1948 Waleswood Colliery strike
In 1948 Waleswood colliery (between Kiveton\Wales and Aston) closed. This was just after the Second World War (1939-1945) when the coal industry had been taken out of private hands and nationalised by the Labour government. The Waleswood miners didn't go without a fight though. Below are scans of two NUM (National Union of Mineworkers) leaflets, and the text of a message that the union had put out to local miners. A fascinating glimpse of our mining past kindly supplied by Alan Burke of the Mosborough Web Site (see the links page).
Also, in 2008 Jennifer Middleton sent a photo of one of the union meetings in May 1948 at which the closure was discussed. The speaker (shop steward?) was called Vin Williams.
A Call to all Yorkshire and Derbyshire Miners!
This is a Message to YOU from the Men at Waleswood.
All we ask is that you read of our
Fight to keep
Waleswood Pit Open
WHAT ARE THE FACTS?
In July of 1947 rumours were floating about that Waleswood Pit was to close. A resolution was moved at the P.P.C. to the North Eastern Divisional Coal Board, asking if there was any foundation in these rumours. A reply was sent in August by Mr. Ellis, Area No. 1 Production Director, " That there was no foundation for these rumours, and that the men at Waleswood were to be congratulated on the magnificent output they were establishing, and looked forward to a continuance of same." In September, 1947, a Special Meeting was called, when our Union Officials and Committee had to meet Officials of the N.C.B. who informed our Committee that the North Eastern Division N.C.B. had decided to close Waleswood Pit. Reasons given were: —
(1) Loss of upwards of 10/- per ton.
(2) (2) Life of the Pit was only from 8 to 11 years.
In respect to item (1) we were able to prove that the loss was only, in November, 9.016 pence per ton. Secondly that, according to a report of one of their own experts, the life of the Pit was 62 years. Thirdly, our output was from 3 to 4 cwts. per manshift for all employed over the Yorkshire average.
Our average output is just over 26 cwts. per manshift
for all employed.
We can also prove that by reorganisation this figure can be
increased to over 30 cwts. per manshift.
We were able to elicit this information from the N.C.B. Officials
that, in the event of Waleswood Pit closing, there would be 183 redundant men. According to one of our Yorkshire Area, N.U.M., Officials, who has had experience in these matters, the figure would be nearer 300 out of a total labour force of just over 700. After establishing our case on points 1, 2 and 3, the N.C.B. said the reason for closing was that the pit was unsafe. An examination of the pit was then held with N.C.B. Officials, accompanied by Mr. Joe Hall and Mr. Alwyn Machin, of Yorkshire, and Mr. Bert Wynn, of Derbyshire, and they proved that this reason had no validity. Both the Yorkshire and Derbyshire Miners' Leaders said that if Waleswood had to close on the grounds put forward by John Hunter (Area Production Director) that the pit was unsafe, then he would have to close 50 per cent. of the pits in Yorkshire and Derbyshire. Then the N.C.B. said the shaft was unsafe. This was then examined by Mr. Morrison (Derbyshire Miners Mines Inspector), who ridiculed this and estimated the life of the shaft from forty to' fifty years. On every reason advanced for the closing of Waleswood irrefutable evidence has been offered to the contrary. A meeting of the North Eastern Divisional Consultative Committee was to be held on Tuesday, February 10th, 1948. In the last week of January, 1948, John Hunter issues directions to the Management at Waleswood to stop 54's district, Thorncliffe seam, where 120 men are working, on Friday, February 6th. Also a base line is put on three faces in Parkgate seam, shortening their life to a matter of a few weeks. On February 2nd, the Officials of the Waleswood Branch met Mr.Ernest Jones and Mr.Alwyn Machin at Miners' Offices, Barnsley, and Informed them of this decision. Ernest Jones sent a letter immediately to John Hunter asking him to postpone putting his decision into operation until afterthe meeting,, February 10th. Our Officials then met Bert Wynn, General Secretary D.M.A., who phoned Mr Hunter to the same effect. On February 5th Bert Wynn and Joe Kitts from Derbyshire met John Hunter. On February 6th the order came into operation. Only a few years ago over £12,000 was spent in building a new endless haulage road into this district, 54's, and is said to be as good as in any pit in the Area. There are 200 acres of good quality coal, 4ft. 6ins. thick, running alongside the right hand side of this road, which can be economically got by we men at Waleswood. If 54's district is drawn off then it will be 15 to 20 years before this coal can be got by any other pit. We are not protesting against planning, we are all for it, but we Do say that Waleswood can be integrated into any area planning.
THE PRESENT POSITION.
