membership strength, after suffering from the recession in a similar way to the trade unions. In 1922, membership had plummeted to the position it had been just after the war, but it began to improve almost immediately. The ILP maintained its sceptical separatism within the overall Labour Party set up, although one veteran of the time has argued that the “ILP ran the Labour Party”, perhaps an exaggeration but, certainly, some of the party’s key activists were ILPers. [204] ILP membership affiliated to the DLP rose from 120 in 1922 to 180 in 1927 and the detailed figures show how dominant affiliated membership was, compared to individual membership.
Year*                                     DLP                                              DLP
                                  individual membership            affiliated membership
1918                  750                                                       7,634
1919              1,877                                                       14,244
       1920              2,395                                                       24,719
       1921              1,579                                                       21,754
       1922                  783                                                       18,039
       1923              1,088                                                       16,692
       1924              1,597                                                       18,589
       1925              1,815                                                       20,358
       1926              1,777                                                       19,719
(* Figures cover the periods from March to March from the previous year to the year stated, the year of the annually published report of the Derby Labour Party.)
Throughout the 1920s, the reluctance of ordinary people to contemplate war, having had the experience of the carnage of 1914-18 so recently, fuelled the desire of the labour movement to campaign around questions of peace. For example, the DTC in September 1922 was concerned over Government policy in the “Near East’, or North Africa. Whilst in February of the following year, the council was disturbed at the situation concerning French action in the occupied Ruhr area of Germany, declaring that “no assistance (ought) to be given by this country in their (i.e. the French) attempts to cause another war”. [205] Towards the end of 1924 the ILP, the Labour Party, the Co-operative Party and the Derby Trades Council all came together to organise a “No More War” demonstration. [206] Also, when the newly elected Conservative Government embarked upon imperial ventures in China, utilising British troops, organised labour was determined in its opposition. [207]
The vicious election campaign of 1924 revealed not only a polarisation of politics, but also a new trend in right wing thinking. The revolutionary tide which had swept Europe in the aftermath of the war and the Russian revolution had been averted in Italy by the adoption of a strong conservative state. Mussolini’s Fascists (or ‘Fascisti’, to use the Italian name widely utilised in Britain itself at this time) attracted much interest. A Fascist movement grew in Britain itself, as the established politics of consensus seemed to fail. The “British Fascisti” established a branch in Derby in the middle of 1924. Brigadier General E Pearce-Sercold, one of the executive heads at British Celanese, was the first commander of the local group, which claimed 150 members in the county. They described their aims to be to “support Christianity, the King and the British Empire”. Pearce-Sercold used his position to win young recruits at British Celanese, where a small Fascist cell was established. To most right wing Conservatives there seemed to be a great attraction in the basic tenets of Fascism, especially its violent anti-communism. [208]
It was an ominous development, presaging the tragedy of mass war and genocide only a decade and a half away. Yet for all the concern of the working class movement that war be avoided, the DLP was preoccupied with carnival like activities, exemplified by the first ‘outing’ organised in the summer of 1925, when 22 charabancs assembled in the Market Place preparatory to setting off to Monsal Head. [209] Labour’s parliamentary leaders had tasted nine months of government, a delight to any serious orthodox politician. This seemed to have been snatched away from them due to the radicalism, in both the political and industrial spheres, of the 1919-23 period. The identification of Labour with Russia by the increasingly powerful daily popular press was strengthened by the Campbell and Zinoviev Letter affairs. The leadership reasoned that the defeat of 1924 was the result of the fear of the winnable centre ground of the electorate that a vote for Labour was a vote for red revolution. If this was so, then the answer to future electoral popularity must lie in projecting a more ‘safe’, more conservative political line.
