Picture of Edwin Russell

Edwin Russell

places mentioned

Nov. 15 to 25: Cradley, Withington and Madley

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Mr. Delegate Russell writes:— On Friday, November 15th, from Colwall — I went on to Cradley, where I conducted a very good labourers' meeting. It was the first meeting of that sort that had ever been held in this place, although branches have been formed all round. It is a very large parish and a long straggling village, situate on the north side of Malvern Hills. At a place known as Mifford's bridge, with a "lion" on one side and "7 stars" on the other, are two public houses, one known as the "Farmer's House" and the other as the "Poor Man's House". Here, then, in front of the latter house, we conducted an open air meeting. The people came from far and near until between three and four hundred got together. Mr. Foster sang the Union march song, and then made a nice little speech, and introduced Mr. Russell to the meeting. We should have had a very orderly meeting only that a half-drunken farmer and shopkeeper, of the name of Ball, caused considerable annoyance by interfering. He threatened to fetch the speaker off his perch and put him in the river, which it was well for him he did not try to do, as it is very easy to think who would have had the bath or the baptism. Mr. Russell explained the objects of the Union, and exhorted the men to enroll under our banner of freedom. A few gave their names, and Mr. Foster will meet the men and establish a branch next week.

On Thursday, Nov. 21st, it had been arranged to hold a meeting at Withington, and I am pleased to say it was a very successful one indeed. Although it was a very damp, cold night, yet the people flocked well together, — men, women, and children, in spite of wet and dirt, came trudging through the mud and the dark lanes together until there were about 400 people got together. Mr. Watkins was called to the chair and made a pretty little speech. He then called upon a young man of the name of Hawkins to sing the march song of the Union, wishing the people all to join in chorus. Although I have heard it sung hundreds of times I never heard it better than tonight. The applause he received when he had finished was something which a professional singer might have been proud of. — Mr. Foster was then called to the front, and gave his experience as a working man; the bad pay, the hard fare, and the bad cottage accommodation which the labourers in Herefordshire have to put up with. He stated that after 17 years' service for one master, he had to leave because he joined the Union. Mr. Russell was then called upon to give his address, and was listened to throughout with marked attention. Although the cold was intense, yet the people never gave way until the address was included. Hearty cheers were given for the Union, the speakers, and the labourers, and new names were added to the roll of members, making 67 in this newly-formed branch.

Friday, November 22nd, from Withington to Sutton St. Nicholas, where, in front of the Golden Cross public-house, about seven o'clock p.m., in presence of about 400 people who had flocked together, Mr. Russell, Mr. Foster, and a Mr. Watkins (a local man who is very useful in this neighbourhood in spreading the Union) put in an appearance, and were greeted with loud applause. The night was very cold, indeed it was scarcely fit to hold out-door meetings. Mr. Hawkins, from the next village, was called to the chair, and apologised for not being able to make much of a speech; but said he would sing them the Union Song, which would seem to be a special favourite about here. He asked the people to join in the chorus, and then, with a sweet ringing clear voice, that was heard for more than half a mile, he sung the words that have become almost household words, 'There is nothing like the Union.' Not only did our friends muster well on the occasion, but our enemies came in force, and tried very hard to put a stop to our meeting by frequent interruptions, and when they found that would not do they tried a poor, mean, cowardly trick, and one of them threw a stone, which, fortunately, did not hit Mr. Russell, but passed over his head, and nearly hit a poor woman who was looking out from the window. It was well the dastardly coward made off, or he would have had a baptism in the river. But in spite of all opposition and stone throwing we succeeded in getting several new members enrolled, and after great cheering the meeting terminated.

Monday, Nov. 25th.— All alone and by myself I walked about eight miles in the pouring wet, from Hereford to Madley, where we held one of the best meetings I have been at in this county, in a large room at the Comet, just beyond the Seven Stones. About 250 or 300 people crowded together to hear what I further had to say about the Union. I went to show the necessity that existed for the agricultural labourers to combine together for mutual protection and help, and I think the men thought as I thought, for after about an hour's hard talking I asked if they thought the Union was the thing the labourers wanted, and with one voice the people answered 'Yes, yes, yes.' We enrolled 14 new members, making 65 in the branch, which is just one month old, and which I had the pleasure of starting. The members then came forward and paid up the contributions, which, together with entrance fees, amounted to ?2 14s., which sum will be sent to the office to-morrow. I then entered their names in the branch books, and showed them how to keep them. They made choice of officers and committee, and I have no doubt they will become a very strong branch. Hearty cheers were given for the Union and the speakers. Invitations pouring in from other villages made me wish it was spring instead of winter, as there is a lot of open-air work wants doing. I trust I may have help and strength to help on the work here.

Edwin Russell, Reports in the Labourers' Union Chronicle , No. 15 (Nov. 30, 1872), p. 6

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