High Peak News

19 May 1888


Amusing proceedings

For a month the Socialist meeting announced to be held in the open air by Mr Archibald Vicar, of Prestwich, was looked forward to with more interest that has ever been attached to any meeting held in Whaley Bridge.

Half-past six was the hour named for the meeting to commence, but half-an-hour before that time knots of persons, numbering from four to forty, were to be seen every few yards standing about the main street of the village. At a quarter to seven a young man came along from the direction of the London and North Western Station and made direct for the White Hart Hotel. Here he borrowed a chair, which he carried to the middle of the open space on the Derbyshire side of the bridge. A general move was made by the crowd, 600 or 700 strong, to the spot.

Inspector Gray called Mr Vicar on one side for a few moments, with, we suppose, the object of getting his name and address, and cautioning him against causing any breach of the peace. Nothing daunted, the young man mounted the chair, and began to deliver his address, the first portion of which solely related to what there has already been too much said about in Whaley Bridge.

We mean the Jodrell case. Mr Vicar was accompanied by a “friend” named William K. Hall, of Pendleton.

At ten minutes to seven, Mr Vicar stood upon the chair and was about to commence his address when some one shouted “Dust want a barber, mate?”

An outburst of laughter followed the remark. Mr Vicar, after two more essays, began by telling his large audience that he noticed in their local paper (the High Peak News) that morning that it was expected that there would be two or three bands coming there, and that two or three lots of people were going to endeavour to upset the meeting. He had also received a letter, anonymously, saying that before he went back again he would probably bear some marks of his visit to Whaley Bridge, but he did not think the people of Whaley Bridge would do anything whatever to upset the meeting. Many of them well knew the reason or cause which he took up in their local paper, and some of them would probably feel surprised that he should come there to address a meeting on social democracy. He himself was a socialist, and as a revolutionary social democrat he considered it his duty wherever he went to place his views before the people, and more particularly before the working-class portion of the community.

In their large towns it was easy enough to get audiences, but in little places, villages, it was not quite so easy a matter.

As he traveled in this district occasionally he happened to take up their local paper one day, and saw an inquest of the case with which they were acquainted. He took that case up as he had taken up other cases, and he was prepared to take that case up because he considered that the medical officer they had there failed in his duty in his attendance upon that person.

What would they think if he (the speaker) were walking by their river side to Buxton and saw one of their children in the river, and did nothing to get the child out?

That was the way they should look at this case, which was exciting interest all over England.

[A Voice: “Quite different.” Another: “You are wrong altogether”, and “Boo.”]

If he were wrong he should like [a Voice: “It has done no good at all”.]

Here they had a man who might have saved that woman’s life. They could ask him any questions after

[Voices: “Sit thee down”; “Get in th’ cart”; and laughter.] He understood that in another week or two another doctor would be established in Whaley Bridge. [A Voice: “Set up for it yourself?” and laughter.]

He was not going to deal with that case very much [A Voice: “Thou are going to have no chance if thou doesn’t mind”; “Go and have a bitter”; and laughter.]

As soon as the speaker could make himself heard he continued: Mr Colles had thrown a challenge out to him. [Uproar.] If they would wait half-a-minute he would explain to them, but he should not go on with the case [a Voice: “What is your object in taking it up”? Another: “You are robbing the barber”; and laughter, lasting some little time.]

He was not going to touch upon the case with this exception: Mr Colles had thrown a challenge out to him to hold a meeting in a respectable place in Whaley Bridge, and he would take a room for it. He was prepared to accept his challenge. [A Voice: “Thou hast cheek enough for to do it”, and laughter.]

He would leave his remarks in order for that meeting, if he (Mr Colles) would take it up, but Mr Colles seemed to ridicule him about a letter which he wrote to him (Mr Colles) privately in answer to his (Mr Colles’) first letter to him. [A Voice: “Lunatics like to get up high”] He (Mr Colles) seemed to think no one else had anyone in the House of Commons but himself. [A Voice: “Is it th’ workhouse, and laughter”.] He should be able to get a larger number of votes in the House of Commons than he (Mr Colles) would. The next few words were but indistinctly heard owing to a row made by two men at the back of the speaker, but Mr Vicar was understood to say that someone had been begged upon to write to the paper, and he had found out that Dr Allan [A Voice : “If I had been Archibald I would not have come. Have you brought Lewis’s Penny Readings with you”? And laughter.] He would leave that question for another time. [A Voice: “Who went to see the lawyer”?]