The presence of Communists within the Labour Party was argued to be an electoral handicap, although where individual members of the Communist Party stood as official Labour candidates this did not prove to be the case. For some time before the election of the first Labour Government, hostility to the Communist Party within certain sections of the Labour Party had increased. This was especially so in Derby, where the labour movement was led in the main by the right wing. The chairman of the Derby branch of the Communist Party was refused access to the platform at the annual May Day rally at the Market Place in 1923 by Councillor A Slaney, who was chairing. This action was considered to be a “significant rebuke” by the Derby Mercury. In complete harmony with this approach was the tenor of J H Thomas’ speech, the main one of course. This was marked by the determination to achieve what Thomas called “industrial peace” at all costs between capital and labour. [210]
Administrative difficulties had been placed in the way of Communist-Labour candidates. So as to resolve the problem, the Communist Party applied formally for affiliation to the Labour Party as a socialist society, reasoning that its main constituent organisation – the BSP – had been affiliated and there should therefore be no obstacle placed in the way of its direct heir to the same relationship. The argument over this raged, as the 1925 conference of the Labour Party approached. In Derby, a crowded meeting of 100 delegates attended the half-yearly conference of the local DLP, to decide by a large majority to oppose affiliation of the Communist Party. The minority argued that the Communists gave strength to the movement, that solidarity and unity were needed. Others were suspicious and believed that only the electoral success of the Labour Party could benefit the working class and that might be jeopardised by affiliation. Significantly, the DLP’s delegates to the annual conference were given a free hand on all matters other than this question. John Cobb and Mrs Clarke, the two delegates, were mandated to vote against affiliation. [211]
One month later, the opposing view was put with considerable force and authority in the town when Josiah Wedgwood, Labour member for Newcastle-under-Lyme and a former cabinet minister, spoke at Derby’s Central Hall. His local Labour Party had mandated him to vote for the Communists to remain within the party. Opposition to affiliation was effectively tantamount to voting for expulsion of those Communists involved in local Labour parties and the banning of delegates who held Communist Party membership from attending party conferences on behalf of trade unions. Wedgwood argued that he for one did not want the Labour Party to “lose the rebel spirit by being too goody-goody”, a line received with considerable applause at the packed meeting. He would rather have “the Communists inside than outside”. While he personally did not support the general line of the Communists’ strategy, Wedgwood was afraid that Labour might become a “social reform movement instead of a socialistic one”. [212]
Despite the significant, but perhaps minority, views such as this which were expressed quite strongly inside the Labour Party, the annual conference voted marginally to reject the affiliation of the Communist Party. This act was an important symbolic step away from the militant years. Yet, whilst Labour turned right, at the Scarborough conference of the TUC, the unions took a determined stance decidedly to the left. The scene was thus set for the fateful events of the 1926 General Strike. The unions would remain a key target for destabilisation by the establishment. As for the Labour Party, while the right most definitely held the reins of power within the party, the heart and soul still lingered in the left wing camp. Arguments and controversy over the direction the Labour Party should take would grow. One of the leaders of the left at this time would show just how volatile politics can be. The young Oswald Mosley was an extremely charismatic person and his particular branch of criticism of the cautious approach of the parliamentary leadership caught the imagination of many. In Parliament, he was an MP who adopted a most dashing style of oratory and action. They were qualities which would serve him well in the next decade as leader of Britain’s Fascists.
Mosley had local connections by marriage to the aristocratic Curzon family and his own father was a major landowner in the area. He and his wife were regular visitors to Derbyshire labour movement events. His radicalism and personality were an attraction. Mosley addressed a meeting called by the ILP in October 1925, at which he argued the case for nationalisation of the banks and a generally radical social and economic programme of reform. [213]
The General Strike was to be the ultimate confrontation between the coal owners and the miners, a test of strength which would determine the course of the next few decades. The strike was to prove to be a defeat in more than one way, but before defeat came stunning success. In 1925, the TUC offered positive support to the miners, threatening to embargo all movement of coal when the owners had threatened a lock out which aimed to roll back any gains made in the previous decade. The owners and the Government were unprepared for such a confrontation, backing off completely but temporarily. A subsidy was provided which would allow the lock out notices to be withdrawn. The announcement came as a vindication of the movement, more than making up for the unsavoury events of Black Friday. The victory was hailed as Red Friday. But it was short lived, since another Royal Commission was set up to review the situation in the coal industry. The subsidy was only limited and, as it ran out, the Commission reported in favour of the employers’ demands. The TUC joined in with the parliamentary leadership of the Labour Party in desperate efforts to avert a dispute. But the Tory Government had deliberately planned revenge and aimed once and for all to silence the militancy of the miners. The experience of 1926 and the run up to it would mark the end of any possibility for the road. In 1919, many in the working class had genuinely debated the question of revolution or reform. By the end of the General Strike the answer had been provided.
