12 August 2021

Silkstone

Up the M1 motorway and left at Junction 37 to Silkstone. When our children were small, I wanted us to move there or to nearby Silkstone Common or Cawthorne. They are all smashing villages just west of Barnsley. Ian and Frances would then have enjoyed village childhoods similar to the ones that Shirley and I experienced. But the right house never came up and before you knew it, it was effectively too late for uprooting.

Clint was unable to find a suitable place to park his silver butt near All Saints Church so we drove on a mile or two to Barnby Basin where I knew there was a nice little car parking space down the lane along which the Silkstone Waggonway was erected in 1809. Its purpose was to bring tubs of newly hewn  coal to the canal and it serviced the pits around Silkstone for fifty years or more.

The dog walker before our conversation

It was a lovely three hour walk. The weather was balmy. I spent twenty minutes talking to a dog walker who told me that he has never used a computer and does not possess a mobile phone. At Barnby Furnace a black African man approached me with his teenage son. They had just clambered out of an old blue car. The man held a smartphone in front of me without the courtesy of:  "Hello, can you help me. I am trying to get to a certain garage." On the phone there was a picture of the same car he had arrived in and there was also the address of a garage in Rotherham. I was able to join the dots together and tell them they were lost. I showed them my map but when they left me there was no smile or a cheery "Thank you". It was a strange encounter.

When I reached All Saints Church, I had a close look at the Huskar Pit Tragedy Memorial  erected in 1838. Twenty six children  died when the pit they were working in flooded very quickly during a heavy thunderstorm.  The owner of the pit - R.C. Clarke Esq had some questions to answer about his negligence but was never brought to justice. Here are three faces of the monument for your interest:

36 comments:

  1. Twenty-six children, as young as 7 years, drowned because of criminal negligence by the pit owner, R.C. Clarke.
    I suspect Clarke wrote the lying statement on the monument, calling the children's death an act of God.
    At their worst the Victorians were case studies in hypocrisy.

    Not a word of pity for the children; no word of culpability or regret for the terror they must have felt as the pit flooded.
    This went on all over England; conditions in the Black Country were so terrible that Queen Victoria had the curtains drawn in the Royal Carriage as she travelled through the Midlands.
    Black Country children died early from respiratory conditions; they had wens growing on their necks, their bodies permanently stunted.

    In 1838 the Chartists were only coming on the scene.
    Trades unions were unknown.
    It was 1890 before Child Labour laws had been passed across Europe.

    Get *Into Unknown England 1866-1913* (edited Peter Keating) a 1976 paperback from Manchester University Press.

    *Children of the Dead End* by Patrick MacGill (1914) is available in paperback.
    My father gave it to my mother, then in her eighties, and she wept.

    Haggerty

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    1. Thanks for this response and the reading recommendations. I bet that Clarke believed that by paying for that monument he somehow became blameless.

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    2. Much of the text of *Into Unknown England* can be read on Google books.
      It has so many accounts of desperate lives in 19th England.
      Victorian values as Mistress Thatcher in her ignorance declaimed.
      H

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    3. I have a long "to read" list. I should add this to the pile.

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  2. There should be a mine workers remembrance day every year.

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    1. Can't see that fecker Johnson acknowledging such a day. Very recently he claimed that Thatcher was addressing global warming when vindictively, she crushed Britain's coal mining industry.

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    2. We have such a day of remembrance here in Nova Scotia. Wikipedia article here:
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Davis_Miners%27_Memorial_Day

      My great-grandfather and my grandfather were both coal miners.

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    3. As well as other things, we have that in common Jenny.

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  3. No wonder people used to have many children back then. They needed spares for when such tragedies happened.
    It's a very nicely formed tree tunnel.

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    1. The dog walker was looking at an adjacent field. When I drew level he asked me what the crop was and I told him that it was maize.

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  4. What an enormous tragedy, adding to an even greater one about children being considered property and expendable.

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    1. The mine owner probably paid them very low wages and being small the children could get into tighter spaces than grown men.

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  5. What a terrible event, compounding the abuse of children working in coal mines in the first place. How utterly sad and senseless. There have been a lot of lives lost in the mines around the world. Here in Nova Scotia we've had several tragedies including one as recently as 1992 that killed 26 men.

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    1. The Price of Coal. Show me, show me... the price of coal.

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  6. What the hell were children doing working in a mine? I know, different times and needs must. Those parents must have been heartbroken. I had no idea girls worked in the mines too.

    And those children were not suddenly called before their maker, they were killed because of negligence.

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    1. I wish that R.C.Clarke Esq had been hanged. It could have been his Maker's fiery justice. The Great Redeemer.

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  7. It is awful that this happened, awful that it was hypocritically made out to be God's will, and awful that the pit owner was not brought to justice. Awful that the females were laid "at the feet" of the male children, and awful that they were between 7 and 16 years old.
    Last but not least, it is awful that, more than two centuries later, there are still millions of children (and adults) living (if you can call it that) in such conditions.

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    1. Bangla Desh, China, India, Indonesia, many African countries - as you suggest those days are still not gone.

