Friday 9 March 2007

Tolpuddle Rally 1952


Families picnicked on Memorial lawns

“Not an exceptional event, one which was typical NAWU Gen Sec

24 July 1952 Dorset County Chronicle

Motor coaches from a dozen different points in the South of England converged on Tolpuddle on Sunday afternoon for the annual Tolpuddle' Martyrs demonstration.

One coach-load came from as far west as Penzance and others came from Sussex, Hampshire, Wiltshire, Devon and Somerset.

About 400 people were on the lawn outside the Memoril Cottages when the demonstration formed up to march past the Marty’s Tree on the Green and thence to the Weslyan Chapel (now a stable), at the far end of the village.

On the way they stopped in front of a little ivy-clad cottage where the Martyrs used to. Hold their meetings. Over the door is now a tablet to record that it was there the six agricultural workers held their trade union , meetings which led to their being sentenced to seven years' transportation in 1834.

Heading the procession was the Wyke Regis Band and at the rear, probably unwilling: participants, were about a score: of motorcars, whose progress had 'been slowed to walking pace during the march.


It was a peaceable, orderly march. A number of onlookers had assembled on the green and some of the residents on the route had brought tables, and chairs on to their front lawns where they sat and drank tea.

Apart from those whose zeal had probably brought them long distances to pay homage to the memory of the six agricultural labourers, one could not, help feeling that the occasion provided an excellent excuse, for those who could afford it, to enjoy a pleasant Sunday afternoon ramble through a pretty Dorset village.


Back on the lawn of the Memorial Cottages one could see nicely dressed, healthy-looking mothers with their young children. Family parties with jacketless men in open-necked shirts brought their own picnic baskets and sat in the shade, while others patronised a marquee for tea, cakes and sandwiches, manned mainly by wives and friends of the Dorset branch of the Agricultural Workers' Union.

From a spectator's point of view it resembled much more a workers garden party more than a political demonstration.

During the leisurely mustering of the assembly the band. played pleasant Sunday afternoon music on the lawn but it gave way to political speakersafter the march had been completed.


Mr. Jesse Waterman, the NUAW County Chairman, presided, and the principal speaker was Ald. Mr G. Gooch, M.P., President of the National Union of Agricultural Workers., who delivered a prepared speech.

He claimed that the Union had more achievements to' 'its credit in recent times than George Loveless ever dreamed of and then went on to speak of the new economic situation of the country, prophesying that, if the Conservative Government remained in office, a new series of import restrictions would be imposed and cuts made in the building of houses, schools and factories.

Mr. A. C. Dann, the general secretary, reminded his hearers that the demonstration was not in celebration of an exceptional event, though they thought particularly of the Tolpuddle Martyrs, 'but one which was typical of the spirit which had animated the pioneers, of the trade union movement.


It was left to Mr. Arthur E. Jordan, the NAWU County Organiser, to deal with current down to earth local politics. The previous day in Dorchester, he said, he and his colleagues put up a good, sound and-logical case to justify a claim for a, minimum wage of £6 a. week. They put up a really, powerful case but it only took the farmers five minutes to say no. They had no argument; they had no case. All they could say was no, they could not afford it.


It was inspiring, he went on to read about Helsinki and the Olympic Games. There all political differences were sunk and the hand of friendship extended. There was no Iron Curtain and there were no political barriers—just young people taking part in sport. If that was possible in Helsinki, he s'aid, it was possible all over the world.

The Tolpuddle Martyrs, if they were still alive, would be in the fore front in saying that never again would this country become in war

Dorset Echo 21st July 1952

NOT many years ago punishment for crime was very much more harsh in this country than It is to-day, indeed life banishment to faraway Botany Bay could result merely for causing damage to a county bridge.

It was probably difficult to know what to do with men who had banded together in a tiny village and approached, with strong requests for more pay, an intolerant farmer-employer.

It had never happened before. It was outrageous and to prevent it happening again, an example was made of the men. Like common criminals they were transported as convicts.

Thus, in 1834, the story of the Tolpuddle Martyrs was enacted in all its grim determination and tragedy, and six good Dorset men paid a terrible price for laying the foundation-stone of modern trade unionism.

Yesterday (20th July 1952), at Tolpuddle, the Martyr celebrations were held in the blazing sunshine. In temperatures in the 80s, the banners were carried aloft, and with pride. The band from Wyke Regis led a procession, nearly 200 strong, from the Trade Union Congress Memorial Cottages down the dusty road to the village, where the president of the National Union of Agricultural Workers, Mr. E. G. Gooch, M.P. for North Norfolk, -walking under the red, blue and gold banner of the union, paid his tribute to the memory of the pioneers. They passed the cottages which, had been the homes of some of those men.


