Join date: Jun 15, 2022

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Such tragedies had the power to unite the townspeople, at least for a time. Rich and poor alike mingled in their sorrow until the poor, once again forgetting their place in God’s scheme of things, protested against their lot. And how did they protest? They protested through societies called trade unions

Since the first national union of the Amalgamated Society of Engineers had been founded in 1851, in every town in the country where skilled workers were employed trade unions had sprung up, to the fear and consternation of the middle classes who looked upon them as a network of secret societies, whose sole purpose was to intimidate honest citizens, plot to confiscate their property, cause explosions and mob violence and bring the country to total revolution if they were allowed to get the upper hand.

The County of Durham was a hotbed of such people. They agitated in mines, in steel works, in shipbuilding yards, in factories, and it was even whispered they tried to inveigle young women into their ranks; and not only those, let it be understood, from the common herd, but women of education and property.

Such a one who was suspect in South Shields was Miss Charlotte Kean. She wasn’t accused openly of supporting trade unions because then that would be ridiculous, for she not only held shares in some quite big concerns but owned outright a number of small ones. No, they weren’t accusing her of giving her sympathy to the quarter that would eventually precipitate her ruin through business, but what they did say was, she pushed her nose into too many cultural activities in the town, activities that had hitherto been inaugurated and worked mainly by gentlemen, such as the Public Library that had been opened four years previously.

This grand building could boast its eight thousand two hundred volumes only because of generous donations from men like the Stephensons, and Mr Williamson, and Mr Moore. What was more, the library had grown out of the Mechanics’ Institute and the Working Men’s Club, and this joint establishment had its origins in the Literary, Mechanical and Scientific Institution which was one of the earliest mechanics’ institutions in the kingdom, having come into being in the November of 1825.



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