Featherstone Massacre Commemoration

Comrades

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 eventually agreed.
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 Massacre.
All are welcome and there is no charge.

Alan Stewart
Convenor, Wakefield Socialist History Group

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