The precession turned and marched back to the memorial cottages. The. great sombre royal blue banner of the Penzance and District Trades Council, half the width of the road, dwarfed the reds, the greens and the golds which were the assorted Insignia of various branches of the union, carried by people who had come in coaches from Cornwall, Sussex, Hampshire, Wiltshire and Somer set. There were men of all ages and women and children in the parade.

There were placards with slogans advocating more pay for farm workers.

On reaching the cottages again the procession broke up and spread across the lawn before a dais from which Mr. Gooch spoke to them.

He spoke of the purpose of the celebrations, the commemoration of the six farm labourers who had made possible for them the degree

These pioneers of the trade union improvement started something which, to show a proper appreciation, had to be carried on. In the 46 years of existence the N.U.A.W had to their credit achievements such as George Loveless, the leader of the six, and his friends, could never have dreamed of. But the work had to be continued.


He moved to the question of farm workers' wages. It was uppermost In their minds—this Central Agricultural Wages Board offer "of a mere five shillings a week" Increase. He considered it. totally Inadequate to view of the, ever rising cost of living.

Neither would the proposed new wage attract men to the land to help the vital expansion of food production.

He criticised the Tory Governments handling of the economic situation and said the last Budget had made wage claims inevitable.

He had no doubt that further restrictions were to come, and with them further appeals for wages restraint. The farm workers should not be fobbed off with an increase which bore no relationship with the cost of living, he added.

Mr. A. C. Dann, general secretary of the N.U.A.W, who said they needed to recapture the spirit of the Tolpuddle Martyrs, was followed by other speakers, before the demonstration finally broke up.

Picture Mr. E, G. Gooch, M.P,, president of the National Union of Agricultural Workers greets the standard bearer of the Piddle Valley branches of freedom which they enjoyed.

Labour Leaders Boycott Tolpuddle

Bristol Evening News 21 July 1952

Labour Party leaders boycotted the Tolpuddle Martyrs demonstration in

Dorset yesterday.

Mr. Herbert Morrison had originally planned to speak at the demonstration. Then, in May, Mr. Fred Brown, national executive member of the National Union of Agricultural Workers, resigned from the union and the Labour Party in protest against an alleged threat of Labour Party headquarters to boycott the demonstration if Communist officials of the union appeared on the platform.

Both the Communist officials Arthur Jordan, the union's.Dorset organiser, and Jesse Waterman, NAWU county chairman made speeches yesterday. Only other speakers were Ald. E. G. Gooch, M-P., president, and Mr. A. C. Dann, general secretary of the Agricultural Workers' Union.

Mr. Dann said afterwards: "The demonstration was at' first' to be a combined union and Labour Party affair, but we, could not agree who the speaker should be so the union went ahead on its own."

The procession, which included contingents from trades councils and union branches from many parts of the country, followed part of the route taken by the six martyrs when they were taken on foot and in chains the seven miles to Dorchester gaol in 1834.

23 July 1952 Poole Herald

Labour Party representatives were absent from the Tolpuddle Martyrs demonstration in Dorset on Sunday (20th July 1952). They were said to have boycotted because Communists were on the platform.

Earliers, it had not been expected that Labour leaders would be absent from what could be described as a leading socialist event

For the Friendly Society of Agricultural labourers founded in 1834 by the “six men of Dorset” who were sentenced to seven years transportation for their activities was the forerunner of the trade union movement.

Herbert Morrison was to have spoken at the demonstration and then in May Mr Fred member of the national executive of the National union of Agricultural Workers, resigned from the executive of the union and the Labour Party in protest against the alleged threat of Labour Party headquarters to boycott the demonstration if communist officials of the union appeared on the platform

A Communist official, Mr. Arthur Jordan of Blandford, the NUAW Dorset Organiser, spoke on Sunday. Only other speakers were Ald. Edwin Gooch MP, the unions president and Mr A.C.Dann NAWU General secretary

Mr. Dann said afterwards: " This demonstration was at first to be combined union and Labour Party affair, but we could not agree who the speakers should be, so the Union went ahead on its own."

The procession, which included contingents from trades councils and union branches from many parts of the country, followed part of the route taken by the six martyrs when they were taken on foot and in chains the seven miles to Dorchester gaol.

'5s inadequate'

Ald. Gooch told the crowds on the lawns in front of the Tolpuddle Memorial Cottages that the proposed wage increase of 5s. a week for farm workers was totally inadequate, and would certainly not attract men to the land to help m the vital expansion of food production.