We have briefly told you the history of our struggle up to the Stay-in Strike from February 9th to February 11thWe came out on a promise that Thorncliffe Area C, where 200 acres of good coal lay, easily accessible for Waleswood to work, should be examined. This was duly fulfilled on Friday, February 14th, when Joe Hall. Alwyn Machin, of Yorkshire, Bert Wynn and Joe Kitts, of Derbyshire, along with Officials of the N.C.B.; examined the 54's District of Thorncliffe. "The result of this examination was, in the considered opinion of all the Union Officials both of Yorkshire and Derbyshire, that the case of Waleswood men that Area C should be worked by Waleswood was more than proved. On March 24th a meeting was called at National level, attended by Joe Hall, Ernest Jones, Alwyn Machin, Bert Wynn, Joe Kitts, Arthur Horner and Arthur Chambers, Ernest Copley (Secretary and President of Waleswood Lodge), where they met the Members of the N.C.B. This meeting had not proceeded very long before it was the considered opinion of some of the N.U.M. Officials that the mind of the Coal Board was already made up, despite any case that the N.U.M. spokesmen could put up. Joe Hall and Bert Wynn put up a magnificent case against the closure of Waleswood. During the week following, the Executive of the N.U.M. addressed a Memorandum to Lord Hyndley outlining ten points for a future short-term policy in which Waleswood could be integrated into any proposed Area planning. For three weeks the N.C.B. considered this ten-point Memorandum, and then the bombshell. To the Press, on April 19th, the N.C.B. communicated their decision to close Waleswood Pit on September 4th. The first intimation that Joe Hall and Bert Wynn had of this decision was through the Press. Read what Joe Hall had to say on this :- "If this does not rouse the miners of Derbyshire, now't will. Once Derbyshire came out, Yorkshire would soon follow. I feel very much disturbed for the future if this is the Kind of treatment that the miners are going to receive at the hands of these new industrial lords. I am sure that they have not decided to close Waleswood Pit from necessity—this is a personal issue. Waleswood is the test case. _The Union stand to lose everything, for I now earnestly believe that nationalisation is directly opposed to the accepted values of Trade Unionism. It makes me feel that there is no desire on the part of the Board to get coal, but I can tell you this is the biggest fight since the Coal Board came into office " (" Yorkshire Observer ", April 20th). Read what Bert Wynn (General Secretary, N.U.M., Derbyshire Area) had to say ("Derbyshire Times," North Eastern Edition, April 23rd) :—
" When they met representatives of the N.C.B. in London,
on March 24th, the whole matter was cut and dried before they
went in, they were obviously there to attend a funeral and not to
quarrel about the details of the ceremony."
In a further statement, Joe Hall said :—
" There is’ absolutely no justification for closing Waleswood.
I wish that 25 per cent. of our pits we list as backward were as
good a proposition. Just let me pick four men to take it over and
run it for the Nation and I could guarantee it would be as good
an economical unit as we have in Derbyshire and Yorkshire."
How did the Waleswood men react to this Decision?
They decided to go all out to reach new production targets and to convince the Coal Board that coal could come out of Waleswood. A target figure was fixed at 6,000 tons a week, 1,250 tons a week more than the present target figure. The Consultative Committee at the Colliery took steps to implement the expressed desires of the men. An exhaustive examination of the most effective use of manpower was made. Owing to the Thorncliffe seam having been closed by the N.C.B. it was decided to work all available faces in the Parkgate seam. To do this and release men, the men agreed to take on extra yardage, teams of men on other work were split up, and upgrading fitted in. A decision was taken by the Pit Consultative Committee and the men to open a new face called 8's, 180 yards long. This would bring the output to over 6,000 tons a week with an output per manshift for all employed of approximately 30—31 cwts. This face was due to be opened out on Monday, May 3rd. All the gear, etc., was got ready for this. At a meeting of the Pit Consultative Committee, on Friday, April 30th, called to complete the details, the Committee were informed by the Manager that he had received word from the North Eastern Division, N.C.B., that under their Area Planning Scheme, 8's face could not be worked, that No. 1 Heading face would finish in two weeks' time, and that other faces would finish at stated intervals up to September 4th.
The agreement to work No. 8 face was made with the full co-operation of the Management and the Pit Consultative Committee.
Three of the ten points submitted by the Executive of the N.U.M. to N.C.B. (April 2nd, 1948) :—
(a) The colliery should be kept going on a short term policy because of the need for coal.
(b) The output of 26 cwts manshift, which was higher than the County average, could be maintained and even improved.
(c) To continue the colliery on a short term programme would allow easy dovetailing of men into other collieries on a long term plan.
For over six months we have fought to keep our pit open we have been able to refute any case that the N.C.B. have put up. We have proved that Waleswood can be an Economic Unit. We have even been prepared to make a financial sacrifice by a revision of our price lists. This is the plain, simple story of the True Facts, which no one can deny.
Coal is needed NOW! Coal is better than Dollars. We can give the coal while the N.C.B. complete their long term plan.
We now ask for your support shall we ask in vain?
E. COPLEY (President), A. CHAMBERS (Secretary)
A. Alford, A.Hoyland, D.Tierney, A.Hoult, F.Hoyland
(Committee), Waleswood Miners' Lodge, N.U.M.—D.A.
Issued by the Officials and Committee of the Waleswood Miners' Lodge on behalf of the men at Waleswood.
Printed by Bales & Wilde, Gluman Gate, Chesterfield.