Friday 3 March 1916
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First Shipley Recruiting Tribunal brings angry exchanges, rebukes and occasional laughter
Tribunal turns down exemption for senior Salts Mill workers
Shipley’s first Recruiting Tribunal met on 21 February 1916 to consider applications from 22 men who either wanted exemption or delay from being called up to the military on grounds of working in reserved occupations, being indispensable to their work or having a family who relied on them as provider. Ten applications were refused, eight had their call up postponed and three were exempt. One application was withdrawn. The withdrawn claim and three of those rejected were senior employees at Salts Mill, including Joseph Roberts, son of the owner James Roberts Fierce exchanges Their rejection was the main talking point and led to some fierce exchanges between the Tribunal and the company secretary Mr C H Briggs who represented the company at the hearing. The first Salts applicant was Harry Griffiths, chief clerk and foreman in the worsted costing department, who Mr Briggs argued was ‘indispensable to us on the manufacturing side of the business’ but the Tribunal decided that because he was not head of the department, his application was declined.
In the case of design room clerk, James Midgley, it was pointed out that of his department of nine, ‘three gone already, three called up under the Derby scheme and one is awaiting orders from the Navy.’ Deadlock Asked if a delay would ease matters, Mr Briggs replied: ‘I am afraid from the way in which you are handling these cases the circumstances are going to be worse. ‘You have got my back against the wall now and I have to fight for these men because if we do not get them excused there is going to be a deadlock in our business such as never ought to arise or be threatened.’ Because the department had already made sacrifices Mr Midgley was given a postponement to 1 May ‘so that arrangements may be made in the meantime to ease the situation.’ When the case of clerk or works Percy Baker was considered, the Tribunal decided that he could be replaced by a man who was ineligible for the army Again Mr Briggs objected, pointing out that as well as the mill there were 850 houses to look after. ‘It would take a man years to make himself familiar with the duties that were now carried out by Mr Baker.’
But the application was refused and at that point the claim of Joseph Greenwood, warehouseman in yarn department, was withdrawn. The final Salts case was Joseph Roberts who was described as managing director and manager of the wool department and the dress goods and linings department. Asked if the department would go on without him, Mr Briggs said: ‘No he is manager, practically of the whole concern, in his father’s absence.’ He added that the Tribunal would not claim the department could carry on without Mr Roberts ‘if you knew anything about it; to which Cllr Rhodes retorted, ‘I know a good deal about it.’ Deprecate Cllr Learoyd then suggested Mr Roberts could not be expected to be responsible for all those departments to which Mr Briggs said: ‘Do not attempt to deprecate Mr Roberts in my presence’ The application was refused and Briggs announced an appeal: ‘I must tell you gentlemen that you are seriously interfering with the management of our business in taking the line of action you have done.’ He was told he could not continue to address the Tribunal after the verdict.
Roberts threatens to close Salts Mill if Tribunal verdict not reversed
A few days after the applications for exemption of senior Salts Mill staff were turned down by Shipley Tribunal, company secretary C H Briggs took up the fight again in a letter in which he said: ‘I am instructed by my senior principal to say that these works will be closed as soon as possible after Mr J H N Roberts has gone (as he is summoned to report himself at Keighley on the 8th March) as he – my senior principal – does not feel equal to carry on this undertaking alone. The strain would be unbearable.’ And reminding the Tribunal that the Board of Trade was calling on companies to maintain the export business, he informed them that the management felt it now had to withdraw its representatives from Russia and Buenos Aires. ‘It is impossible for us to continue trading if our office and particularly our shipping clerks are withdrawn.’ This was followed by a letter from mill owner James Roberts (pictured) who said if his son’s appeal was not successful the contents of Mr Briggs’ letter, which he admitted was ‘rather bald’ would apply. He said that the appeal was not so his son could avoid service – ‘Early on in the war he pressed me hard to consent to his enlistment’ – but because he himself was too unwell to run the business without his son’s help. Frequent holidays ‘I pointed out to him that that was impossible, that if I could not have my frequent holidays in Scotland I could not do my work and if he were not at Saltaire the business would have to shut down. ‘I was warned two years ago by Dr
