Our Century

'Grave effects' of rail strike

In September, industrial works closed down across the West Midlands as the region heard the news of the "Great Railway War" with surprise and dismay. As Britain was plunged into the railwaymen's strike over pay, plans were being rushed through to maintain food supplies through road transport to our region and the rest of the country.

Cartoon The War Against the Public - reprinted locally from Punch, the cartoon shows a "profiteering hen which is saying to the housewife: "nothing doing at fivepence. But I might perhaps lay one for you for nbinepence. What! you thought the war was ove? Not my war."

Efforts to avert the disaster at Government level had failed and within hours "grave effects" were being anticipated in the Black Country and the region generally. Black Country manufacturers said they were being handicapped by a lack of transport and one ironfounder said they would be hit almost immediately. But they did not anticipate having to close completely unless the strike went on for sometime.

The Springvale works and steelworks of Alfred Hickman Ltd said they faced shutdown over the strike and their furnaces and steel plants were at a standstill within a day, throwing an estimated 2,700 to 2,800 men out of work. A local firm of hurdlemakers and iron manufacturers said they would have to shut within days. They also warned that if the strike was protracted and they were unable to fulfil their shipping orders, the result would be closure.

The strike also hit the travelling arrangements of football clubs for away matches and many transferred to road transport. Wolverhampton Wanderers sent their team to an away match with Leeds, a hundred miles away, by motor. Wolverhampton and Wednesbury branches of the railway union backed the stance solidly and the Post Office vowed to try to get the mail through by whatever means available.

It was announced that Wolverhampton had a good stock of foodstuffs, including milk, meat and flour, and was thought to be better off than most other towns of a similar population in the area. A central depot was set up for milk distribution and the town had meat supplies to last a week.

Wolverhampton's coal merchants said they had "fairly large" stocks in hand but were nevertheless preparing for rationing.

In Cannock Chase local coal consumers were being urged to go and collect their own fuel and keep the pits working as a result. But Littleton Collieries, Cannock, and Nook Pit, Cheslyn Hay, were at a standstill because of a shortage of railway waggons

The railwaymen decided to strike after turning down the Government offer of an average 100 per cent increase over pre-war standards for an eight hour day. But by October 11 the strike had been called off after peace terms were agreed in which the pay minimum was raised from 49 shillings to 5l shillings.The news of the settlement was received with "delight" in Wolverhampton and the town's mayor praised the citizens for their voluntary help during the crisis.

fashion picColour is back in vogue: For West Midlands women more colours were in vogue for the Spring season on the clothing front than had been seen since the war with printed and painted fabrics were in fashion, but unfortunately high priced.

For street wear the darker shades were more in evidence. An attractive blanket coat for chilly evenings was in fashion.

Skirts were remaining short and hosiery and shoes were important in giving the stamp of success to a costume. I

n accordance with spring fashions the new frock-coats were trimmed on the skirts.

The softer materials such as crepe were in favour for house dresses and blouses were large and loose-fitting.

A warm blanket coat, as featured in The Coming Fashions by Madame Gwendoline Hope in the Midland Counties Express of April 1919.

Suicide bid man saved by his wife: In January the dramatic story of how a concerned Bilston wife knocked a razor out her depressed husband's hand as he tried to cut his throat was told at the Bilston Police Court.

The wife described how she saw her husband go to a cupboard, take out a razor and cut his throat.

She knocked the razor out of his hand with a stick. The man's doctor said he had suffered from stomach trouble and had been depressed.

He said he was called in by police and found the man suffering with a wound to his throat.

The man, charged with attempted suicide, told the court that he was discharged from the army through ill health, said he was sorry for committing the offence and promised not to repeat it.

On the understanding that his wife and mother would look after him, the offence against the defendant was discharged.

Conman fooled mother and daughter: At Dudley Quarter Sessions in October a horse trainer who swindled an old lady out of her life savings and "debauched" her daughter, was jailed for 18 months. The court heard that Frederick McCullough, aged 38, told the woman and her daughter he had 500,000 in an Irish bank and large estates in Ireland. The conman got money from the old lady, who was from Dudley, and often it was taken to him in different parts of the country by the daughter who stayed with him as his wife.

Letters asking for money were sent to the daughter and couched in "most affectionate language." The defendant also said he should marry the daughter - but it was discovered he was already married and had no property whatsoever.

The defence was that the old lady couldn't possibly have believed all McCullough's stories. The old lady had an eligible husband for her daughter and was ready to do anything for him "even to the extent of lending him her life savings." The deputy recorder said it was a well thought out series of frauds carried out by "preposterous and absurd lies."

Harlod Baker
I had a lot of respect for Atlee. I thought he was a great bloke...

Phospherine ad

The cure for "brain fag" and "lassitude": Hall's Wine might have done the trick two years earlier but in June 1919 the great cure-all appeared to be Phosferine.
According to this advert, it was a "proven remedy" for everything from influenza to sciatica, taking in "maternity weakness", "lassitude" and "brain fag" whatever that was.
The testimonial purports to come from Lance Corporal HB Midgley MM of the Royal Fusiliers. He claims: "thanks to it, my nerves were good enough to win me the MIlitary Medal and Bar and the Serbian Cross in Selonika.
"I cannot speak too highly of your splendid cure and I am continually recommending its splendid results to my comrades... " Splendid!