Scottish Mines Flooding – Volunteers Driven From The Pumps
If the temper of the miners in other coalfields is similar to that which appears to prevail in Lanarkshire and Fife, it is possible to understand why the Miners’ Federation have refused to consider the return of the pumpmen to work as a condition of the resumption of negotiations. I was told in Hamilton this afternoon that if the Federation Executive ordered the safety men back the rank and file would see to it that the instruction was not obeyed.
Regardless of the effect of a suicidal policy on their own future employment, the Scottish miners are determined not only that the regular pumpmen shall keep away from the pits, but that there shall be no use of volunteers to save the flooding of the workings. These wrecking tactics for the moment are triumphant in Lanarkshire. Practically every pit is at a standstill, and some may never be reopened. Ninety per cent of the volunteers who set out to man the pumps have been compelled to give up their task.
Yesterday a body of miners, headed by a brass band, marched out of Hamilton to the Hamilton Palace and Bothwell Castle collieries and demanded the immediate and complete abandonment of voluntary work to prevent flooding. At the Palace pits the demonstration sent a deputation, which included Mr. James Welsh, the miner novelist, to see the management, and sang “Swanee” while they waited for the reply, so the manager had no option but to agree to the withdrawal of the volunteers. As a result one of the pits will be seriously flooded in 48 hours. At Bothwell Castle colliery the management made an appeal that certain labour should be allowed, and through the intercession of Mr. Welsh with the demonstrators a small concession was permitted. To-day the general manager and two of his colleagues were stoking the fires and keeping the boilers going, but they considered it was only a question of time before their work would be stopped.
Following on a mass meeting at Blantyre this morning, a deputation visited the Priory Colliery and gave the management half an hour in which to withdraw their fires. The men have had their way. Similar methods, I hear, are being adopted in Fife, where the case of some of the deep pits is already considered to be hopeless.
A State of Tension
While intimidation of volunteers has been general, there has been little serious rioting in the coalfields up to now, but apprehension is felt as to what may happen if the dispute is prolonged or the Government accede to the request of the mine owners for adequate protection of the collieries and voluntary workers. “If this goes on another week,” a representative of the men said to me in Hamilton, “it will mean the ruin of the Empire.” What was involved in this threat is uncertain, but there is undoubtedly serious tension in Lanarkshire. For the time being the men seem satisfied with the success of their efforts to stop pumping operations and are spending their time talking in the streets, playing football, or cultivating allotment gardens, according to their dispositions, but with little provocation some of the younger might attempt foolish actions.
There was more disorder at Cowdenbeath, in Fifeshire, late last night, following on the drafting into the town of a large number of police reserves. Lighting was cut off, shop windows were smashed, and some goods were looted. Four baton charges by the police were necessary to clear the streets.
Early this morning the engine-house of the Dunnystone pit, of the Summerlee Iron and Coal Company was found to be on fire. The building was gutted and the future employment of 300 men is affected. Incendiarism is suspected, as it was also discovered that the bogie of a truck had been thrown down the shaft of the pit.
It must,not be overlooked that in the Glasgow area Sinn Fein malcontents will be only too ready to back any mischief that may be afoot and that Sinn Feiners are prepared to go a good deal farther than the general body of the miners in any work of destruction. [The Times April 7 1926]