Brian Russell that I must take my holidays if I wished to continue long in business and at the same time he told me that humanly speaking I could with care expect a long life. ‘I said I was anxious to live to bridge over the interval until my two grandsons could take a hand in my business. If this prospect were removed, one of the main incentives would be gone.’ After a paragraph putting pressure on the members of the tribunal who were councillors in the ward that included Saltaire who presumably ‘consider they are acting in accordance with the desires of the Saltaire people,’ he pointed out that the company had been ‘doing its bit.’ ‘At the beginning of the war when we were on short time, we intimated that the rent collector would not be paying any calls and no arrears of rent would accrue. ‘We promised that in cases where heads of families were in service, the income of the family would be
maintained. Since October 1914 my place in Scotland has been given over to the reception of wounded soldiers at my own entire cost. ‘Mr Briggs’ letter of the 28th ult looks rather bald. I am informed that its contents were widely known within an hour or two after it was written. You may cause that letter to be published if you think any useful object is to be attained but if you do let the contents of this letter be published along with it in their entirety.’ Physical limitations He concluded: ‘The necessity of closing down at Saltaire I contemplate with horror. The loss would be enormous to me and others and I need hardly say that physical limitations are the only ones that could cause this step to be taken What I wish to do is to clear myself of the responsibility for the taking of such a step. P.S. I am rather tired with writing this letter – too tired to take a copy of it. May I ask you to be good enough to let me have a typed copy.’ But the Tribunal appears to have been unmoved. Cllr Learoyd observed that the receipt of the letters did not affect the Tribunal at all. They had made their decision according to the evidence placed before them and to the best of their judgement and the matter was finished so far as they were concerned. Cllr Rhodes added, ‘We have no power to reconsider anything new.’ Cllr Learoyd: ‘We have no power nor any desire.’ Chairman: ‘I quite agree with what Cllr Learoyd says. We have done our work to the best of ability and we cannot undo it now.’
The members of Shipley’s first Recruiting Tribunal were: Cllr T Hill (chairman), Cllrs C E Learoyd, T F Doyle, F F Rhodes, Mr Ernest Illingworth and Mr J A Burton J.P. the military representative
Editorial support for Tribunal Members
The editorial writer of the Shipley Times & Express was clearly not impressed by the pressure that had been put on Shipley’s first Tribunal meeting. He wrote: ‘It should also be borne in mind that attempts to brow-beat or bully a court of this kind generally recoil on the heads of those who resort to such methods. ‘People who honestly feel that they are entitled to exemption on personal or business grounds or because they are engaged on work of national importance, should confine themselves to evidence in support of their claims and not make comment which is calculated to discredit the bona-fides of the Tribunal.’
Extension granted to plant potatoes
Unlike Salts Mill, Wilson and Tattersall, worsted spinners of Shipley, successfully applied for exemption for two mule winders who the Tribunal agreed were in a reserved occupation. However a claim that Mr Tattersall’s son, who was described as head clerk even though he had only been working since November, was rejected as he was not indispensable. There was laughter when a farmer asked for a postponement so he could plant potatoes before being called up. Asked why his younger brother couldn’t do the job, he replied ‘If gardening isn’t in the blood they cannot do it.’ He was given until 1 May to plant his potatoes. Examinations There was also a postponement for a divinity student so that he could sit his exams and for a cowman and shepherd whose employer said he couldn’t get a replacement at any price. Usually he employed four men but was down to two so he was given until 1 July to sort things out. A tobacconist’s assistant said he had a mother and sister to support but when he admitted he had two other sisters working and it would not be disastrous if he was called up, he was told ‘nothing less than disaster led the Tribunal to grant exemptions.’ Case postponed to 1 April as it was ‘obvious he is desirous to do his duty’ A ‘cramper’ at Salts Mill applied for postponement for domestic reasons, claiming he was only support of an aged aunt. Grant It was pointed out to him that if he joined the army and paid his aunt 6d a day from his wages, she would receive a grant from the govern- ment of 9s, so his application was rejected. A similar argument was made in turning down the application from a wool warehouseman who said he was only son at home and the only wage earner besides his sister who earned 14s or 15s per week. His father was 60 years old and had been ill for a year.