Advertisement

The Great Strike, 1889

  • John Lovell

Abstract

The revival of mass waterside unionism in the summer of 1889 occurred in circumstances that were in some respects notably different from those that characterised the movement of 1872. Whereas the movement of the early seventies achieved little publicity, being unaccompanied by a port-wide strike (or indeed any prolonged stoppage), the opposite was true of 1889. The great dock strike that year attracted so much attention nationally that it became one of the most celebrated events in the annals of the British labour movement, and it was this strike which directly stimulated a revival of organisation throughout the port. Public interest in the 1889 strike stemmed from its somewhat sensational and dramatic quality. Small-scale stoppages of short duration were nothing rare on the waterfront, but this one embraced all port workers simultaneously, including the most despised and degraded quay labourers at the north-bank docks, and its length came to be measured by weeks rather than days. The fact that it occurred in the metropolis, and that the strike leaders daily conducted the men in great orderly processions which marched from dockland right into the heart of the City of London, served further to focus the attention of public opinion.

Keywords

South Side South Bank North Bank Contract System Port Worker 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Notes

  1. 8.
    See accounts in Ben Tillett, Memories and Reflections (1931) pp. 94–7, and The Dockers’ Record, May 1890, pp. 1–2.Google Scholar
  2. 16.
    See his autobiography, pp. 98–114; also George Howell, Trade Unionism — New and Ola (1891) pp. 152–4.Google Scholar
  3. 19.
    J. H. Wilson, My Stormy Voyage Through Life (1925) p. 159.Google Scholar
  4. 24.
    The following account is drawn from Howell, Trade Unionism, pp. 152–4, and J. Saville, ‘Trade Unions and Free Labour: the background to the Taff Vale Decision’, in Essays in Labour History (1960), ed. by Asa Briggs and J. Saville.Google Scholar
  5. 27.
    Will Thorne, My Life’s Battles (1925) pp. 67–73.Google Scholar
  6. 28.
    See especially E. J. Hobsbawm, ‘British Gas-Workers 1873–1914’, in Labouring Men (1964).Google Scholar
  7. 37.
    For Mann’s early life see Dona Torr, Tom Mann, and his own Memoirs (1923). See also Tillett, Memories, pp. 114–15 and 120–1.Google Scholar
  8. 95.
    D. W. Crowley, ‘The Origins of the Revolt of the British Labour Movement from Liberalism, 1875–1906’ (Ph.D. thesis, London, 1952), ch. xi.Google Scholar
  9. 107.
    See description by the society’s secretary (Mr Webb) in R.C. on Labour (1892), C. 6708, Evidence Group B, vol. II.Google Scholar
  10. 114.
    Harry Gosling, Up and Down Stream (1927) PP. 53–4.Google Scholar
  11. 115.
    Gosling came from an old family of Thames rivermen, but, unlike most of his fellows in the trade, he quickly developed an interest in the affairs of the wider labour movement. He became General Secretary of the Lightermen’s Union in 1893. He was active in local labour politics and became a member of the L.C.C. in 1898. Between 1910 and 1914 he was, apart from Tillett, the most influential union leader on the London waterfront. A gentle, tactful man, he was, as Bullock has said, the perfect chairman (Alan Bullock, The Life and Times of Ernest Bevin (1960) p. 62).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© J. C. Lovell 1969

Authors and Affiliations

  • John Lovell
    • 1
  1. 1.University of KentCanterburyUK

Personalised recommendations