The General Strike of 1926

General Strike 1926

General Strike 1926

General Strike 1926

Extracts from an article by Eric Jarvis in 'Swannington Now and Then', March 2000.

Coal was near to the surface in the Swannington area, this was emphasised during the General Strike of 1926 when miners and others dug coal out of the banks of the old Coleorton railway line which connected with the bottom of the Incline.

The point of excavation was either side of the tunnel and it was my uncle, Bill Clarke, a chargeman shifter at Whitwick colliery, who lost his life while getting a bag of coal said weigh more than 1 cwt. One evening at about 7.30p.m. he took his 13 year old daughter Harriet with him and they went to Pegg's Green from their home in North Street Whitwick for him to get coal from the outcrop. There were plenty of men working there and my uncle joined them and went into the hole in the cutting and filled a bag of coal which with the help of another man he lifted on to his back and he then carried it down the bank. He sat or fell down and toppled back among the bushes struggling for breath and died soon after. As he had a heart complaint he had had great difficulty in breathing as he worked in the hole where there was no ventilation.

This was the story told at the inquest and reported in the Coalville Times of 30th July 1926 and the next item on the same page says that the owners of the outcrop seam had given orders for the getting of the coal to be stopped. It describes the place with holes made by those working for the coal as looking like dug outs in France during the War. My uncle had died on the Wednesday and "on Thursday, quite a thousand people visited the place to get coal".

Of course the newspaper account did not tell the full story. Early that morning my uncle had set off to bike to somewhere near Nuneaton to earn a few shillings working on a relation's farm. Now this would be a return journey of some 40 miles. When he got back he said to his wife Maria "I'll go and get a bag of coal from the outcrop" and took his daughter Harriet with him. This would have been perhaps two more miles on top of what he had already done and he'd have ridden to Pegg's Green taking his daughter on the cross bar with the intention that they would walk back steadying the bag of coal between them on the bicycle. This was what a man of 42, knowing he had a bad heart, was prepared to do in those days to try and support his family which included a seven week old baby.

But it was not only at either end of the old tunnel that this kind of thing was happening. On July 23rd 1926, nine men from Thringstone were summoned for trying to dig coal out of the railway embankment near to Mantle Lane West signal box, and a number of men were fined 4s each when looking for coal on Swannington Incline.