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  8. How young they were. Such a sad story. Life was cheap I suppose. Plenty more where they came from.

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    1. They were working class kids so they didn't really matter. What mattered was Clarke's income.

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  9. Readers of Neil's post can look up Wikipedia:
    *1838 in the United Kingdom.*

    In 1838, the year those children were drowned underground, Queen Victoria was crowned at Westminster Abbey.
    The Prime Minister was William Lamb, commonly known as Melbourne or the second Viscount of Melbourne. He was a Whig.

    In 1838 a paddle-steamer made the first Transatlantic crossing.
    The vessel was designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel (1806-1859) the famous civil engineer.
    It was the year of the Tolpuddle Martyrs, Grace Darling, and the first Anglo-Afghan War.
    In that same year the Chartists held an open-air meeting in Kersal Moor, Salford.
    This marked the birth-pangs of the international democratic movement.

    In 1838 Charles Dickens (1812-1870) published *Oliver Twist*, a novel about poor children without the protection of families or guardians.
    In the year of the great novelist's birth a little boy was hanged for setting fire to an empty house.


    Haggerty

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    1. Thanks for pulling the 1838 threads together John. It's good to think of events in context.

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  10. The underground tour of the Yorkshire Mining Museum near Ossett give a good idea of the awful conditions miners had to endure before mechanisation, although it doesn't capture the heat and dust - it would be interesting if it did and you had to go round in underwear and have a shower after.

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    1. The Silkstone children died in even worse times when mines were privately owned and getting the coal out mattered more than anything. I wonder how much they were paid. Bugger all I imagine.

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  11. Lovely top photo of man and dog, YP.
    In those days the children of the poor were disposable. Families were often so poor that even the youngest children had to work in the most appalling conditions. The cotton mills being another area using a great many young children. Impossible to believe, but the memorial to these poor children was probably considered to be a great act of kindness by the mine owner, which shows what sort of hypocrite he was, if he blamed it on God.
    I wonder if the people who lived such terrible lives ever had time to think that one day things might be better.

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    1. Your last sentence provokes thought. To a large extent I believe that people have always lived in the here and now - not pausing to imagine some future fantasy.

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  12. At least some things have changed. In some places. This is about the most depressing thing I can imagine.

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    1. We did not have many African slaves in England. Instead the rich used the children of the poor or paid adult workers a pittance.

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  13. That is such a strange and sad monument, evidence not only of the paternalistic thinking of the time but also the tendency to attribute such a catastrophe to the will of God. Can you imagine how devastating it must have been for those families, some of whom lost two children?

    Both your encounters with humans sound pretty bizarre. You're very patient to chat with someone for 20 minutes on a path. I might give them a few minutes before turning tail and heading in the opposite direction!

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    1. He needed someone to listen to him and it was hard to break away. I didn't mind. I had the time.

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  14. The person who wrote that vile memorial had a lot to answer for, as well as RC Clarke; what a dreadful thing for those families to hear that a memorial to their dear loved ones was being prepared, and then to stand at the unveiling and have to read such cruel garbage. The mourning process of a parent losing one child is hard enough to negotiate, and here some families had several torn from them in one day, compounded, no doubt, by the awful guilt that they had no choice but to place them in mass graves, and then to contend with words as condemning as this. I wonder how many of those left went on to die of broken hearts, and can you imagine the horror and fear of knowing that they had no choice but to send remaining children down the mine, worrying with every dark cloud and raindrop, that history might repeat itself. No doubt those who contributed to that memorial were in a financially comfortable position that meant their own children didn't have to work in inhuman, dangerous conditions, and should anything, God forbid, have befallen their own precious darlings, no doubt they would have been buried in their own grave with sentiments that expressed how precious and loved they were. It's the age old story of poverty versus prosperity, and as Librarian says, it is repeated still throughout the world, yet, also throughout history those with money have had the option and choice to treat those who haven't with decency, compassion and dignity. Only last week, you spoke of Yorkshire Day - a date chosen to commemorate the commencement of the Slavery Abolition Bill campaigned for by William Wilberforce; a man who used his wealth for extreme good. Sadly, these dreadful, sanctimonious 'benefactors' were not as kind and their damning words speak far more about about their own lack of compassion than remembering these precious children.

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    1. A passionate and heartfelt response Elizabeth. Thank you. I am with you all the way.

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  15. Sad memorial... And you seem to attract a lot of chatty strangers when you're out walking!

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    1. On many walking days I don't talk to another soul but some days are different - like yesterday.

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  16. That is so heartbreaking. How awful that children are so expendable. He was ready with his godly excuses for his criminal negligence. Here, we are still uncovering the graves of thousands of aboriginal children incarcerated in residential schools to learn our sacred ways.

    XO
    WWW

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    1. How strange that godliness and abject cruelty are frequently woven together.

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Mr Pudding welcomes all genuine comments - even those with which he disagrees. However, puerile or abusive comments from anonymous contributors will continue to be given the short shrift they deserve. Any spam comments that get through Google/Blogger defences will also be quickly deleted.

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