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Reports from the Riverine Grazier and Sydney Morning Herald, describing events at Hay in late August 1894 during the 1894 shearers’ strike.
[Riverine Grazier, Friday, 31 August 1894.]
THE SHEARING DIFFICULTY.
Free Labourers Arrive at Hay.
Serious Coach Accident.
Special Constables Sworn In.
The Latest Developments.
Free Labourers joining the Unionists.
On Tuesday night, about half-past eleven, a special train arrived at Hay with fifty-four free laborers and two agents of the Pastoralists' Union on board. The train was run right into the engine shed and the doors were closed. There were a number of unionists at the station, and considerable boo-hooing was indulged in. A few stones were thrown through the windows of the building, but with that exception no demonstration of violence was made. A body of police were in attendance, under Mr. Inspector Smith, and guarded the shed during the night. A few minutes after eight on Wednesday morning, four of Cobb and Co.'s coaches (two seven-horse and two five-horse) were drawn up outside the northern railway fence. The unionists within the railway enclosure, who numbered about one hundred, were ordered to go outside the fences, which order was enforced by the police, who drove the men out. One of the seven horse-coaches was then brought into the enclosure near to the engine room, and the gate closed. The coach was driven by Mr. John Keast, and when the team was pulled up the horses faced the west. Some of the police, after backing the unionists beyond the fence, returned to the shed and coach. As the coach was about to pull up, and the doors of the engine room opened to let the free laborers out, the unionists set up a great hooting, advancing towards the coach as they did so. The noise so startled the horses, which had not been brought to a standstill, that they bolted, the driver, although he applied the break, being powerless to pull them up. From where the coach had stood to the cattle trucking yard was about two hundred yards of a straight run, and when the frightened team got to within about forty yards of the stiff fence, the driver either jumped off, or was thrown off, the box. Mr. Keast fell on the near side of the coach in a heap, and the force of his fall was so great that he was rendered unconscious. The fence arrested the progress of the team, but converted it into an indescribable jumble, all but two of the horses, falling. The pole of the coach happened to fit in between two of the rails, and thus the coach escaped without damage. The horses also fared well, for notwithstanding the plight they were in, no bones were broken. Unfortunately, the driver was so seriously hurt that he had to be carried to the hospital on a stretcher. After the accident, the other coaches were sent back to town, and the free laborers went back to the engine room.
When the injured driver was taken to the hospital, he was immediately attended to by Drs. Kennedy and Watt, who found that Keast's leg below the knee had been badly broken in three places, in addition to probable internal injuries, the extent of which could not be accurately ascertained. Keast remained in an unconscious state for some time, and was put under chloroform to enable the doctors to set the broken limbs. The poor man is still in a semi-conscious state, and his position is critical.
During Tuesday night, someone entered Cobb and Co.’s yard and removed the near hind axle nut of two of the coaches which were to be used on the following morning. There was a watchman on duty at the [yard] from 8 p.m. until the morning, and he declares that no one entered while he was there, so that it is probable the axle-nuts were removed before 8 p.m. on Tuesday.
