Picture of Edwin Russell

Edwin Russell

places mentioned

Nov. 26 to Dec. 7: Western Herefordshire

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[Issue no. 16 of December 7th contains no report from Russell, although he attended the union Executive's meeting in Leamington on November 18th.]

MR.RUSSELL writes:— On Tuesday, Nov.26, I enrolled the 65 members' names on the Madley branch book, filled up a lot of members' cards, and put them in thorough good working order, and I think now they will be able to go on, but they do want such a lot of leading and guiding. I then walked on to Hereford, six or seven miles, in the pouring rain, it pouring all the way, and, as a consequence, I got wet though. I had a meeting planned for tonight at Wellington, but on account of the heavy rains which had fallen the river Lugg and Wye have overflowed their bank to such an extent that the roads are impassable, and I could not go to Wellington, but as I have got to arrange for a fortnight's meeting on the other side of the county, I shall not be able this afternoon. — On Wednesday, Nov. 27th, from Hereford I walked on to Burley Gate, in the parish of Ocle Pickland, a distance of nine miles from the city, where we had arranged to hold a meeting tonight, and as there had never been a meeting of the kind held at this place before I anticipated a good affair, and I am pleased to say that I was not disappointed, for the people rolled up well to some crossroads where a toll-gate used to stand. The night was very still, and not so cold as it had been. A wagon was brought up, and a lantern procured, a boy climbing the finger-post and tying it to the top. A masked candle stuck into some mud served as a candlestick at each end of the wagon, so we had a capital platform and plenty of light on the subject, and, what was better than all, more than 500 people to listen to the address. The Union song was called for, and Mr.Hawkins sang it with his usual clearness and strength, the people well and heartily joining in the chorus. It is well worth a walk of four miles to hear Mr.Hawkins sing the song. The people cheered the people all through his address. The fair sex mustered very strong on this occasion, and showed by the hearty manner in which they applauded how much they were interested in the matter, and how much they enjoyed the meeting. We then formed a new branch by enrolling 15 names, and arranged for another meeting next week, when we expect 50 more will come and join. I then walked four miles to Withington after the meeting so as to be near Hereford for early train in the morning. — On Thursday, November 28th, from Withington to Hereford, where I arrived about eight o'clock, got a bit of breakfast, went to the post for letters, then took train for Pembridge, via Leominster, where I arrived in due course and saw the secretary of that branch, and then walked on to Dilwyn, a distance of five miles, through the wet and dirt: it was raining hard, but I am pleased to say that it cleared up about five o'clock, and came fine for the meeting. We had a first rate affair, although it was said we should make no impression on the people at Dilwyn (vain talk) for we not only made an impression, but the men appreciated it, for after the meeting we enrolled 25 new members, making nearly 50 in this branch. We met at the Duke public-house, but in future all the meetings are to be held at the Primitive Methodist Chapel, which will be thrown open for that purpose. Hearty cheers both loud and long were given, and the people separated. — On Friday, November 29th, after entering the names of the Dilwyn branch members in the book which I had taken for that purpose, and explained how they were to be kept, I proceeded to Pembridge, where, underneath one of the oldest Market halls in the kingdom, built almost entirely of wood, we conducted a first-rate labourers' meeting. Unfortunately it had set in very wet about six o'clock, and this may have presented [sic.] a great many from coming to the meeting, who lived a distance away, but there were between 300 and 400 people gathered together to hear the good news of freedom for the slave, of help for the down-trodden sons of labour. James Thomas was called to the chair, and he showed that he had been subjected to poverty all his life through the bad pay received for work performed, and that he had worked hard and worked long no one would doubt who gazed on his furrowed countenance or listened to his truthful voice. — A Mr. Bradford was next called upon, who in a witty, mirthful manner, fell foul of the farmers for their bad pay, and the way they defrauded the labourer of the little they pretended to give. Then parsons in general, and the Pembridge one in particular, received a most tremendous dressing. It would appear that Pembridge is a town of a very ancient date, with its church steeple built of wood, the houses, with their quaint gables and the Market Hall, under which we held a meeting to-night all testify, and it would also appear that a great many charities had used to be dispensed in the shape of coals, bread, and meat; but they have been one after another lost to the inhabitants, and the speaker seemed to think that the parson was a little to blame, inasmuch as, while he looked well after his own glebe and tythe, he neglected to look after the loaves and meat and coals for the poor. He (the parson) had also been in the habit of lending books to the poor to read (cold comfort), but now as the men had joined the Union there will be no books lent to them, so there will be a necessity after a bit of providing good useful Union literature for the people. Even the schoolmaster of the place came in for a sound dressing from Mr. Bradford, who was loudly cheered throughout the length of his speech by the people, who seemed to know that what he said was too true. He said that even the schoolmaster did not call the labourers' children by their proper names, but when he spoke to them it was by the strange cognomen of thick head, nosey, spragfoot, nodlepate, and a host of other nicknames, and the man seemed to think that a place with such farmers for masters, and with such preachers and teachers as the parson and schoolmaster, you could not expect much from the labourers; but, he was thankful to say, a light was shining in a dark place, and that there was hope for the down-trodden and dispirited, and that this Union which Mr. Russell had come to explain pointed to a good time coming, and he concluded by inviting all to join it and stick to it. Mr. Russell then explained the condition of the Union, its general rules, the claims upon its members, and the advantages it held out to all who joined it. The speech, which was full of