1 “The Labour Party Constitution and Standing Orders” The Labour Party (1980)
2 ed Asa Briggs and John Saville “Essays in Labour History 1918-39” Vol 3 Croom Helm (1977) p100
3 Workers Union Derby District Committee Minutes November 16th 1918
4 Workers Union Derby District Committee Minutes December 4th 1918
5 Derby Mercury October 25th 1918
6 Derby Mercury March 22nd, July 26th 1918; G Kingscott “Long Eaton Co-operative Society Ltd – A Centenary History 1868-1968” LECS (1968) p112; John Beadle “346,159 – the story of the 14 General Election Campaigns Fought in South Derbyshire between 1918 and 1966 (1968) pp3-6
7 Derby Mercury January 3rd 1919
8 Derby Mercury March 7th 1919
9 Workers Union Derby District Committee Minutes June 14th 1919
10 Derbyshire Times August 9th 1919
11 Derby Trades Council Minutes June 13th 1917 and February 12th 1919
12 Derby Trades Council Minutes January 8th 1919
13 Derby Mercury May 9th 1919
14 W R Raynes unpublished memoirs p71
15 Workers Union Derby District Committee Minutes June 14th 1919
16 Workers Union Derby District Committee Minutes September 10th 1919
17 Workers Union Derby District Committee Minutes October 8th 1919
18 Workers Union Derby District Committee Minutes November 12th, December 13th 1919
19 Staveley ASLEF Minutes January 20th 1920
20 Derby ASLEF Minutes June 13th 1920
21 Derby Trades Council Minutes August 11th 1920
22 Derby Mercury August 20th 1920;Derby ASLEF Minutes August 15th 1920, September 12th 1920
23 Derby Trades Council Minutes October 8th 1919
24 ABL Minutes November 27th 1919
25 Rowsley NUR Minutes December 28th 1919
26 Derby Mercury October 31st 1919
27 Derby Mercury December 12th 1919
28 Workers Union Derby District Committee Minutes December 20th 1919
29 Workers Union Derby District Committee Minutes February 21st 1920
30 Derby Mercury April 30th 1920
31 Derby Mercury May 21st 1920
32 P S Bagwell “The Railwaymen – the history of the NUR” Allen and Unwin (1982) Vol 2 p74; L Clay – conversations with the author
33 Derby Mercury May 21st 1920, June 8th 1923
34 Derby Master Printers Association Minutes March 24th 1919, DMPA letter reproduced in the minutes August 18th 1919, December 6th (letter) and August 26th 1919 (minutes)
35 J E Williams ‘The Derbyshire Miners” Allen and Unwin (1962) p583;H M Parker and L M Willies “Peakland Lead Mines and Miners” Moorland Publishing (1979) no page numbers – note to plate concerning Hillcar Sough
36 Derby ASLEF Minutes December 1st 1918, January 12th 1919; Rowsley NUR Minutes January 26th 1919
37 Derby Mercury December 24th 1920
38 Rowsley NUR Minutes June 29th 1919
39 Derby ASLEF Minutes September 29th, October 1st, October 3rd 1919
40 Derby Mercury October 3rd 1919
41 Derby Daily Telegraph September 29th 1919
42 Derby Trades Council Minutes October 8th 1919
43 Derby Daily Telegraph September 29th 1919
44 ABL Minutes October 17th 1919
45 Derby ASLEF Minutes December 14th 1919, March 14th 1920
46 Derby ASLEF Minutes May 9th 1920
47 Rowsley NUR Minutes July 27th 1919, August 28th 1921, June 5th 1922; Derby ASLEF Minutes August 28th 1921
48 Derby Mercury January 24th 1919
49 Derby Mercury April 16th 1920
50 Derby Trades Council Minutes June 13th 1919
51 Derby Mercury October 11th 1918
52 A V Sellwood “Police Strike -1919” W H Allen (1978) pp56-7
53 Derby Mercury November 28th 1919
54 New Dawn (NUDAW journal) March 5h 1921
55 W L Unsworth “75 Years of Co-operation in Derby 18S0-192S” DCS (1927)