On Wednesday a special meeting of magistrates was convened for the purpose of considering the desirability of reading the Riot Act. The following justices attended:–– Messrs. John Andrew (presiding), A. P. Stewart, A. G. Stevenson, W. H. Barber, W. Travis, N. J. Trevena, and A. Herriott. At this meeting it was unanimously decided that, in apprehension of a riot, one hundred special constables should be sworn in. Steps to carry out that decision were promptly taken. The police magistrate was absent on duty at Booligal, but he returned in the afternoon, and gave in his adherence to what had been done by the honorary magistrates. Accordingly the nomination of a number of special constables was made. In all, one hundred and thirty-three summonses were issued. Some of these were not served, and some of the persons who were served, although liable to a penalty of £20, did not answer to their names. The names of those who obeyed the summons, and were sworn in, are as follows:–– Patrick Abberton, W. A. Parker, W. Dawson, Charles Brown, W. G. Acocks, Joseph Addicoat, B. H. Andrew, M. Armitage, G. R. Ayre, T. W. Blanche, T. C. Booth, John Britton, J. Broad, H. B. Broughton, W. G. Butterworth, F. A. Byrne, E. A. Champ, F. J. Clancy, H. G. Cockerton, E. Cronk, G. D. Devine, John Donaldson, G. H. Donohoe, Thomas Duggan, J. G. R. Fewings, H. Fynmore, R. M. Galloway, F. Gibbs, S. C. Sorenson, R. Gibson, G. Gill, G. Haines, E. J. Heath, Alex. Henry, J. Hews, C. Hidgcock, W. K. Hoare, J. Jacka, O. Jones, John Karnaghan, W. J. Lloyd, G. Lobb, John McFarlane, J. C. Smith, F. L. Phillips, F. MacIver, R. C. McKinney, J. B. McLaren, H. B. Maclure, T. A. Massie, F. A. Meakes, Geo. Meeson, C. J. Miller, Alex. Moffat, A. A. Monypeny, F. E. Morgan, G. S. Mullen, H. A. Jennings, J. Newton, T. S. Page, John Parsons sen., W. Pope, Henry Proctor, L. Quarttert, J. Rawnsley, A. Reid, J. H. Reid, M. Reid, L. S. C. Robertson, W. O. Russell, G. Sadler, John Sandow, Thos. Sinclair, Allen Staley, V. B. Sylvander, Jos. Taylor, sen., Joseph Taylor, jun., P. B. Terry, J. Thacker, W. Thurgood, E. D. Stewart, G. W. Watt, W. Wheeler, Lindsay Whitehead, T. W. Wood, C. W. York, W. E. Woodward, George Bond, J. P. Markey, F. J. Walker, H. R. Broughton, H. Camper, F. L. Phillips, G. Reid, J. C. Smith, A. Turner, John Parsons jun. [click here for an alphabetical listing of the 'special constables']
The nomination for special constables is in the following form:–– We, Joseph Ede Pearce, and Arthur Herriott, of Hay, Justices of the Peace for the colony of New South Wales, reasonably apprehending that a riot may take place in the town of Hay, and being of the opinion that the ordinary constables or officers appointed for preserving the peace are not sufficient for the preservation of the peace and for the protection of the inhabitants thereof, and the security of the property of the inhabitants thereof, or for the apprehension of any offenders, do hereby in pursuance of Statute 19 Victoria No. 24, nominate and appoint by this writing under our hands the several persons whose names are attached hereto, to act as Special Constables for such time and in such manner as to us shall seem fit and necessary for the public peace and for the protection of the inhabitants, and the security of the property in or near the said town of Hay. Dated etc.,
JOSEPH EDE PEARCE, P.M.,
ARTHUR HERRIOTT, J.P.
The first batch of specials were sworn in at 8 p.m. on Wednesday, and seven of them were immediately ordered on duty at the railway station. These were relieved at six the following morning by another batch, and from 10 p.m. on Wednesday night to 10 a.m. today, from six to thirteen special constables were constantly on duty at the engine shed. The specials were not armed except for batons, and the only badge of authority they wore was a red band around the left arm. Some of the specials provided themselves with firearms, but others did not even carry the batons that they were provided for them. The largest number of specials on duty at any one time was thirteen, excepting this morning when the coach was starting, when all of them were on the ground.
This morning, about half past nine, four of Cobb & Co.'s coaches, each drawn by five horses, drew up outside the northern railway fence. Previous to that, a representative of the Shearers' Union was allowed to go in to the shed, and ask the men if they wanted to come out, or if they wanted to go in the coaches. The majority called out “The Coach!” but five expressed their desire to join the unionists, and they were permitted to do so. Earlier in the morning a free labourer had left the shed, and the total defections thus amounted to six. The first coach took away twenty men, who walked from the shed to the coach, escorted by the police, and without being molested.
The appearance for the free labourers was the signal for hoots, cheers, and cries of “come out !” but the unionists were kept away from the coach by the mounted police until a start was effected. When the coach had gone about one hundred yards, it was pulled up and a number gathered around it. The shearers' representative again asked for the men to come out, and Mr. Pearce P.M., who was on horse back enjoined them to adhere loyally to their agreements, and not render themselves liable to punishment. The result was that none of the free labourers left the coach, which then got away without much trouble, and the whole four were accompanied out of sight by eight mounted police and a number of mounted specials.
The unionist shearers beyond hooting and entreating the men to join them, made no demonstrations of violence, and it is due to the local representative of the Union, Mr. Macdonald, and one or two of his assistants, to say, that they did their utmost to prevent any breach of the law on the part of the unionists.