Biggest fight with the Tory Government was still to come when the Transport Bill-" the great sell-out had its second reading. "I dislike the use of strikes for political ends,' he said, but I fear industrial unrest of considerable magnitude should the Government proceed with the Bill.

They all know I’m a Communist says union organiser

6 May 1952 Echo

The alleged threat of certain Labour Party leaders to boycott the annual Tolpuddle Martyrs demonstration in Dorset

Communist officials of the Dorset Agricultural Workers' Union Arthur Jordan, of Blandford, the principal official concerned,

Mr. Fred Brown, executive member of the Union, has resigned from the Union and from the Labour Party as a protest against the alleged threat,

Mr. Jordan said yesterday: "My membership of the Communist Party has been widely known among the members of my Union for several years, but the rank and file members have more than once indicated that they will judge me by my success as a union organiser and extend to me the same political tolerance which the union extends to its members.

"This unprecedented discrimination against a Trades Union's officers by the Labour Party leaders should be a warning signal to all "who have' the interests or the working class at heart, "for Red-hunting to-day "will be Bevan-hunting to-morrow, as we have seen in America.

"I can say that the N.U.A.W, in Dorset will support the Labour Party, but "will not tolerate' the "big 'stick' interference of organisations; to which the Union is affiliated.

"Fortunately the majority of the rank and' file Labour Party members are more tolerant than their leaders."


Mr. Brown said that as an executive member of the N.U.A.W. he did not, in any way, support the views held by the two officials, but as he Claimed the right to have a" private-opinion, he did not feel he had any right to deny these officials the same privilege.

"No proof can be produced that either of these men have at any time acted in a "manner prejudicial to the interests of the' 'N.U.A.W.," continued Mr. Brown.

The second official Mr. Brown named as Mr. Jesse Waterman, the Dorset County chairman of the N.U.A.W.,- who was to have presided at the demonstration at the N.U.A.W. May Day Rally at Weymouth on Sunday, the' exclusion of Mr. Jordan from the platform was as announced amid frequent noisy interruption.

Mr, Leslie Shears, vice-chairman of the county committee of the N.U.A.W., alleged that Transport House (Labour Party headquarters, London) had said that if Mr. Jordan spoke all Labour 'parties would have to "withdraw their support.

Several people rose to their feet, and one shouted: "It is time this was thrashed out in Dorset." Some of the audience' left the meeting.

11Sept 1952 Dorset Chronicle

DORCHESTER District Committee of the National Union of Agricultural Workers at its quarterly meeting decided to press their Executive for a wage increase to £7 a week as agreed at the biennial conference.

It was stated that the recent 5s. increase was tantamount to a complete- rejection of the Union's claim in view of the rise of prices. The committee is also to ask that methods of improving and strengthening the campaign in support of the £7 claim should be considered.

A report on membership showed that 90 per cent of Dorset farm workers were members of the Union, A target of 500 new members has been set for this year.

Special events arranged for members include a visit to a tractor factory and a concert by the Workers' Music Association Choir.


Dorset County Chronicle July 1952
What the Martyrs would say

After all that has been said about the abhorrence in which Socialists hold Communism it is not surprising to hear reports that Transport House has said that Labour leaders will boycott this year's Tolpuddle Martyrs' demonstration if Communists appear on the platform.

It would be in .keeping, certainly with the Attlee line, if this were so and that the report is being 'taken seriously by the organiser of the National Union of Agricultural Workers, himself a Communist, and is apparently the reason for the resignation of a member of the Union Executive, who has been a member of the Labour Party, suggests that this alleged threat is not, without foundation.

Mr. Jordan has for years made no secret of his Communist Party membership and to our reporter he said, "... the rank and file members have more 'than once indicated that they will judge me by my success as a Union organiser and extend to me the same political tolerance which the Union extends to its members."

A noble sentiment . . . but how much tolerance would Mr. Jordan and his Party friends, extend to those who cannot share their political outlook, if, by some strange freak, the Communist Party were one day to be in a position to force its will "upon the country? .

Mr. Fred Brown, who has given up his seat on the Union Executive and left the Labour Party, because of the alleged lack of tolerance at Transport House towards members of a Party whose Continental comrades have sold one European Government after another—many of them Socialist Governments—to the Stalin Empire, says "... as I claim to have the right to a private opinion I do not feel that I have any right to deny these officials .the same privilege."

