Our Century

Miners struggle on in dispute

E & S front cover 1926
How the Express & Star appeared during the General Strike of 1926.

The aftermath of the General Strike was still hitting the West Midlands in June in a dispute which had bitterly divided Britain. We had been plunged into the confrontation immediately after the national coal strike sparked off by the threat of a cut in wages.

But the General Strike was called off after nine days, leaving the coal miners to struggle on through a six-month dispute before agreeing to work longer hours.

Walsall Corporation blamed both the General Strike and coal stoppage for a 2,000 loss on tram and bus services in the area over a 46-day period.

But oddly enough the strike appeared to have resulted in a business boom in Cannock Chase with a sudden big demand for "smudge" - the finest possible kind of dust-like slack coal which was normally dealt with by piling it up in small mountains.

Its usual price was three shillings and sixpence a ton, but in the miners continuing strike conditions it was fetching double that figure.

Experts said the "smudge" cost 18 shillings a ton to raise out of the pit so the colliery companies could not be said to be making a fortune by selling it at seven shillings a ton. "Smudge" was regarded as useful emergency fuel for works - particularly in the electricity and water industries.

The resentment of the workers was understandable. While fighting in the trenches they had been promised a "land fit for heroes" when they returned from war.

But post-war Britain was a wretched place. Millions lived in appalling conditions, unemployment was rife and those who were working had few rights.

Some believed that nothing short of a Soviet-style revolution would make things better. In the General Strike troops were called in to run the trains and to keep the docks open.

Fleet Street came to a standstill, but a few newspapers, including Winston Churchill's British Gazette and the Express & Star, managed to keep going in some form.

V12 Sunbeam
Sir Henry Seagrave in the four-litre V12 Sunbeam in which he set the world flying kilometre record at Southampton Sands in 1926.

Live and let fly . . . An incident on a train involving two members of the "Live and Let Live" theatre company ended in the Walsall court in May.

While on the train a dispute arose about a song and the company manager, a man of "ungovernable passions," lost his temper and struck company member Dolly Dennis, grabbing her by the throat.

The manager, Patrick Hughes, who gave his address to the magistrates as The Grand Theatre, was summoned for assaulting the woman.

He denied striking the fellow artist and claimed she "carried on like a fiend". The court chairman fined the manager one pound and suggested that in future he carried out the motto on his programme.

Wolverhampton's Queen Sq 1926
Queen Square and Darlington Street, Wolverhampton in 1926

News in brief . . . Wolverhampton's new Wulfruna Street Technical College was officially opened by Princess Mary Viscountess Inscelle in May.

There was a tragedy at Walsall's Moss Close in April when a five year old boy was accidentally shot in the head by his 14-year-old brother, who was practising with his father's rifle.

Dorothy Gilbert
I don't think I have ever been as scared in my life as I was that night.
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