‘Squalor, sin and drinking’

Ernest Bevin.
Ernest Bevin.
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Office of the Evening Post and Chronicle, Scot Lane, March 1951:

A METHODIST Mission to nine colliery villages in South Yorkshire has ended. Their conclusions are alarming.

Teams of missioners, if not missionaries, including students from Cliff College, Derbyshire, where Methodist ministers are trained, visited the pit heads, public houses, clubs, cinemas and dance halls over what can only be described as a short period of seven days.

Their inquiries and observations, however, resulted in an item under Joyful News in the Methodist Journal, where the Rev J L Nix of Thurnscoe writes that the background revealed a desperate need for the Christian gospel.

“The background is sombre. There is squalor, sin, gambling, drinking on a scale not encountered elsewhere by many members of the team.”

An evangelist at Cliff College wrote that in all his many year s of experience he had never seen such nakedness of sin that he had seen in the past 10 or 11 days

The investigation did not say how many people were involved in all this wickedness. I suspect it is only a small proportion of the population.

Mr Butler, eduction and recreation secretary of the Doncaster branch of the Working Men’s Club and Institute Union is the only person, so far, to challenge the Methodists’ conclusions.

He denied the clubs were sombre and said that any member using bad language was liable to immediate expulsion. No games of chance were allowed in any club and sales of beer had dropped by 25 per cent.

Did nobody look for the good news about South Yorkshire society? The 100 teams in the cricket league, the amateur football clubs, the dramatic societies, the women’s associations, and so forth?

They could not have taken into account the allotment holders’ groups, the touring cyclists, the societies specialising in chrysanthemums, dahlias, roses? The adult education, the evening classes... can these people be in desperate need for the Christian gospel?

No mention was made of the Salvation Army, the Baptists, the Roman Catholics, the Anglicans, the numerous Methodists themselves.

The Mission, as far as I can see, has gone looking for evil and no doubt found it but to tar us all with the same brush is unfair.

n Some facts from our Education Authority: 459 boys of 11 took the entrance examination for the grammar school and the technical high school but only 90 will get places at the Grammar and 60 at the technical school.

Of the 478 girls who took the same examination 80 will be placed at the High School and 60 at the Girls’ Technical School.

“Should a boy or girl just miss in the entrance examination, our modern secondary schools are very alive to the fact that they are catering for children who were almost of grammar school standard” said an education committee official.

That is undoubtedly true but from what I know of parents the officer’s remarks will be little consolation. Some set their hearts on a classical education for their children and will not be consoled.

I can still hear the parents of my friends saying: “You should have worked harder.”

Some parents with large families don’t want these places for their children, of course. They would rather their children left school earlier, started to learn a job and brought in a little money.

n MP Ray Gunter in a tribute to the late Ernest Bevin said this : “He was a noble soul and a great man with outstanding gifts and almost abnormal courage, a great warrior of the working class movement.”

Mr Barber, who hopes to be our next MP has been nagging and prodding Mr Gunter over his apparent approval of scarce building materials being diverted to office construction rather than to housing.

Mr Gunter’s response: “Offices are essential.”

So are houses. says Mr Barber – surely we can manage without offices a little longer.

n Fred Keyworth, who was head gateman at Rovers’ Belle Vue ground for over 20 years, secretary of the Liberal Club and Doncaster Golf Club has died. He was 78.

n John Simms, of Westwoodside, who was the oldest local preacher in the Isle of Axholme has died aged 80. As was traditional in the Isle, he walked hundreds of miles to fulfil preaching engagements, going from one small chapel to the other on Sundays. He was a soldier with the Eighth Hussars when he was 17.

n The municipal dancing summer season has begun at the Corn Exchange. Every Friday and Saturday you can dance the day and night away from 1.30 to 11.30 for as little as 1s 6d. Len Boote’s orchestra plays most of the time. There is a cafe offering nothing more exciting or romantic than soda fountains and ice creams.

n SirAdrian Boult took time off from conducting famous orchestras and held rehearsals for 185 children at the Arts Centre. They will combine with other choirs to sing at the Royal Albert Hall on May 6 at a children’s Festival of Britain concert. Of the children present only 50 were from Doncaster, and from them only 30 will sing in London. Who will be the lucky ones and who will be among the 20 reserves?

n The days when coal was weighed at 21cwts (rather like the baker’s 13 to a dozen), and the price of good Yorkshire Coal was 2s 6d a ton (I can hardly believe it) are recalled by Charles Collinson of Priory Place, Doncaster who has retired.

I didn’t think anybody lived in Priory Place, which seems all shops and offices.

Mr Collinson was employed by the curiously-named Great Coal, Salt and Tanning Company.

When he first started work in Doncaster the company used 240 wagons taking coal to Grimsby for burning by the fishing trawlers. Within three years the number of wagons had increased to 1,300.

It is astonishing to learn that there were three special coal trains daily from Doncaster in addition to trains running direct from the pits to the fish docks. It reveals how, indirectly, South Yorkshire coal helped keep England’s chippies well supplied.

In Mr Collinson’s early days sailing smacks were becoming obsolete and sail was giving way to steam. Today it is coal which is on its way out and oil is taking its place.

Mr Collinson revealed that during the 1926 General Strike coal from Poland fired the Grimsby fishing fleet.

He was secretary of the Wagon Representatives Association and a founder of the Doncaster Coal Exchange. He is an authority on an aspect of the coal and fishing industries which has never been fully researched. Everybody here in Scot Lane has heard of the Corn Exchange but nobody as far as I can tell has ever heard of the Doncaster Coal Exchange.