Make no mistake, Mr. Brown, you can hold all the private opinions you like in this country, and under a Tory Government, too, and there are very few limits upon your expression of them, but if the Communist Party, which indirectly you defend by your entirely praiseworthy and British sense of fairness, held "the reins, your private opinions could well cost you your neck.

Mr. Jordan is not the first Union Organiser to be in membership with the Communist Party and beyond doubt in the trade union sphere his service to his members is beyond reproach, but the fact remains that his political views cannot be over-looked by responsible Socialists.

There may not be a lot of difference in the ultimate aims of Socialism and Communism, but there is a difference in the method each party pursues in seeking to further those objectives.

It is well-established that few indeed of the public have a vote for a Communist at election times and that this repeated failure to make headway through the ballot box has caused the Party to seek a say in the affairs of the trade unions out of all pro-portion to their slender numbers in' the country. That's why so much talk of "direct action" (strikes) is heard if the Tory Government does not please.

Of this the Labour Party is well aware and, if Transport House has, indeed, made the banning of Communists from official places at the annual celebration of the pioneers of Trades Unionism, the price of their patronage, they have struck a blow of which George Loveless and his friends, who suffered so much in the cause of the workers' right to organise, would surely approve.

One obvious comment from any who' hold a ringside seat of this interesting spectacle must surely be if there is a purely Trade Union festival in the calendar, it is the Martyrs' Commemoration.

What have either the Socialists or the Communists to' do with it? Let 'em both keep out and let the Unions and', their T.U.C. get on with the work for which the Martyrs suffered—the betterment of the working lives of their members by the negotiating machinery, which, whatever the Government's colour (Deep red excepted), is now part of the life of the country. That’s what the Martyrs would say……

Fred Brown resignation

3 May 1952 Western Morning News

He said: " Arrangements were'' being made for the annual demonstration the union is proposing to hold in Dorset to commemorate the deeds of the Tolpuddle Martyrs and the fight they put up to win the right to act according to their own ;


"They we're nearly complete when, from information in my possession, it appeared that some of the leaders of the Labour Party had 'been attempting to interfere in a matter which I consider concerned only the union—a domestic matter which should not concern the Labour Party.

"Further, it appears that these leaders were prepared to boycott the union's demonstration, unless the union executive accepted their demand and barred the Dorset union official from being on the platform.

"It seems that leaders of the N.U.A.W. are prepared to allow this interference in what, I insist, is a union matter alone."


Mr. Brown claimed that the policy of the N.U.A.W. was that workers had the right to join the union if they wished and that employers had no right to persecute or victimize them because they, as their employers, did not agree with the views of the organisation which their men decided to join.

"I support that view, but I feel it is also wrong for the union to persecute its own employers because they choose to link up with any organisation holding different views from the N.U.A..W. providing" of course, that such employees do not neglect their duties or prejudice the, interests of union members. " In this case I, as an executive member of the N.U.A.W., do not in any way support, the views held by our two officials, but as I claim the right to have a private opinion do not feel I have any right to deny these officials the .same privilege.


"No proof can be produced that either of these men has at any time acted in a manner prejudicial to the interest of the N.U.A.W. As a matter of fact, the organiser concerned is one of our most successful men. Under his guidance the organisation in Dorset has grown beyond our "expectations.

Despite this fact, continual attacks have been made against him. He has been responsible for making all the local arrangements in connection with this Tolpuddle demonstration as the union's official representative

The local organising committee agreed that this official should be one of the unions speakers on the day

In addition to this, it was agreed that his county chairman,, Mr. Jesse Waterman, should reside at the meeting and introduce the speakers.

This, I consider, was in order, as the demonstration was being arranged under our auspices.

“It seems as if this were too much for the leaders of the Labour Party, and they hinted that if our own officials were avowed to go on the platform then they (Herbert Morrison) would boycott it.


“In view of the fact that last' year Mr. Attlee, Mr. James Griffiths, Miss Herbison and others were prominent on the miners' platform with Mr. Arthur Horner, who is well known for his Communisitic views. I formed the opinion that this was an attempt to, stampede the leaders of the National Union of Agricultural Workers into persecuting their town officials."

Holding such views, said' Mr Brown, he was left to make the strongest protest possible against his persecution on the one hand and undue political interference on the other, by resigning from the union and the Labour Party after nearly 50 years membership.''

Mr. Arthur Porter, secretary of Devon Farmers' Union, spoke at; the Devon County dinner of the National Union of Agricultural Workers at Exeter on Saturday of the great part Mr. Brown had played- in building up the union and the contribution he bad made in the interests of agriculture generally.

"I hope you will be able to prevail on him to continue his work";' for you and for the industry."