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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 9.



What was the status of workers in all industries prior to their awakening by the Trade Unions, particularly the agricultural section of the community? He was regarded as a Clod Hopper; yet he was the man who produced the food for us all.

This reminds me of a meeting I was invited to address at Vowchurch, Herefordshire, many years ago. It was organised by a local doctor, who took the Chair. He informed me he would allow me twenty minutes to speak, after which he and the audience would ask questions and criticise my statements. The schoolroom was packed with men and women, farmers, farmworkers, shopkeepers, railwaymen and three vicars from other parishes. He stopped me punctually at the end of twenty minutes and commenced the criticism.

He said: " You have laid too great an emphasis on the value of the agricultural workers—I would place all people in a category according to their value from a national standpoint. First the doctor, he cures your ills; second the teacher, he educates the children; thirdly the parson, he cures your souls; and you may place the agricultural workers where you like after that. Now reply to that." The audience eagerly awaited my reply. I informed the Doctor he had made serious mistakes, he should have added—in his own estimation. I agreed to place the teacher second. As for the parson, I could not place him at all. I told them of an old Radical, speaking at Ledbury during an election. He said we could do with more pigs and less parsons; there was an element of truth in this after what I had personally experienced and witnessed upon the tables of the workers at mealtimes. My opinions were: If every doctor left the country it would mean the survival of the fittest, but agreed we were all glad of him when we had the tummy ache, but if we sent all the agricultural workers to Botany Bay there would soon be no bodies to cure or souls to save. There were roars of laughter aud deafening applause, the doctor joining in, saying he was quite satisfied, and asked me to supper.

A strong branch was formed as a result of this meeting. One of the vicars was upset. He said that the speaker stated that we could do with more pigs than parsons, which was not a nice way of putting it. I reminded him that I had only quoted another person's statement. Throughout the whole county not more than half a dozen ministers were assisting to alter the conditions of the workers, and in some cases refused the use of rooms and schools for the Union's meetings.


After this meeting a large farmer in the village offered to take the Chair at a meeting to be arranged at Peterchurch. It was held at Goughs Schools, and was packed with farmers and workers from other parishes. It was quite amusing at the commencement. I was busily engaged going around the audience handing out Trade Union literature, and I was asked by many of them if Box was coming, from Hereford? Is he billed to come? I asked. Oh, yes, they said. I said, he will definitely come then. The Chairman, Mr. David Watkins, known as the Golden Valley poet, went up to the platform, and I did likewise. He made a few observations upon the need for organisation of the workers and called on Mr. Box of Hereford to address them. When I stood up the faces of the audience were a study. I commenced: Mr. Chairman, I can see by the faces of the audience that they were expecting a Goliath —at least a six footer instead of a five footer, but we have a David in the Chair. Another strong branch of the Union was formed there as a result of that meeting. Many amusing incidents happened, which can be related as well as some fierce opposition, but I can refer to this later on. I can assure the public it was an immense struggle to get the country workers of that time to understand the benefits which were possible through collective effort, and only their conditions enabled us to build up an effective organisation.



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