Today I post another great piece from Peter ‘Pedro’ Cutler that I’ve had in the bag for a while – undeservedly so, for it’s important and yet again shines light on someone the more lofty local mining historians seem to have cruelly overlooks: Albert Stanley MP.
I can’t really imagine why such a great man has been all but ignored by written histories of local mining, and I find the oversight somewhat curious. But then, in among the hagiographies of the likes of the Harrison clan, perhaps someone who championed the miner’s cause would seem a little incongruous….
Thanks, as ever to Peter who never tires in chasing a historical story, and whether it be boiler explosions, bad drivers or misplaced old fossils, if there’s something to be found, Peter will find it.
It’s an honour to publish his work.
Albert Stanley MP (1862-1915)
Reading the history of the Cannock Chase coalfields a few owners and engineers are described in detail, such as Harrison, Hanbury, McClean, Williamson and others. But there is one man who seems to have only been mentioned in passing, and who in the respect of the workmen would rank way above these, being Albert Stanley, a true friend of the miner.
In the comments of the article ‘Littleton Colliery 1912, another Battle of Orgreave?”, Andy Dennis pointed to the concise biography of Albert Stanley by Dawley Heritage…
In 1912 Albert Stanley was an MP; he had given character references for the accused and appealed to the Home Secretary for a reduction in the harsh sentences.
In 1900 Captain William Bealey Harrison was electioneering for MP as Unionist candidate for Lichfield. He stood against Sir Courtenay Warner of the Liberals. It is not surprising that Albert Stanley would support and canvas for the Liberals.
In October of that year the the Captain addressed at meeting at the Craddock Memorials Schools in Norton Canes. He was introduced by the Chairman Dr. W.H. Whitehouse as a Norton man, a large colliery owner, and a man upon whom they were depending for their daily bread. He added that never had the affairs of the working men been in such a flourishing condition as at present.
The Captain referred to Mr Albert Stanley and said that he would dare him to meet face to face and make the same remarks to him that he had made behind his back. He claimed that Stanley had asserted that he opposed their receiving a wage on October 1st, which was due on January 1st. He had advocated it, and it was an act of grace on the part of the employers to give the advance at once. The Captain also complained that during the strike of 1893 he was stated to have said that ‘he would make the Colliers eat grass’ …Mr Stanley reminded him of a man with two suits, a Sunday suit and a weekday-suit.
There was an exchange of letters in the Lichfield Mercury in which Albert noted Harrison’s remarks. He said that his opposition to the Captain was from a miner’s point of view, on account of his opposition to the Eight Hours Bill, and the attitude he had adopted to the Workmen’s Compensation Act. He defied Harrison to produce any statement that he had made that was not strictly true. He acknowledged that the Captain had proposed payment on the 1st of October, but had never had knowledge of the expression concerning the eating of grass. He also replied to being one person on Sunday, and another during the week;
‘that on Sunday I preach brotherly love, harmony and concord, but that when I put on my working suit I was a different man altogether, and that I reminded you of a man who did not always practice what he preached.’
During Albert’s time representing the miners he must have attended many Coroner’s Inquiries. At a miners inquest at Hednesford, just after his death, the acting Coroner SW Morgan referred to his death..
There were three things that stood out in Mr Stanley’s character, the first being his great sincerity. He did not think he had come across a man who was more genuinely sincere than Mr Stanley. The second was his intense zeal to promote and safeguard the interests of those whom he came to represent. He always watched over their interests with the utmost care, and he always put questions which were calculated to protect their interests.
Further, there was Mr Stanley’s fair mindedness… Adding to this Mr JR Felton (HM Inspector of Mines) said the whole of the Mines Inspectors in the Midland area deeply regretted the death of Mr. Stanley. He was a man of integrity of character and he was absolutely fair-minded.
At the end of the biography highlighted by Andy it says…
On his death it is said that there were drawn blinds in every mining village of Cannock Chase, as pit veterans and their sons alike felt they had lost a very great champion.
The funeral procession was about a quarter mile long, and tributes came from many mining districts. Rev. F.W. Henshall said…
No man has suffered more, and sacrificed more, than had Mr Stanley for the Cannock Chase district. He suffered with his men… in the great strike of 1893 he pledged his furniture, and even the books that he loved so much… he staked his all for the miners… A Stanley had died a martyr’s death and had lived a martyr’s life.