Story of the Seven Men of Jarrow put into the limelight has hometown remembers pioneers of trade union movement

An afternoon of commemorations have been held in tribute to the Seven Men of Jarrow who were banished to Australia after objecting to poor working conditions at their colliery.

Saturday, 1st June 2019, 4:25 pm
Shamrock Street perform at the Jarrow Gin and Ale House in Walter Street.

Live Irish music has been performed this afternoon at the Jarrow Gin and Ale House in Walter Street, which stands close to where the Albert Pit once stood.

In 1832, the members of the Northern Union of Pitmen objected to the tough conditions, with nine of the men rounded up and put in Durham Prison - two Thomas Kenare and Thomas Pringle later escaped.

Shamrock Street perform at the Jarrow Gin and Ale House in Walter Street.

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The remaining men were found guilty of conspiracy by a judge and sent to the penal colonies for life.

They were taken in irons to Botany Bay on New South Wales, Austrilia, leaving their wives and children to fend for themselves.

Today, the town has remembered the men - Thomas Armstrong, John Barker, Isaac Ecclestone, David Johnson, John Smith, Batholomew Stephenson and John Stewart.

Tomorrow, wreaths will be laid between 9.15am and 10.15am at the Jobling Memorial in Tyne Street, with speeches by the Mayor of South Tyneside, Councillor Norman Dick and Alan Mardghum, president secretary of Durham Miners' Association (DMA).

Jarrow Gin and Ale House in Walter Street hosted today's commemorations.

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The ceremony will also be part of a day filled activities as part of the Jarrow Festival.

Dave Douglass is secretary of the Follonsby Wardley Miners' Lodge Association, which backed today's event alongside the National Education Union, South Tyneside Council, the DMA, Tyne and Wear Community Foundation and South Tyneside Community Fund.

The retired miner, who has written Red Banners, Green Rosettes, said: "The Seven Men of Jarrow Commemoration is being held for the third year and we brought it back because it had never been commemorated before, it is from a very bitter page in history that had disappeared.

Dave Douglass, secretary of the Follonsby Wardley Miners' Lodge Association.

"Nobody had written anything about it and we only became aware of it from one line that referred to it in a book by Ellen Wilkinson, The Town That Was Murdered, which is about Jarrow.

"People need to realise that the terms and conditions we have today is because of pioneers of the trade union like these, who showed unbelievable heroism to bring these changes about."

The appearance by Shamrock Street band was a nod to the fact many who came to the North East had their roots in Ireland, with the Labour movement in the area the Irish Labour Party, which adopted a green rosette.

Ged Cuskin, the band's fiddle, vocalist and whistle player, who was joined by Paul Lucas on banjo and mandolin and Martin Finney on percussion, said it was an honour for them to play.

Dave Douglass addresses the audience at today's event.

"We're delighted and proud to support this event and it's an important event, equaled only by the Tolpuddle Martyrs who also helped found the trade union movement.

"For the last three years this has been done and it's an important event in marking the trade union history."

The Tolpuddle Martyrs were a group of six agricultural labourers in the village of Tolpuddle in Dorset, England, who were convicted of swearing a secret oath as members of the Friendly Society of Agricultural Labourers in 1834 and also sent to an Australian penal colony.

More can be found about the Seven Men of Jarrow via its Facebook page, The Seven Lads of Jarrow.

The Jarrow Festival will also include a banner parade, led by the Felling Silver Band, with the Follonsby Miners' Lodge, the Mayor of South Tyneside and the Northern Region of the National Education Union, leaving Jarrow Town Hall at 10.30am, with the march to head for Drewitts Park.

Ged Cuskin, of Shamrock Street, performing at the event.