p218-9; G Kingscott “Long Eaton Co-operative Society – a Centenary History 1868-1968” LECS (1968) pp112-113
56 New Dawn July 1921
57 Derby Mercury June 15th 1923
58 Derby Mercury October 12th 1923
59 G Kingscott “Long Eaton Co-operative Society – a Centenary History 1868-1968” LECS (1968) p111
60 Derby Trades Council Minutes July 9th 1924
61 ABL Minutes for the years stated
62 ABL Minutes October 17th 1918
63 ABL Minutes January 1st 1920
64 ABL Minutes September 20th 1920
65 ABL Minutes March 29th, June 28th 1916
66 ABL Minutes May 13th, May 27th 1920
67 ABL Minutes July 5th 1920
68 ABL Minutes April 5th 1921
69 R W Postgate “The Builders History” NFBTO (1923) Appendix 1
70 ABL Minutes April 23rd 1918
71 ABL Minutes July 13th 1920
72 R Gurnham “200 Years – history of the trade movement in Hosiery and Knitwear Industry 1776 1976” NUHKW (1976) p75
73 English Sewing Cotton original poster 1919
74 Workers Union Derby District Committee Minutes September 6th 1919
75Derby Mercury November 28th 1919
76 Workers Union Derby District Committee Minutes July 12th 1919
77 Workers Union Derby District Committee Minutes March 9th 1918
78 Workers Union Derby District Committee Minutes February 8th 1919, September 6th 1919
79 Workers Union Derby District Committee Minutes January 20th 1920
80 Workers Union Derby District Committee Minutes April 17th 1920
81 Workers Union Derby District Committee Minutes August 9th 1919
82Derby Trades Council Minutes November 15th 1919
83 Workers Union Annual Reports 1914, 1920
84Derby Mercury December 24th 1920
85 Rowsley NUR Minutes February 19th 1920
86 Workers Union Derby District Committee Minutes August 9th 1919
87Derby Mercury April 16th 1920, May 9th 1924; R Groves “Sharpen the Sickle” Merlin Press (1981) p253
88Derby Mercury October 1st 1920; Clarence Daniel “The Plague Village – a history of Eyam” W Warrington & Sons, Tideswell (1938) p58
89 NASOHSPD New Mills Branch Minutes March 29th 1915
90 NASOHSPD New Mills Branch Minutes June 2nd 1919
91 NASOHSPD New Mills Branch Minutes June 30th 1919
92 NASOHSPD New Mills Branch Minutes April 19th 1920
93 NASOHSPD New Mills Branch Minutes April 4th 1921
94 NASOHSPD New Mills Branch Minutes April 25th 1921
95 Rowsley NUR Branch Minutes March 30th 1924; J E Mortimer “History of the AESD” DATA (1960) p46
96Derby Mercury December 14th 1923
97Derby Mercury March 17th 1922
98 Charles Doherty “Steel and Steel Workers – the Sons of Vulcan” Heinemann Educational (1983) p62
99Derby Mercury April 30th 1920
100 Ilkeston Borough Minutes 1919-1920
101 Derby Mercury May 6th 1921
102 Derby Mercury October 22nd 1920
103 Derby Trades Council Minutes April 14th 1920
104 Derby Mercury December 24th 1920
105 Derby ASLEF Minutes February 13th 1921, February 20th 1921
106 Derby Trades Council Minutes February 8th 1922
107 G D H Cole “A Short History of the British Working Class Movement 1789-1947” Allen and Unwin (1948) p469
108 Derby Mercury March 14th 1919
109 W R Raynes unpublished memoirs p120
110 Derby Mercury October 15th 1920
111 Derby Mercury July 20th 1920
112 Official Report of the Communist Unity Convention – London July 31st to August 1st 1920 Facsimile Reproduction – CPGB (June 1968)
113 John Mahon “Harry Pollitt” Lawrence and Wishart (1976) p35; James Klugmann “History of the Communist Party of Great Britain 1919-24” Vol I Lawrence and Wishart (1968) p361; Information supplied by Fred Westacott, CPGB East Midlands District Secretary.