If Mr Colles was willing to take up his offer he was willing to pay for advertising the meeting if he (Mr Colles) would take a room ; but he must object to Mr Butterworth being chairman, because he had been interested in the case and should any disturbance arise then, of course, they would lay the blame on Mr Butterworth. [Voices: “A very good get-out,” “Thou has said plenty,” “Sit thee down, lad,” “What will thou have to sup?” “Is this Archibald?” And a general outburst of laughter.] Socialists were looked upon as thieves, vagabonds, and robbers. (Hear, hear.) The men who had assembled in Trafalgar Square time after time had been called pickpockets, but none had been arrested for stealing. [A Voice: “That is personal”.] If they were well-known thieves why were they not arrested for assembling ? Messrs Cunningham, Burns, &c --- [Voices: “Thou art coming to something sensible now,” “Thou art right now, old man.”] Whilst he declared himself a revolutionary social democrat he also declared himself to be a Christian Socialist. They opposed the Liberal party as much as they opposed the Tory party, and whilst they hated the Tories they also despised the Liberals. (Hear, hear, and laughter.)

They had nothing much to expect from either party. Whilst he was over in Ireland about twelve months ago -- [A Voice: “Thou ought to have stopped there,” “Hear, hear,” “That’s a good ‘un”] – he was watched by detectives from Dublin, and, upon his return to Manchester, simply because he wrote two letters to the Manchester Guardian, he was then told his services were not required any longer, and that he was medically unfit for duty. After that he had spoken in Manchester, last September, and was arrested for speaking at New Cross. (Hear, Hear.) He remembered being thrown through the window of a Liberal Club for moving a resolution in favour of Home Rule for Ireland. {A Voice: “Never show a white feather for being thrown through a window for a good thing”, and applause.]

At this point the Salvation Army band came on the spot and began to play, drowning the remarks of the speaker. Several voices cried “Go on Archibald.” At their meeting in Bolton they had, Mr Vicar continued, Blue Ribbon and other armies very often came up immediately there was a crowd and endeavoured to get collections from their people. He had nothing to say personally against the Salvation Army or the Blue Ribbon Army, because in the Blue Ribbon Army they had got three or four of the best speakers they had in their ranks. Why the Salvation Army should come and try to disturb the meeting he did not know. He did not understand such tactics; anyhow it was not the way to go about business. [A Voice: “Never mind the Salvation Army; give us something interesting”.] Those who were farmers knew what a state the labour market was in; people had to come to them seeking employment, The Tory party were suggesting a return to Protection, and the Radical party said it was foreign competition that we were suffering from, and that the foreign workmen worked longer hours and for less pay, and consequently produced goods cheaper than we could. Then there was the sweating system. [A Voice: “Archie, thou art making a higher standard of it now. He has got on to politics now”.]

For a few minutes some attention was paid to the squabble going on between the two parties who, in the early part of the meeting, shook fists in each other’s faces. At last the fellow who commenced the row was struck in the mouth by the other one, and he rolled over. For the ensuing fifteen minutes the speaker was uninterrupted except by a laugh now and then. He concluded by saying he had some Socialist catechisms which they could have at one penny each.

Mr Hall, a collier, then mounted a chair and commenced an address. M Vicar, complacently smoking a cigar at his back. Mr Hall was asked "Who was his chairman?" And, as he did not answer the question, someone shouted out, “Go on matie.” The row between the two men at the back continued during the whole of the time he was speaking. Mr Hall enlightened his listeners as to what professionally he would choose of he had the chance, and that was, he said, the medical profession. He did study for it. (A laugh.) The agricultural labourer produced the food which the teeth had to deal with, and the doctor extracted the teeth. (“Wonderful!”)

Mr Vicar announced that he should come again in a month from that day. As soon as he had made that known a rush was made to the station to catch the 8 o’clock train. Mr Vicar was in time, and Mr Hall was not. A crowd got round him, and asked innumerable questions, which he attempted to answer. For an hour the crowd lingered about the White Hart Inn discussing the “lecture” and the Jodrell case.

Except the squabble that took place at the back of the speaker’s chair the proceedings passed off good naturedly, and, it may be added, served one purpose only: the finding of an evening’s amusement for the villagers.