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Veterans of the Industrial Army

Colliery employees splendid record of work.
North Cheshire Herald, 28 Jan 1927.

Back row (left to right): Samuel Mallinder (aged 80), 50 years service; John Dean (71), 48 years service; John Stansfield (67), 57 years service; Charles Rothwell (72), 50 years service; Daniel Wagstaff (65), 57 years service.

Seated (left to right): Arthur Pickles (73), 63 years service; John Harrison (80), 68 years service; John Bowker (63), 51 years service; Samuel Redfern (73), 58 years service.

Photo: G J Leech, Denton.

The Denton Colliery Co. must hold the record in this district for the number of its veteran employees. Nine employees have a total of 502 years' service, the highest being 68, and the lowest 48. Each man is carrying on; the older ones in positions which fit their age, and are sinecures as a reward for faithful service. The group photograph, which is probably unique in local industry, presents these nine veterans as they are to-day, each contented in his work. Taking them as they appear in the photograph, their careers make interesting reading.

The first on the back row is Samuel Mallinder, who has fifty years' continuous service. He is 80 years of age, and lives in William Street, off Hyde Road. He has had charge of the oil chamber since he had his hand injured in an accident some time ago down the pit. Samuel has a reputation as a pugilist, and although only about five feet four (inches) (tall), he is a good man with his fists. In the old days he could boast of more scraps than any other man in Denton, and he is not afraid of confession (confessing) that he lost more bouts than anyone else in the same line. Asked when he had his last bout he said it was only a few weeks ago, and he won it.

John Dean is a native of Staffordshire, but has been living at Denton nearly fifty years. He resides at 245, Stockport Road, and has forty-eight years' continuous service. He was a carter until a few years ago when he was given charge of the grain chamber. His work is to look after the feeding of the twelve horses on top, and the eight ponies underground. He is a conscientious workman, and the appearance of the Denton Colliery horses is a tribute to him. John is a reserved individual, and for many years (he) was a prominent member of the P.S.A. Brotherhood (Pleasant Sunday Afternoon Brotherhood).

John Stansfield is the assistant under-manager, and has occupied that position with credit during most of the 57 years he has been employed. He is 67 years of age, and lives at Two Trees Lane. He is mainly responsible for the efficient working of the pumps, a job in which he (has) taken a keen interest. He could have obtained his certificate many years ago had he not been too engrossed in his work to apply. He commenced at Denton Colliery as a wagon lad on the tramway, between the Great Wood Pit and the Top Pit, and by application to his work he has improved his position. He is one of the prominent members of the Haughton Wesleyan Church and School and is a trustee of the church.

Charles Rothwell is a nephew of a former owner of Denton Colliery, Mr. Peter Rothwell, and he came with several others from the Clifton Yard Pit fifty years ago, when his uncle took over the ownership. Starting as pit carpenter he has held that position ever since. He is 72 years of age and lives at Sunnyside, Two Trees Lane. He has always been a prominent member of Haughton Green Co-operative Society, and served for many years as president. He is still on the committee, and taken (he takes) a keen interest in its progress. A strong trades unionist, he has held the position of president of the local branch of the Colliery Workers and Kindred Trades Union. Like most colliery employees, he is a gardener, and for many years was one of the prominent officials of the Cock Hotel Society. His son is Mr. Fred Rothwell, the captain of the St. Lawrence's C.C. (Cricket Club), and father and son are excellent examples of British sportsmen.

A licensed critic

Of Daniel Wagstaff a story of lifelong devotion to work could be written. Dan is the one staff man (salaried worker) in this interesting group, and though only 65 years of age, he has 57 years of continuous service to the Denton Colliery. He is known as 'the farmer,' because he knows as much about horses and animals as any farmer. Dan has charge of all the surface labourers and carters, and there is not an inch of ground around the colliery that Dan does not know blindfold. He has a way all (of) his own, borne of a life-time's association with the place, and he 'cheeks' everybody, from office boy to directors with impunity, and everyone accepts Dan's caustic comments smilingly.