In addition to the full force of specials there were nearly twenty police on the ground. The foot specials were of little use when it came to keeping the shearers back, but some of the mounted men were more serviceable. The number of unionists on the ground did not exceed one hundred.
It is understood the free labourers who left by coach this morning are intended for Mossgiel, Conoble, and Kilfera.
There is a great diversity of opinion as to the wisdom of swearing-in of special constables, which took place on Wednesday and Thursday, but the majority of townspeople think that the step was unnecessary. There never was any apprehension that the persons or the property of the people of Hay were in jeopardy, and it is doubtful if the unfortunate accident which happened to Driver Keast was a sufficient justification for such a display of force. We believe that if it were necessary to enlist amateur assistance, the swearing-in of a few volunteers would have been ample. As it was most of the specials were unwilling, and but for the penalties attached to refusing to be sworn in, or the possibility of being thought cowardly, they would not have obeyed the summons. A few of the mounted amateurs rendered material assistance this morning, but those on foot had no apparent influence on the crowd. In our advertisement columns, the bench thank the gentlemen that acted, for their services, and they certainly deserve thanks, for many of them were put to serious inconvenience. The Inspector studied the inconvenience of the specials as much as possible; but to many of those in small businesses, or working for wages, the compulsory service meant loss. The accident which took place on Wednesday morning would probably have been repeated this morning had the coaches been brought within the railway enclosure, because the cheers and noise caused two of the teams to increase their pace to a gallop, and they were not pulled up for some distance. Such an occurrence it was impossible to foresee.
Yesterday afternoon, about 5 o'clock, a number of mounted shearers and others, who were at the railway station awaiting the arrival of the train, saw a mob of horses being driven in by one of Cobb & Co. grooms. Some one suggested that they should intercept these horses and turn them back. In a few seconds, ten or twelve horsemen were making for the horses, which they brought to a standstill. The people on the railway platform could see the groom in conversation with the shearers, and in a few minutes the latter were observed taking all the horses but four back to the paddock. The four horses were intended for the mail-coach, and these were brought on by the groom. When this outrage was reported, a number of mounted police and specials immediately set out for the racecourse to bring the horses in. About thirty shearers on horseback followed, and the police experienced some difficulty in getting the horses in. Eventually they brought them into the town by a circuitous route and yarded them up in a private enclosure in Water Street, whence they were moved to Cobb & Co.'s stables in twos and threes.
On Tuesday night the provisions that had been prepared for the free labourers arriving by train was stolen from the engine shed, where their supper had been prepared for them, and considerable delay and inconvenience was caused before fresh supplies were obtained.
This afternoon word was brought into Hay that at the first stage, the 13-mile Gate, while the horses were being changed, thirty of the free labourers seceded to the unionists. The other eighteen went on. Conveyances have been sent out from Hay by the local Shearers' Union agent to bring the free labourers who left the coaches into the local camp.
We understand that Messrs. Cobb & Co. have refused, owing to what they consider insufficient police protection, to convey any more free labourers from Hay, and that a telegram has been forwarded to the firm's representative in Deniliquin, telling him not to contract to convey the free labourers to Wanganella.
In the Booligal District.
(BY WIRE FROM OUR OWN CORRESPONDENT.)
Matters in connection with shearing in this district are very quiet. The following sheds are shearing under either conference or verbal agreement: Eurugabah, Moolbong, Cowl Cowl, Gunbar and Merungle; the only station in this district shearing P.U. being Alma, with eleven shearers. The roll will be called to-day at Booligal. station, verbal agreement.
The roll was called this morning at Bank station, and shearing will be commenced tomorrow under the conference agreement. Practically the strike can be considered over, and the men have won the day.
(FROM OUR OWN CORRESPONDENT.)
There is little if any alterations in shearing matters, though next week should see some final decision one way or other. Homestead lessees are all shearing verbal or conference. Up to date the conduct of the men in camp has been most exemplary. Not the slightest disturbance has arisen at any shed, at roll call the men quietly and firmly refusing to sign the P.U. agreement and leaving the different stations.
In the Hillston District.
(BY WIRE FROM OUR OWN CORRESPONDENT.)
