Picture of Edwin Russell

Edwin Russell

places mentioned

Oct. 22 to 26: Breaking up the Fallow Ground

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BREAKING UP THE FALLOW GROUND. — On Tuesday Oct. 22nd, Mr. Russell (the well-known union delegate) started from Harbury station, in company with Mr. G.Jordan, another delegate, for Ledbury, Herefordshire, where it was arranged for them to hold a meeting near the Market Hall, this being the first in a series on new ground in this county. The time specified for commencing the meeting was 7 p.m., and as that hour approached you might see that there was something out of the common order about to take place, and as it had been market day it was thought that a considerable number of farmers would put in an appearance at our meeting. Mr. Jordan commenced by singing the marching song of the Union ("There's nothing like the Union"). Three or four hundred persons got together, and, as the meeting progressed, there could not have been less than 1,000 people present, mostly hard-handed labourers, with their wives. The farmers hooted and yelled, and interfered, and although we said if they would kindly wait until we had done, they should have their say, and we would listen to them, but they would not be advised, and so they had to put up with the consequences. The people would not put up with their ill manners any longer, so they shuffled them out of the crowd, thumping and punching them as they went. This was repeated again and again, and certainly in all the delegates' experience they had never seen such a scene as at Ledbury that night.. One farmer, in running away from his tormentors, went into a public house where several labourers were sitting: He said if he might stop there he would treat them with glasses of rum and water all round, but they told him they wanted neither him or his glasses, and so they turned him out to those who had driven him in. Well, although the meeting was so large, noisy, and lively, the delegates went on and advocated the cause of the National Agricultural Labourers' Union. A good impression was made, and Mr. Forster, who has consented to act as secretary for this part, will meet the men next Monday night for the purpose of forming a branch.

PUTLEY.— On Wednesday, Oct. 23rd, Messrs. Russell and Jordan walked on to Putley, a large scattered parish, with but few inhabitants, where, near to the blacksmith's shop, on the village green, they commenced to sing and prepare for the meeting. Only a few people had at that time put in an appearance. Two farmers, taking advantage of the small party of labouring men, tried to ride "roughshod" over them and put an end to the meeting almost before it began. But it was no go; the people kept gathering together from various places round, and by-and-bye they (the farmers) retired from the field. From 9s. to 10s. is about the style of wages in this part. Well may the poor fellows say they need a Union, or something else, to enable them to better their condition. A good branch is likely to be formed in this place, as, in spite of the opposition, the men seem very determined.

MONDIFORD.— On Thursday, Oct. 24th, Messrs. Russell and Jordan held a meeting near the blacksmith's shop. They brought the Union principles well before the people (about 400 in number), who paid all attention. They urged upon them the necessity of self-help, and advised them to combine for mutual protection. This village will join in with Fownhope and become a united branch of the N.A.L.U.

STOKEADETH.— On Friday, Oct. 25th, from Mondiford to Stokeadeth, where a meeting was held near to the Foley Arms. The whole of the village, or nearly so, is held by Lady Emily Foley, whose mansion stands full in view near the high road between Ledbury and Hereford. The night proved very unfavourable for the open-air meeting, but as they could have no room;— indeed, writes Mr. Russell, they scarcely seemed to have courage at the inn to give us entertainment for the night, for fear of the parson or the Lady Emily, so the delegates took their stand about 100 yards away from the public house, near to the station on the Great Western line. They had an old box brought to stand on, which served as a platform, and a lantern being procured, they had a light on the subject, and they proceeded with the meeting, although the rain came down thicker and faster. Mr. Jordan gave a first-rate speech. About 400 people attended and stood well to listen. Mr. Russell' speech was necessarily short, as it would not have been wise to prolong the meeting. Hearty cheers were given for the Union and the labourers. Having concluded the meeting, the delegates went and arranged for the forming of a branch of the N.A.L.U., which will be done in the next village, Weston Beggent.

WITHINGTON.— On Saturday, Oct. 26th, Messrs. Russell and Jordan held a first-rate meeting here, and although the weather was again very unfavourable, yet the men tramped in from a distance until there would be between three and four hundred labourers and their wives (for the women seem to take as much interest in our meetings as the men). They cheered and applauded the speakers while they advocated the Union. Both Mr. Jordan's and Mr. Russell's speeches were well given and well received. The delegates formed a new branch of the N.A.L.U. by enrolling 24 names, made choice of officers, and set the thing in working order, with every prospect of good success, although there is a lot of grumbling and threatening on the part of the farmers. On Sunday, Oct. 27th, it was arranged to hold religious services out of doors for the labourers. Mr. Jordan gave an address in the morning to about 150 people, at eleven o'clock — all quiet, orderly, and peaceable. At five o'clock they met in the same place, when Mr. Russell gave an address to more than 1,500 people, and, although it was such a vast assemblage as had never before assembled in the village, it was remarkable to see the devotedness and reverence manifested, all seeming to be impressed with the importance of paying attention to God's word.

Edwin Russell, Reports in the Labourers' Union Chronicle , No. 11 (Nov. 2, 1872), p. 7

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