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Book Title:

The Good Old Days: Then and Now


The Good Old Days: Then and Now by S. Box

Published by: S. Box, The Firs, Marden, Hereford

Printed by: Reliance Printing Works, Halesowen, Worcs.

SECTION 2. Chapter 1.



We now suddenly realised something was wrong with our agricultural industry. We approach the farmers and appreciate he also has his legitimate grievances. The unthinking man asks: " What Are Those? " Undoubtedly they are climatic, combined with the fluctuation of prices. During the nineties and up to 1912, the price of wheat fluctuated between 3/- and 6/- per bushel. An acre of wheat produces on the average 30 bushells, the cost being at that period 120/- per acre—loss at 3/- a bushel 30/-, but at 6/- a bushel a profit of 60/-.

Note: this verified our statement that in 1912 onward the labourers were justified in asking for higher wages. During the war agriculture made large profits in comparison with other industries. The fact that landlords and farmers gain huge profits out of the needs of the people during war we can understand their Conservatism.

During the 17th and 18th century there were large extents of common lands but private Acts of Enclosure, 4,000 in all. 700,000 acres were enclosed prior to those Acts, whilst a like amount was enclosed, bringing terrible poverty to the peasantry, and created a landless class, which developed. During the 18th century the Industrial Revolution claimed the attention of the people, and the agricultural workers' conditions became intolerable. Many of them escaped by becoming factory workers, railwaymen, navvies, etc. This proceeded for upwards of a century, when the country became absorbed in industrial pursuits to the neglect of her vital industry—agriculture. Other countries were alive to its importance; take for example the numbers employed in agriculture per head of population: Britain 9.2, Belgium 22.7, Germany 35.2, France 42.7. The foregoing covered the salient points in an address to the Hereford T.C. (Trades Council).  We now see the need for a party concerned with the interests of country people.

There existed in Hereford at that time a strong branch of the Independent Labour Party; their work was of an educative nature, holding meetings in the Old Guild Hall and St. Peter's Square. The chief speakers were a Mr. John Hall, a city teacher; Mr. S. Powell, a draper and clothier; Mr. W. Collins, a draper; and visiting speakers from other towns. Many of the progressive men and women of the city and county met at the office of Mr. Collins, in High Street, Hereford, and agreed to form a South Hereford Labour Party. At that meeting the following persons were present: Mr. W. Collins, Miss Collins, Mr. and Mrs. F. Allcott, Mr. and Mrs. T. Powell, Mr. J. Evans, Mr. and Mrs. Baker, Mr. G. Cade, Mr. K. Goodall, Mr. S. Box, and several others. A Divisional Labour   was   brought  into   being   with  Mr.   J.   Evans, a railway worker, as Chairman, and Mr. S. Box as Secretary.

It caused a flutter in the dovecotes of the orthodox parties, Conservatives and Liberals particularly; the Tories had controlled the political outlook of the city and county for many years.   The new party commenced  a vigorous campaign, as shown by the first report by the Secretary.

William Blake

William Blake (1757–1827) was an English poet, painter, and printmaker.

In the city the party gradually developed, a committee was appointed for each ward, and  a registrar elected. Propaganda meetings were held and local parties formed at Ledbury and Ross. Many members were made and meetings well attended at Yarkhill, Madley, Sutton, Preston-on-Wye, Pixley, Stretton Sugwas, Hentland, Kern Bridge, Wormbridge, Whitchurch, Allensmore and Kilpeck.  Volunteers came forward to assist in the work of the party, and an election fund was opened by Mr. G. Cade, acting as treasurer.  We continued to flourish under the able guidance of Mr. Collins, whose life was dominated by the earnest desire to serve humanity—his favourite quotation being, at every meeting:

I will not cease from mental strife,
Nor shall the sword sleep in my hand
Till we have built Jerusalem
In England's fair and pleasant land.

Rapid progress was made, so the party decided to put forward a candidate for the 1918 Parliamentary Election. At a special meeting held for the selection of this candidate, it was unanimously agreed to ask the Secretary, Mr. S. Box, to stand and to launch an appeal for funds to run the election. This was issued by Mr. Collins, and read:


Prospective Candidate for the Hereford Division.
An Appreciation and Appeal for an Election Fund of

Mr. Sidney Box, Secretary of the Workers' Union, President of Hereford Trades Council, Member of the Agricultural Wages Boards of the Counties of Hereford, Brecon and Radnor, Organising Agent to the Herefordshire Labour Party and member of twenty committees of Labour and Public Bodies, was unanimously and enthusiastically nominated as prospective candidate for Parliamentary honours at a special meeting held at Hereford on Saturday, 8th June.

The meeting was not only evidence of goodwill and confidence in Mr. Box as a man, but a promise of success on polling day. He is known and respected throughout the Division for his labours on behalf of the agricultural workers for many long and wearisome years. It has won for him distinction and honour only accorded to few people. He is a worthy successor to Joseph Arch, whose unexampled devotion in the seventies to the cause of Agricultural labourers is remembered to this day. We heartily congratulate him on the high place he has won for himself in the county of his birth. He is a man born and nurtured on agricultural pur­suits, sharing their hardships and sacrifices; he therefore speaks from personal experience of the effect on the class to which he belongs. Though seeking to benefit his own class he is not unmindful of the fact that he is only a part of the community; still, not an unimportant part. He is the most aggressive man for his inches in the local Labour Party, with a definite programme and a faith that will move mountains.
His watchword is:

Since I am bom to live my life
And may not keep an easy heart,
Some men may sit and drink apart;
I bear a banner in the strife.

And on his banner is inscribed—Not Peace, Retrenchment and Reform, but Justice to Masters and Men alike; equality of opportunity to every child alike without distinc­tion of class, educationally and in every pursuit of life. Free­dom of speech, of publication in the Press, of travel and of choice of residence. Freedom is the vital breath of manhood.

Mr. Box is a man with a vision, whose moral courage is as great as his physical courage, whose audacity, self reliance, power of initiation  and unending perserverance has been tried and tested. His glowing enthusiasm is catching, he may not be eloquent in the Gladstonian manner, but is eloquent in the powers of the gifts of the Seer, and his devotion to the bottom dog in the social scale.  The centre and source of his power is—his complete inner and outer knowledge of Agricultural problems, the wonderous power he has of conveying his message to members of his class. His simple faith in the justice and righteousness of the Labour cause. One idea dominates his life, one purpose fills his mind and one purpose controls his actions. A man of this type is born to do certain work and it is our business to find the means to enable him to do it thoroughly and successfully, so a financial committee has been created with a view of raising at least £500 with Sub. Committees in every town and village in the Division.   This means business and tremedous self sacrifice of every member of the party.  Labour representation in Parliament is imperative and urgently necessary in the interests of all workers, both as citizens and wealth producers.   Our Politics in the past has been paid for us; we shall have the pleasure in the future of testing the strength of our convictions by paying for them ourselves.


The appeal was successful and enough money for the Election expenses was contributed.



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