So far as the immediate portion of this district is concerned, a practical solution of the shearing difficulty has been arrived at. Willandra, Merrowie, and Trida are progressing quietly under the conference agreement; and Gunbar, Eurugabah, Moolbong, Morungle, and Cowl Cowl under a verbal agreement. The last named came to terms on Wednesday, and the following morning the camp broke up, and all hands left. Hunthawang, Moonie Gap, and Alma are shearing under the P.U. agreement. Further out, Mossgiel, Kilfera, Conoble, Boondara, and Marfield are still on strike. There are nearly 500 men in the Mossgiel and Ivanhoe camps, apparently determined to hold out. Coan Downs calls the roll on Saturday, under the P.U. agreement, and in view of trouble, a camp has been formed at Mount Hope.
The roll was called at Wirchilleba today. The men, fifty in number, were asked to sign the P.U. agreement, but refused to do so, and left the station quietly to form a camp at Gilgunnia. The manager of Wirchilleba states that he intends to get free laborers from Sydney.
In the Mossgiel District.
(BY WIRE FROM OUR OWN CORRESPONDENT.)
A messenger from Manfred station arrived here yesterday with a request that all the shearers who went out on strike at the roll call should return, as they would get their pens and verbal agreement. The shearers left for the station the same day, and expect to start shearing to-morrow. Seventeen of the twenty-three free laborers that were intended for Manfred are still in the union camp here. The large contingent of free shearers en route for Mossgiel will, it is anticipated, be met by four to five hundred unionists, and every effort made to induce them to join the union. Although as many as two hundred and fifty men have, at times, been in the camp here, which is situated about a mile from the township, the men have been most orderly. Trouble may arise when the free laborers reach the district.
(BY WIRE FROM OUR OWN CORRESPONDENT.)
The unionists in the Gundagai district complain that aborigines from Brungle were granted free passes to shear at Yanco and other disturbed stations in Riverina.
THE SHEARING DIFFICULTY.
IT is impossible to view the industrial war that is at present raging in this, and other neighbouring districts, with unconcern. The great producing interest of the district is being crippled, and thousands of men, able to work, and needing work, are standing out for better terms. The tension between two parties has been growing gradually greater, until it has been found necessary to take extraordinary measures to preserve the peace. The difficulty affects, not only the parties immediately concerned, but also the general community, and it is the duty of all concerned to make use of what influence or weight they possess, to bring about an honorable settlement of the strike. Already, we bear that in consequence of the strike, large numbers of sheep have been sold in the wool by pastoralists in the Ivanhoe district, and we have the best authority for saying that the number of bales to be brought by carriers from the north of the Lachlan this year will be considerably diminished as a result of the strike. This means a general loss to owner, shearer, and carrier, and indirectly to the community. To lessen that loss as much as possible, and to prevent a recurrence of it in future years, no legitimate means should be left untried.
The differences between the parties appear comparatively trivial to the general public, although each side contends that it is fighting for a principle. We do not here propose to discuss the merits of the dispute, we think that they should be threshed out by a conference of representatives of the two parties, and that the less the general public interfere, beyond urging that such a conference should be held, the better. The fight is over the Pastoralists' Union agreement, the pastoralists holding out for it and the union shearers holding out against it. Whether that form of agreement be fair or not, it was drawn up without any reference to the other party to it, and it supplants the conference agreement of 1891, which was mutually agreed upon. We believe the pastoralists committed a tactical mistake in not inviting the shearers to a conference over the terms on which they proposed to shear, and, that they should remedy that blunder by doing so now – even although it be late in the day – or promising to do so before the shearing arrangements of 1895 come to be made. The pastoralists have nothing to fear from a conference. The shearers by their adherence to the conference agreement during the past three shearing seasons, have shown that they respect and will adhere to the arrangements their representatives make. Since the “big” strike of 1890, when the Shearers' Union subjected the pastoralists who had signed the union agreement to the greatest injustice, it has done nothing which, in our opinion, warrants the Pastoralists' Union from standing aloof from it. The outcome of that strike was the conference of 1891, at which the Shearers' Union surrendered freedom of contract, and by consenting to the unrestricted employment of men, whether unionists or not, gave up, what, to many pastoralists, was the great objection to the Union. The experience of the last conference should satisfy the Pastoralists' Union that whatever views they have to put forward will be discussed on their merits, and that the determinations that might be arrived at will be faithfully carried out. There is nothing derogatory in employer and employed conferring on points of difference. The Legislature has provided machinery for such arbitration where the parties are willing to arbitrate, and, in Great Britain, we have recently witnessed the present Prime Minister, suggesting and presiding over a conference of mine-owners and miners, with most beneficent results. Many of the district pastoralists are of the opinion that a conference should have been granted, and others have shown that they do not wholly agree with the action of their executive by conceding the full rate of 20s per hundred. To these we appeal, suggesting that they should recommend the Council of the Pastoralists' Union to agree to a conference, if not for this year for the following ones.
