In the summer of 1893 Yorkshire mine owners -faced with a fall in the
price of coal- demanded that miners accept a 25% reduction in wages.
The miners resisted and on 28th July they were locked out.
The dispute dragged on and after seven weeks money was increasingly
tight. Miners knew they needed to step up their action so they began to
stop the movement of coal.
On 6th September the manager of Featherstone's Ackton Hall colliery, a
Mr Holiday, arrived at the pit to find a large picket of miners
demanding that the loading of smudge for sale be stopped. Holiday
But the next day miners discovered wagons with Bradford destination
tickets being loaded with smudge. The miners felt they had been conned,
so they toppled the wagons over.
Holiday, fearing widespread unrest, called for help and the military
-in the form of the South Staffordshire Regiment- were soon sent in.
However the troops and the magistrate Bernard Hartley JP were
confronted by a large crowd in Green Lane. The magistrate read the Riot
Act but when the crowd didn't disperse live rounds were fired.
One man, James Gibb, was shot through the right breast. He died in a local surgery the following day.
Another man, James Duggan, also died in Clayton Hospital, Wakefield after surgeons were unable to stop bleeding in his leg.
Many more people were also wounded.
Jurors at Duggan's inquest were instructed to return a verdict of
"justifiable homicide." Jurors at Gibb's inquest refused to acquiesce
in this way and expressed regret at the "extreme measures" taken on the
night in question.
The Bowen Commission later set up to inquire into events was a
complete whitewash. The Home Secretary, HH Asquith, did agree to pay
£100 to each of the deceased families but still didn't admit any
culpability. Henceforth Asquith was known as "Assassin Asquith."
On Saturday 6th September the Wakefield Socialist History Group will
be commemorating these events with a guided walk. Mett 2pm at Bradley
Arms, Willow Lane, North Featherstone. There will be a graveside
oration and tour of locations in Featherstone itself associated with the
All are welcome and there is no charge.
Convenor, Wakefield Socialist History Group
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