Miscellaneous, Strikes & Court Cases

22 September 1842

Colliers Strike In Ayrshire - We mentioned in our last, that the Sheriff had thought proper, in order to prevent any outbreak among the colliers who have struck work in the neighbourhoods of Kilmarnock, Kilwinning, &c,, to call out the yeomanry. This step was resorted to on account of a large body of men—said to number about 600—who came from Stevenston, Kilwinning, and Irvine, early on the morning of the 14th instant, and succeeded in preventing the workers at Gate head and Gargieston from going to their employment. A meeting was subsequently held in the neighbourhood of Fairlie Colliery, and was addressed by several of the turn-outs. The design of the party, as evinced by the tenor of their speeches, was to induce the colliers to make a general strike for an increase of wages, and a reduction on the weight of the "output." The Sheriff having received intelligence of these proceedings, instantly proceeded to Kilmarnock, from whence he again set out to Gatehead, attended by the authorities of Kilmarnock, in order to investigate the morning's proceedings. After due inquiry, Sheriff Eaton issued an order to call out the yeomanry, and accordingly three troops, under the command of Major Fairlie, Sir J. Boswell, T. S. Cunningham, and William Hamilton, Esq. assembled at Kilmarnock in the afternoon, one troop of which was despatched to Irvine. The miners at Gargieston and Gatehead resumed work on Thursday without molestation. The yeomanry are still on duty, and have several times patrolled the districts around Kilmarnock and Irvine. Every precaution is taken to prevent intimidation, and we are happy to learn, that no subsequent attempt has been made to frighten the workers in any of the going pits from performing their labour. On the whole, appearances indicate nothing but quiet in the meantime ; still it is proper that every precaution should be used in order to preserve the public peace. Another troop of yeomanry were called out on Monday, in order to relieve part of those who have already been on duty.

We regret to state, that there is no present appearance of a settlement being effected between the colliers and their employers in this quarter, and we are sorry also to notice, that in one or two instances there have been attempts at intimidation and these of the most criminal nature. On Wednesday evening, the house of a man named Murphy, who resides in Newton Green, and who is a worker in one of Mr Gordon's pits, was attacked, and the window entirely demolished by stones. Would that this were the worst but truth compels us to record a still more diabolical deed, perpetrated late on Sunday evening. A person of the name of Thomas Girvan, who by his non-compliance with the wishes of the turn-outs in this quarter, had laid himself open to the malicious hatred of the leaders of the agitation, had his dwelling-house fired into through the window, evidently with the intention to injure his person, although we would fain exchange the horrid motive for one of a less culpable character, viz., the intimidation of Girvan, in order to prevent his continuing at work. The gun had been loaded with small pebbles, many of which were found in the apartment after the shot was fired. Rewards have been offered by the Sheriff and Mr Gordon for the detection of the perpetrators of these acts. The utmost vigilance is in the meantime used to prevent the repetition of such outrages. We heard of several acts of theft, such as stealing potatoes, in the neighbourhood of Ayr; but it would be unreasonable to lay the blame on the colliers, who, as far as we can learn (the above instances excepted), are conducting themselves in a peaceable and orderly manner. They still continue to take subscriptions for the relief of those families who are in want in consequence of the strike; but we fear the sums procured in this manner are too trifling to yield much aid. A theatrical exhibition was got up on Friday evening last, but the proceeds would hardly cover the expenses. We are assured that among families, hitherto in comfort, the utmost privation exists. It is reported that no means have been used by either masters or men to come to an agreement during the last ten days. This is very unfortunate, as unless mutual concessions are made, there is no hope of reconciliation.

An intelligent correspondent, on whose statements we can place the fullest reliance, informs us, "that the report, which has been current during the last eight days, regarding the colliers in the employment of Alexander Guthrie, Esq. Mount, near Kilmarnock, having given in their warnings, in order to join the strike, has turned out to be unfounded. No such intimation has been given to Mr Guthrie by the men, who continue still at work, being well assured that as soon as the state of the coal market admits of a rise of wages, they will receive that benefit. The minor grievances complained of in other quarters have never existed in Mr Guthrie's work, and the comfort which is enjoyed by his men and their families is as creditable to the master as it is to the men, who have acted on the wise resolution of continuing at their work until better times sanction the demand for an advance of wages.

At Gatehead (Mr Finnie's work) the men had given due warning, and the period expires today. Many have, however, been applying to be continued at the usual rate of wages and weight. It is gene rally understood that but a few of them can have this request granted as at this work—as well as at many of the other collieries in the neighbourhood— owing to the dulness of trade, the masters are forced to dispense with the services of a great majority of their hands. It is only an act of common justice to Mr Finnie to state, that every endeavour has been made on his part to improve the condition of those who are in his employment, besides being always among the first to raise the rate of wages, when the state of the market could at all afford such advance.

At Perceton (Mr Macredie's work) some of the men are out—others continue at their employment. Mr Macredie has also promised to raise the wages so soon as improved prices will admit of his doing so.

At Busbie the colliers are all working. Last week the choice was given them either to continue at work at the old prices after the expiry of their warnings (Tuesday last) ; or in the event of their declining, the works should be stopped for six months. The men wisely chose the former alternative, and are busily employed.

At Knockintiber (Mr M'Callum's mine) the men are working away as usual, and taking no share in the turn-out whatever. No molestation has been given them, by threatening or intimidation, which we learn, by report, has been the case elsewhere ; but, from what we have seen of the turn-outs, we are inclined to the belief that such reports are got up gratuitously, as their conduct and conversation in every case has been regulated by the strictest propriety.

At Stevenston the colliers still remain out, and express their determination so to do until their demands are complied with. It is only justice to state, that they have mutually agreed, and publicly stated their determination, to avoid all interference with the property of the public, and to maintain the most strict propriety of conduct while standing up for a redress of their grievances. This resolution is creditable.

There was a meeting of colliers held on Tuesday at Coal Hall, amounting to 200, from Ayr, Springs, Crawfordstone, Gadgirth, and Drongane. With the exception of the place last mentioned, all have agreed to strike work, until they obtain four shillings a-day.

At Old Rome, as stated in our last, the men commenced work on Monday morning, but again turned out in consequence of an individual having refused to make an apology for remaining at work during the period of the strike. This happened on Friday, and the obnoxious but eldest workman continued at his labour on the Saturday following, which will subject him to a double apology. We have not learned that they have yet re-commenced work. Surely this conduct is foolishly absurd. Until these frivolous causes of umbrage are looked on only according to their real importance, no peace can exist in any work, and it is well known that a circumstance of less consequence than the above has often turned out hundreds of hands from their employment. It were wise in colliers to count the cost of such strikes ere they decide on them, and a cool review of the cause of dissension would always be found individually and generally beneficial. [Caledonian Mercury 22 September 1842]

13 February 1941

SUCCESSFUL MINING STUDENTS.—The members of the Colliery Firemen’s Class at Muirkirk Evening Continuation Classes sat their examination recently, and the results now to hand show that all six members have gained certificates. The successful students were Messrs David Love, Andrew Gold, Thomas Ward, and Joe Kirkwood, Muirkirk; and Peter Tait; jun., and Sam Ward, Glenbuck. [Muirkirk Advertiser 13 February 1941]