As an immediate solution of the present difficulty, we should suggest that the pastoralists should engage shearers under a verbal agreement. The men make no exception to this, and by many men experienced in the management of sheds, it is considered the most advantageous agreement the sheepowner can have. Work could proceed under this agreement until a mutually satisfactory one was agreed upon, or, if necessary, for the remainder of the present season. We make this as a suggestion – better ones may occur to others or to the pastoralists themselves. We see daily by the attitude of the shearers that they are willing to concede almost anything short of the P.U. agreement, and if the pastoralists are equally willing that a solution of the difficulty should be brought about, it seems a sinful waste of time and money that the present strife should be continued. We think the offer of conciliation should come from the pastoralists, for it is they, and not the shearers, who first assumed the aggressive. It should be borne in mind that even if the present strife is continued throughout the season, the difficulty will be as far off a solution as ever.
[Sydney Morning Herald, Thursday, 30 August 1894.]
[FROM OUR CORRESPONDENTS.]
DISTURBANCES AT HAY.
Sixty free labourers arrived by special train last night, and were kept in the goods shed till this morning. During the night the food sent to them was stolen by the unionists. The nuts were taken off the wheels of Cobb's coaches which were to take the men to the stations. Three coaches were taken to the railway at 8 this morning, when the shearers commenced boohooing and yelling, and started the horses in one coach, which rushed amongst the trucks. The driver, John Keast, was thrown off the coach and his leg smashed from the knee to the ankle. The other drivers refused to start as their lives were endangered. There were 10 police there, and only about 60 shearers, yet the men did as they liked. The railway station is picketed; the free labourers are still in the shed. It is suggested that special constables be sworn in as more efficient protection.
[Sydney Morning Herald, Friday, 31 August 1894.]
There has been little excitement here to-day, though the shearers seem most determined. Some 50 special constables were sworn in last night, and squads have been on duty at the railway station throughout the day. The ordinary police are quite inadequate. The free labourers are still in the engine-shed, guarded by special constables. A couple of hundred shearers were at the station to meet the train this evening, but no more labourers came. There were only six police present. A party of mounted shearers went out and met Cobb's coach horses coming to town and drove them back. The shearers threaten that the free labourers shall not leave Hay. An attempt will be made to-morrow to send men by coaches, but success is doubtful. Keast, the driver who was injured on Wednesday, has not yet regained consciousness, and his recovery is doubtful. Gunbar station has given way, and is working under a verbal agreement.
[Sydney Morning Herald, Saturday, 1 September 1894.]
EXCITEMENT AT HAY.
NON-UNIONISTS FOR KILFERA STATION.
Four coaches were got away this morning with 50 shearers for Kilfera station. The balance of the men refused to proceed. The railway station was a scene of the wildest excitement when the men were taken to the coaches. The unionists rushed them, but a strong force of police and special constables managed to keep them back till all the men were aboard. Eight mounted troopers and a dozen mounted specials guarded the coaches, the latter going 10 miles. A large number of shearers kept with them till the first changing station, when they persuaded 30 men to leave the coaches and return with them. The others went on. A large body of shearers is expected to meet them from Booligal, and it is not supposed that any will reach their destination. The shearers are very determined. Nearly a hundred special constables had been sworn in, and have done good service. Without them further trouble would have followed.
[Sydney Morning Herald, Tuesday, 4 September 1894.]
A STATION THREATENED.
Of the 47 free shearers sent by coach to Kilfara [Kilfera] 30 were persuaded by the union men to leave 20 miles from Hay. The rest were met near Booligal by 200 shearers, and all were induced to join the union. The coaches returned to Hay. A large number of men are in the camp here now. The men are very orderly. Benduck station accepted the union terms to-day, and men will be sent there to-morrow. Mungadal was threatened with a raid to-day, but precautions were taken. The police arrived by train to-night for Deniliquin. Keast, the coachman who was recently injured, has not yet regained consciousness.
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