Dan started work when he was about seven years of age as the boy who brought the letters from the old post office. After a time he was permitted to go on Mr. Peter Rothwell's pony, his father being the coachman. When his father died Dan was given the position of coachman, and he started to make himself indispensable as the outside man, interesting himself in every phase of colliery work. He lives next door to the colliery, at 310, Stockport Road. During the 1921 strike (Note: It was a lock-out more than a strike and it started on 1 April 1921. It lasted for three months when the miners returned to work with wage cuts) Dan was one of the eight or ten men who kept the colliery engines going (to pump water out of the mine). During the recent strike (Note: The General Strike, 3-12 May 1926 with miners staying on strike until October/November 1926, returning to work with wage cuts) he was in charge during the absence of the officials, and carried out his duties admirably. Dan Wagstaff and Denton Colliery are synonymous terms. The type of faithful servant of which Dan is a worthy example is rare in these days. Loyal, diligent and conscientious his position at Denton Colliery is such that no one could really succeed him.

The four men seated in the group have between them 240 years' service. The first one, Arthur Pickles, is 73 years of age, and lives at Two Trees Lane. He has 63 years' service to his credit. He is an old collier, and (who) worked at the face until the management found him a position as (a) labourer on the surface.

In his work Arthur is in daily contact with his brother-in-law, Samuel Redfern, seen on the extreme (right) end of the front row. It is one of the amusing experiences at the colliery to hear these two relatives contending over some trivial matter, and the way they settle their little differences in typical collier fashion can be better imagined than described.

Arthur is the second oldest in years of service in the group, and he is a true type of collier usually to be seen with half a clay pipe in his mouth. He is an old supporter of the Haughton Green Methodist Primitives (on Henry Street, off Haughton Green Road).

The next figure in the group is one of the most remarkable working men in the district. John Harrison, known to everybody as 'Owd Jacky.' This nickname he got when a young man, through performing a trick in the pit which the victim said was not a lad's trick, but an 'Owd mon's.' It was done at the expense Samuel Redfern's brother 'Jave,' or Joseph, who took snuff and while he was enjoying a pinch Jacky removed the bag of carrots which he was taking to the ponies.

Jacky Harrison, like many men who have lived to four-score years and more, has lost count of his years, and when asked his age, he was not sure whether [illegible] he was 80 or over. Those half a century [illegible] younger than 83. He is a remarkable man for his age, over six feet (tall), and as hearty as a man half his age, and younger than most men in their forties. For 68 years he has been working at Denton Colliery; forty years of that period were spent as (a) deputy (Note: A deputy was an official in charge of safety). He is proud of the fact that during the whole of that time he never sacked a man and never had a man seriously injured under his charge. He holds the record as the oldest living deputy.

Nearly assaulted a policeman

In 1921 he was taken out of the pit owing to age, though he still retained his fine physique, and was given the position of night watchman. Very soon he had a nocturnal encounter, which would have upset most young men. It was during the days of the outrages supposed to be organised by Sinn Feiners. In the early hours of a dark winter morning he heard a movement near the magazine (Note: A small stone-built powder house north of the site). Gripping his stick, which was a prop from the shaft of one of the carts, he made his way to the spot from whence the noise came. After an altercation he was preparing to demonstrate his strength when he discovered the intruder to be a policeman in plain clothes who was like Jacky vigilantly looking round to see if everything was alright.

Another encounter was a fortnight ago, when a stranger entered his cabin unannounced, and commenced to bed himself down. Jacky asked him his business, and told him to clear out. The reply from the drunken intruder was 'I shanna for an owd b-gg-r like thee.' He soon had reason to regret his rudeness, and this man, whoever he is, will never forget that Friday night visit to Denton Colliery in search of cheap lodgings. Jacky heard later that he was a Denton man, and that he had been heard talking in a pub 'about getting knocked about by one old enough to be his grandfather.' Jacky comes of a family noted for its longevity. His father, a collier worked in the pit for nearly seventy years, and died at 89; his mother was 85.

He started in the pit when he was short of nine years of age, and received tenpence per day, out of which he had to provide his own candles for use in the pit. (Note: In spite of the known hazards of using open flames, the practice was often permitted). His job was to open and close the door for the horses [should read ponies]. He never went to school, but managed to teach himself writing, and to-day 'Owd Jacky's' handwriting is as neat as any schoolboys'.

Taking his mind back to old Denton, Mr. Harrison spoke of the old Hulme's Pit and the Hardfield Pit in Dark Lane (This was one of several pits to the east of Mill Lane). There was the Bayley Pool Pit, near where the sewage works are now (This pit was situated roughly midway between the southern end of Horse Close Wood and the northern end of a loop in the river Tame). In his younger days Denton Market Place was a field owned by John Redfern, and there was a pond for the cattle to drink from in the middle. The Old King's Head hotel, called the 'Bull Coat,' was an old-fashioned building, with its entrance down some steps.

