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Book Title:

The Good Old Days: Then and Now


The Good Old Days: Then and Now by S. Box

Published by: S. Box, The Firs, Marden, Hereford

Printed by: Reliance Printing Works, Halesowen, Worcs.

Chapter 11.



May I mention here that our opponents were sneering in triumph at the knowledge that I had ceased to work for the Union, and thought I had been dismissed for some bad conduct; in fact I was compelled to give up for a time because I lost my eldest son as a result of tuberculosis, contracted whilst he was a prisoner of war in Germany, and then my second son dying three months afterwards. About this time I was also injured in a road accident by a motor car driven by Major O'Many, of Weobley, in an accident which left me with a straight leg. The Major was not insured against this, but Charles Duncan assured me my position would be alright in the future, as I could get about on my motor cycle. Relying on that promise I accepted £50 compensation under the Workmen's Compensation Acts.


Joseph Arch

Joseph Arch (1826 – 1919) was an English politician, born in Barford, Warwickshire

It may be that some of the older people who were in the county during the period of the successful work of the Workers' Union may read this account and remember not only the difficulties and struggles, but the pleasure they derived from knowing they were engaged in a battle for the welfare of their children and of future generations, as exemplified by the success obtained to date in the better conditions of labour, shorter working hours, weekly half-holidays, Bank holidays, and annual holidays with pay—all the direct result of the struggles they were engaged in. Here I must issue a stern warning to both farmer and worker, who are careless or apathetic. Recent history should enlighten them. Prosperity is a fickle jade, and only constant vigilance will enable them to retain the benefits gained by organisation. There is much to be done, before we arrive at a just system of society, and it is up to the youth of to-day to realise that their actions to-day will determine the state of to-morrow. My advice to all of them is—become members of any organisation that is unselfish and realises the needs, rights and responsibilities of others. Those people who practice these fundamental principles live the happiest lives and establish a wealth of memories for days to come, that are of more value than banking accounts.


Jesse Collings

Jesse Collings (1831 – 1920) was Mayor of Birmingham, a Liberal (later Liberal Unionist) MP, an advocate of educational and land reform.

Possibly the reader will have heard of Joseph Arch, who was the founder of the National Agricultural Workers Union in 1872. He was an agricultural worker and, like myself, highly skilled in all branches of the work, and so could command higher wages than the ordinary labourer. He was a nonconformist, well versed in Scripture, and was a local preacher. I can testify to the valuable work and sincerity of men of the little Bethels in the countryside. As a rule they loved freedom, and despised the haughty attitude of those who considered themselves superior if they possessed wealth or property, not considering all men as brothers. This then was then fundamental principle that urged them to take up arduous and dangerous work to assist their fellow men. Fortunately men like Joseph Arch had the sympathy and financial support of influential gentlemen such as Sir Baldwin Leighton, The Hon. Auberon Herbert, Lord Edmond, Mr. Jesse Collings, Edward Jenkins, M.P., Professor Fawcett, M.P., and Canon Gurdlestone.

Henry Fawcett

Fawcett, elected Liberal MP for Brighton in 1865, campaigned to grant women the vote.




When we started in Herefordshire we had no support financially, except a little from a few Ledbury tradesmen. Sympathy of a notable character was expressed openly by Canon Bannister, who placed the labourers' cause before the Diocesan conference held in 1913, appealing to the clergy to assist in removing the scandalous state of the housing and wages paid to country workers, whilst not claiming such extensive effort and propaganda as made by Joseph Arch. When we commenced our work in Herefordshire, Worcestershire, Brecon, Radnor and Monmouthshire it spread to other counties. Alas, as with Arch, jealousy and intrigue crept in, and he was pushed aside, with disastrous results to the Union. It dwindled and ceased to exist for all practical purposes. The Workers' Union in this county also faded out, but the spirit was just kept alive.


Daisy Greville

"Daisy" Greville, Countess of Warwick with one of her sons.

After Joseph Arch retired the conditions and wages of the workers gradually worsened again, and wages dropped to 15/- and 16/- a week, the average being 13/1 in 1912. This is another object lesson for the youth of to-day. Joseph Arch was assisted in his old age by Lady Warwick, and died at the ripe old age of 92 (an historic figure).



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