114          Derby Mercury March 27th 1920
115          W L Unsworth 75 Years of Co-operation in Derby 1850-1925” DCS (1927) pp 177-8,180,183; Derby Monthly Record (DCS) January 1923, June 1923; G Kingscott “Long Eaton Co-operative Society – a Centenary History 1868-1968” LECS (1968) pp112-113; Derby Mercury May 7th 1920; DCS Derby Monthly Record October 1916
116 Derby Trades Council Minutes January 12th 1921
117          J Hinton and R Hyman “Trades Unions and Revolution” Pluto Press (1975) ppl4-15, quoting A Gleason “What the Worker Wants” (1920)
118          G D H Cole “A Short History of the British Working Class Movement 1789-1947” Allen and Unwin (1948) p469
119          Workers Union Derby District Committee Minutes November 13th 1920
120 Derby Mercury December 24th 1920
121 Derby Mercury October 8th, November 26th 1920
122 Norman H Cuthbert “The Lacemakers Society” The Society (1960) p131
123 Derby Mercury September 23rd 1921
124 Derby Mercury May 9th 1924
125 Derby Trades Council Minutes July 9th, December 10th 1924
126          R Gurnham “200 Years -history of the trade movement in Hosiery and Knitwear Industry 1776 1976” NUHKW (1976) p92, p96
127          R Gurnham “200 Years – history of the trade movement in Hosiery and Knitwear Industry 1776 1976” NUHKW (1976) p117
128          R Gurnham “200 Years -history of the trade movement in Hosiery and Knitwear Industry 1776 1976” NUHKW (1976) pplOl-3
129 Derby Mercury March 18th 1921
130          R Gurnham “200 Years – history of the trade movement in Hosiery and Knitwear Industry 1776 1976” NUHKW (1976) p108; Ministry of Labour Gazette 1924
131          Derby Mercury January 7th 1921
132          Workers Union Derby District Committee Minutes December 10th 1921, April 8th 1922
133          Derby Mercury February 17th 1922
134          Derby Mercury April 11th 1924
135 Workers Union Derby District Committee Minutes – various dates
136          Workers Union Railway Workshops Branch Minutes and papers of H A Hind
137          Workers Union Derby District Committee Minutes September 19th 1925
138          Workers Union Membership Card 1921
139          Workers Union National Reports for years stated
140          G Kingscott “Long Eaton Co-operative Society – a Centenary History 1868-1968” LECS (1968) ppll2-113; Rowsley NUR Minutes April 3rd, April 12th 1921
141 Derby ASLEF April 10th 1921
142 Derby Mercury April 15th 1921
143 Derby Mercury April 22nd 1921
144 Derby Mercury April 10th 1921
145          Rowsley NUR Minutes July 24th 1921, undated minute between May 1st and May 15th 1921
146 Staveley ASLEF June 26th 1921,
147 Derby Mercury April 29th 1921
148 Derbyshire Times May 7th 1921
149          R H Mottram and C Coote “Through Five Generations – a history of the Butterley Company” Faber and Faber (1950) p145
150 B J Hunt “The West Hallam Heritage” Moorley’s, Ilkeston (1978) p51
151 Derbyshire Times July 2nd 1921
152 Derbyshire Times October 7th 1922
153 Derby Mercury January 13th 1922
154          J E Williams ‘The Derbyshire Miners- a study in industrial and social history” Allen and Unwin (1962) p610
155          Derbyshire Times December 24th 1921, January 7th 1922, January 14th 1922, January 28th 1922
156 ABL Minutes April 1st, July 17th, August 5th 1921
157 ABL Minutes July 11th 1917, June 20th 1921, November 12th 1920, June 30th 1921, August 5th 1921
