Ed Barrett reads out a letter written by Tom Mann, leader of the 1911 transport strike

Resource Type: Audio | Posted on 22nd July 2011 by Liam Physick

Ed Barrett, director of the 2011 production of Rob Johnston’s play Rid the World, about the 1911 transport strike in Liverpool, reads out a letter written by Tom Mann, the syndicalist who led the strike. Mann talks of how successful the strike has been, his meeting in the House of Commons with Keir Hardie and George Lansbury, two leading members of the young Labour Party (telling them about Bloody Sunday, among other things), and the power of the strike committee

Interviewee: Ed Barrett

Interviewee Gender: Male

Interview Transcript

So Tom Mann wrote this letter to his wife, just as things were really coming to a peak in Liverpool and, I’m not going to attempt the accent, he was from the Midlands (audience laughs). If I attempt the accent you’ll go away thinking he was from Liverpool (audience laughs). “My dear Elsie, I am still all right: no accident, and in perfect health. You’ll now that matters have developed here, culminating yesterday in the stoppage of the trams, and a serious reduction of electric light. Today the overhead railways will stop, and the dock gates are closed, by us, all along the line. Liverpool is tied up: as fast as they brought military, we applied the strike and yesterday, the brought the battleship Antrim, and two more will, or have by now, arrived, and still solidarity beats them all. You will, I think, remember I told you about my talking with Hardie, in the House of Commons, and Lansbury came along, and when I briefly expounded industrialism, he expressed his regret, and said, ‘I have gone back 40 years.’ Well he, Lansbury, (indecipherable) Parliament about the police charge, so he came down for a few hours yesterday, and expressed his utter astonishment at what we’ve been able to do, and how impossible he thought it to be when I spoke to him in Parliament. Well, railways will stop tonight, unless anything happened in London late last night to avoid it. The four railwaymen’s societies jointly sent the instructions to their branches by wire. It cost over £1000 to do it. So many branches; this in itself is a great achievement. So much the greater than seemed possible even three weeks ago, that the men who agreed upon common action seemed astonished at it themselves. By many tradesmen here I am looked upon as a dictator because my signature opens a clear way for them to get provisions. They don’t turn to (indecipherable) and ask for convoy, which they could get. Our strike committee permit is of greater value. It is not merely amusing or a powerful object lesson to see a military convoy escorting three wagons, some 300 men often to guard it. Then, another three wagons come along with a strike committee authorisation, and not a person with them but carters. Lord Mayor, Head Constable, police special constables, military and gunboats all sink into insignificance by the side of working-class solidarity, and even a fool can see it in operation at this hour, in this city. That in the Daily Mail which I sent yesterday was really an interview, not an article, but it gets there pretty well, and their article is not too bad. The admissions are most significant. Of course, I have to walk to and from town and in addition yesterday, I went to the funeral of one of our committee-men, David Kenny, the sailors’ secretary, the man who first wrote to me from Liverpool about my being requested to act down here. He underwent an operation and died, and the funeral march was three miles long each way. He was a municipal councillor, and a great man with the Catholics, and selling (indecipherable) on a big scale. I can’t get to Eccles for Sunday, a taxi would cost full and £3 and, I suppose, much more by evening time. I suppose this deadlock will last another couple of days, and the negotiations will commence. I don’t think we need worry. Hope you have a nice day of course then, I wish you could have had a week. Best love to all, Dadda.”

Tagged under: docks, 1911 strike, army, police, navy, tom mann, sectarianism, strike committee

Categorised under: Work & Industry

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