facts and firm, was listened to with interest throughout, and when he resumed his seat the cheering was somewhat deafening. We then proceeded to the large room of the Greyhound, kept by Mr. A.Paine, whose brother is the secretary. We enrolled 15 new members and received the contributions of the other members. This branch of the N.A.L.U., which I had the honour of starting some six weeks ago, is now in a satisfactory and flourishing condition, having got in good working order, and has 56 members. On Monday, December 2nd, I attended the Executive Committee meeting at Leamington, and on the following day proceeded from Harbury to Northfield, via Birmingham, where Mr. Pill joined me. We then proceeded to Radnal, near Bromsgrove, where we held a labourers' meeting. It was the first meeting of the sort which had been held in the neighbourhood, but a few men who are in a pretty good position themselves, feeling for the down-trodden condition of others, had been talking the matter over, and had succeeded in getting a few others to think as they thought, enrolled their names and sent to Leamington, asking for a delegate to be sent, in order that a public meeting might be held, and the branch established. Mr. Pill and I were sent, and we addressed the meeting on the principles of unity, and the remarks were listened to throughout apparently with thankful consideration, and several new names were added to the list of members. On Wednesday, December 4th, from Radnal we proceeded to Ross, in Herefordshire, where, one mile from the town, at a place called the Vine Tree, arrangements were made for conducting a meeting. It was a very clear, frosty night, but very cold. A good many labourers got together, who, after listening to addresses delivered by Mr. Pill and myself, enrolled themselves to the number of 21, and made arrangements for a members' meeting to be held on the 16th, when it was expected that number will be more than doubled. The new branch now started is to be called the Walford branch of the N.A.L.U.; a treasurer, secretary, chairman, and two committee men were made choice of by the men, who then all gave hearty cheers for the Union and the speakers. — Thursday, December 5th, from Ross, where we stayed the night, to Welsh Newton, a small village and parish on the borders of Monmouthshire, at which we arrived after walking across the country about a dozen miles through a magnificent country of hill and vale, brooks and rivers, mountains and plains. We went over a bridge called the Kerne, which spans the Wye, and for which a charge of 1d. is made to foot passengers. It came on very wet by mid-day, and we had to wend our way through wind and storm and rain, until we arrived wet and weary at a place called the Elephant and Castle, where we met with very indifferent accommodation, at a most extravagant cost. It was a fearful night, and few people got together, but we explained our Union and the advantages to be derived there from by those who joined it, but whether it was that the men were dull of comprehension or not, I don't know, but they were very backward in coming forward, to join with us in our movement, but most likely when they have had another meeting they will be prepared to join with their fellow labourers in striking a blow for freedom. Several farmers were present, but did not interfere. — On Friday, December 6th, we walked from Welch Newton to Garway, where, at Broad Oak, under an old tree, which appears to have withstood the storms for many, many years, in wagon for a platform, we spoke to about 300 labourers on the principles of Unionism. It was a first-rate meeting. Mr. Russell and Mr. Pill gave addresses, which told well, and appeared to put a new sort of life into the people. We took 22 new names to add to the members' role [sic.], which now numbers 92, with a prospect of more joining. The men loudly cheered the delegates, and bid them God speed in their good work. On Saturday, December 7th, we walked from Broad Oak, Garway, to Ewias Harold, a distance of about eight miles, the road all along lying on the borders of Monmouthshire, the river Mannoth [sic] dividing the counties; the course of the river runs close to the road along which we wended our way. Arriving at the village we planted our Union flag near Temple Bar, and as the hour of seven o'clock come round the men began to assemble in large numbers until between three and four hundred got together, and amongst them no small force of farmers; for, be it remembered, this was the first labourers' meeting that had been held in this village, and we were not surprised that our enemies should storm and rage, which they did; but out motto being onward, in spite of opposition we pursued our course, amid the sneering and jeering of the farmers and the cheering of the men we went on with our meeting and brought it to a successful issue. We fully led the men to understand that Union and combination was the wisest policy we could pursue. Whilst Mr. Russell was up in the cart speaking to the people a large farmer in the neighbourhood rode up on horseback, shouting at the top of his voice that we were not wanted here, as the men were all perfectly satisfied and contented. Mr. Russell told him to speak for himself and not for others, remarking that we had no doubt at all but that he was satisfied and contented with his lot in life; to all appearance he done his body well, rode a good horse, had a good home to go to, with a well-stocked larder, and no doubt to-night would have his steeming [sic] hot glass of toddy or punch, put on his nightcap, and soon forget himself and everybody else. While the people were cheering the speakers he (the farmer) rode off, apparently with a pill that he had a difficulty to swallow. Then, to prevent the men from joining the Union, the farmers offered the men a quantity of drink, one of them saying he had paid for twelve quarts, and that they could have any quantity if they would not listen to us. Mr. Gibberd, the landlord, came up to the room, saying he should make a charge of 10s. for the use of the room, when a little while before he said we might go in, and gave us the key of the door, but I suppose he was bought over by the farmers. We had to turn out of doors, where we gave three hearty cheers for the Union, and after singing the march song we bid them farewell, after showing them the way to form a branch of the N.A.L.U., and promising to hold another meeting in the course of a month. — On Sunday, December 8th, we held a very important afternoon service in connection with the Union at Ewias Harold.

Edwin Russell, Reports in the Labourers' Union Chronicle , No. 17 (Dec. 14, 1872), p. 6

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