158 ABL Minutes January 4th, January 5th, March 9th, March 30th, April 14th, April 22nd, October 10th 1922, April 5th, April 24th, July 5th, October 4th 1923
159 ABL Minutes April 5th, June 30th, August 5th 1921
160 ABL Minutes March 13th, July 5th 1923
161          NASOHSPD New Mills Branch Minutes December 23rd 1921, May 1st 1922, May 4th 1923, June 11th, June 23rd 1924, April 27th 1925
162 Derby Mercury March 4th 1921
163          ASWM Monthly Report May 1925
164          NUVB Quarterly Reports 192S
165 NUVB Quarterly Reports for the years stated
166          NUVB Quarterly Reports July 1923
167          NUVB “A Short History of the NUVB – 1834-1959” p25
168          Derby Mercury April 18th 1924
169          Derby Mercury September 11th 192S
170          ed H B Lees-Smith “The Encyclopaedia of the Labour Movement” Vol II Caxton Publishing (1928) p83-5
171          Rowsley NUR Minutes October 30th 1921
172          Rowsley NUR Minutes December 28th 1924
173          PS Bagwell “The Railwaymen – the history of the NUR” Vol I NUR (1963) p433
174          Derby Mercury April 20th 1923
175 Derby Mercury December 21st 1923
176          Derby ASLEF Minutes January 13th, January 20th, December 7th 1924
177          Derby ASLEF Minutes April 12th 192S
178          Staveley ASLEF April 29th 1923
179          Derby Mercury September 27th 1925
180 Derby Mercury April 5th 1925
181 Derby Mercury May 6th 1921
182 Derby Mercury May 13th 1921
183 Derby Mercury October 14th 1921
184 Derby Mercury September 9th 1921
185 Derby Mercury September 16th 1921
186 Derby Mercury January 27th 1922
187 ABL Minutes March 9th 1922
188 P Kingsford “The Hunger Marchers 1920-40” Lawrence and Wishart (1982) pp 39-40
189          P Kingsford ‘The Hunger Marchers 1920-40” Lawrence and Wishart (1982) p46, p61
190 A Tuckett “The Blacksmith’s History” Lawrence and Wishart (1974) p200
191 Derby Mercury May 4th 1923
192 Derby Mercury September 11th 1924
193 J Hinton and R Hyman “Trades Unions and Revolution” Pluto Press (1975) p25’ Derby Trades Council Minutes July 11th 1917, February 14th 1918, December 13th 1922, January 10th 1923, March 9th 1923, December 10th 1924
194 ABL Minutes May 10th 1922; Derby ASLEF September 14th 1919
195 Derbyshire Times November 4th 1922
196 Derbyshire Times April 16th 1921
197 J E Williams “The Derbyshire Miners – a study in industrial and social history” Allen and Unwin (1962) p816
198 J E Williams “The Derbyshire Miners – a study in industrial and social history” Allen and Unwin (1962) p816
199 J Hinton and R Hyman “Trades Unions and Revolution” Pluto Press (1975) pl55
200 F W S Craig “British Elections 191 8-49” Parliamentary Research Service –
Chichester (1983) p125
201 Rowsley NUR Minutes January 27th 1924
202 Derby Mercury January 4th 1924
203 John Beadle “346,159 – the story of the 14 General Election Campaigns Fought in South Derbyshire between 1918 and 1966” privately published (1968) p12
204 Les Clay – conversations with the author
205 Derby Trade Council Minutes September 13th 1922
206 Derby Trades Council Minutes September 10th 1924; Derby Mercury September 26th 1924
207 Derby Mercury June 3rd 1925
208 Derby Mercury November 14th 1924, July 2nd 1926
209 Derby Mercury July 24th 1925
210 Derby Mercury May 11th 1923
211 Derby MercurySeptember 25th 1925
212 Derby Mercury October 23rd 192S
213 Derby Mercury October 16th 1925

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