In those days colliers rarely saw daylight in winter except on Sundays. When a pastime came round groups of colliers used to gather with their home-brewed ale and one newspaper, which would be read by the best scholar of the party. There was no setting off in those days (that is, going for a day trip or holiday), and no theatres or pictures. Cock fighting was a popular sport, and carried on just below the Fletcher's Arms. A man named Andrews, from Gee Cross, had a fine lot of well trained birds. He used to be challenged by Denton men, notable among whom was John Atkinson, known as 'Owd Joney.' Jacky was a boy then, and he used to watch the fights from the branches of a tree. There were no policemen in the district then. The first officer was Sergt. Grimshaw. He has worked under three different managements at Denton Colliery, John and Jacob Fletcher, Peter Rothwell, and now Mr. Davies. Mr. Harrison says there never was a better master than the present one.

Known widely as a competent judge of fruit, flowers and vegetables Jacky Harrison has officiated as judge at flower shows in Denton and Hyde for over thirty years. He was for twenty-seven years the judge at the West End show. He is also a canary breeder, and he has won many prizes. In his cottage home by the riverside at Arden, Mr Harrison and his wife have as prettiest spot as any in the district. The house is old fashioned, but cosy, and it is surrounded by gardens and poultry runs, and it forms a picture of country restfulness just the ideal spot for the spending of a happy eventide of life by a man who has done his duty well.

The next man on the group is John Bowker, foreman of the yard, and enginewright. He started working at Denton Colliery 51 years ago. He is 63 years of age, and lives at 455, Stockport Road. For twenty years he was a widower, and by his consistent endeavour he rose to be yard foreman fourteen years ago. To fit himself for this work he had a course of technical education in electricity and engineering at the Dukinfield mining class. Later he went to the Manchester School of Technology for electrical and mechanical instruction (now part of the University of Manchester). He has charge of over forty men, and everyone knows Jack Bowker's ability, and respects his authority. He spends his leisure in walking, and knows Derbyshire well.

Samuel Redfern is 73 years of age, lives in Stockport Road, and has given 58 years' of service to Denton Colliery. Twelve or fourteen years ago he went to Canada, and stayed there for about three years; he worked for his father-in-law, a foreman at a chemical works. He lived within a stone throw of the big theatre which was burnt down recently, and over 70 lives lost. His job to-day is emptying coal into the bunkers for the boilers. A man with a quaint wit, which is sharpened by a broad dialect, Samuel is a popular figure everywhere. The male members of his family have always been colliers. His father was the under-manager when the colliery was owned by the Fletcher family.

John Bowker died at Denton on the 23 March 1936, aged 73 years John Dean died at Denton in 1929, aged 73 years John Harrison's date of death is uncertain Samuel Mallinder died at Denton in 1930, aged 82 years Arthur Benjamin Pickles died at Denton in 1933, aged 80 years Samuel Redfern died at Audenshaw in 1938, aged 84 years Charles Rothwell died at Denton in 1929, aged 78 years John William Stansfield died at Denton in 1929, aged 70 years Daniel Wagstaff died at Denton in 1933, aged 71 years

The career of William Henry Marsland

William started his employment at Denton Colliery on his 14th birthday in 1911. At first he worked as a jigger for 11d per hour. Later he was promoted to the position of taker-off at 13½d per hour.

A jigger was a miner who operated the brake of an underground self-acting incline, known as a jig, where descending waggons full of coal were used to haul up ascending empty waggons. If the incline was the reverse way round then a steam engine was used for haulage purposes. A taker-off was a miner who detached or attached waggons from or to a haulage rope. A similar job description was that of the hooker-on.

William was born in Hazel Grove, Cheshire, in 1896 and he was the son of William Marsland and Mary Julia Elizabeth Jentzsch who were married in Stockport in 1892. The 1911 census records that he was then living with his parents on Lewis Street, North Reddish. He married Nellie Bowers at Hope Congregational Chapel, Denton, in 1920 and subsequently the couple lived on Manor Road, Haughton Green. Ultimately he became a Denton Councillor and he was the Chairman of Denton Urban District Council in 1954-55. He died in Tameside in 1976, aged 79 years.

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