Leaving from Liverpool was possibly a frightening situation. Although the Liverpool Transport Strike did not occur until 1911, the unrest in the country was present well before that time. George Underwood and his father, William, were both railway platelayers in 1901. Some other relatives also worked in the railroad business. They would all have been aware of the concerns that were brewing. As seen from the passages below, the Hull area was affected by this unrest. George and Florence Underwood lived in Hull, Yorkshire at the time they decided to leave for Canada. Perhaps the living conditions and the uncertainty of the working atmosphere prompted them to take that train from Hull to Liverpool and onto a new life in Canada.
Excerpts from the following article help to give a feeling of the conditions in England when George and Florence decided on their future.
The Liverpool Transport Strike of 1911 by William Jones
“In the first decade of the new century real wages fell by roughly 10%, in a situation where prices were rising while money wages tended to remain static. 8 Food prices and the cost of living in general during this period rose steeply which, together with the fall in wages, pushed more people into poverty. Union membership increased quickly from 1,997,000 in 1906 to 3,139,000 in 1911, and the number of strikes also doubled during this period from 479 to 872, affecting three times as many workers. These strikes were led by railwaymen, miners and dockers, particularly in the heavily industrialised areas of South Wales, the North West and the North East. 9”
“The Liverpool Transport Strike of 1911 has been highlighted by the historian Eric Taplin as the nearest occasion this country has come to a revolution. The sequence of events built up slowly, but from June 1911, the sequence and timing of events increased, culminating in major flashpoints during August 1911.”
“Railwaymen’s union leaders representing the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway Company were co-opted on to the strike committee in Liverpool and when 1000 dock porters came out on strike on 7 August, it was agreed that all transport workers would add their support through sympathetic strike action. By the next day 4000 railway workers were on strike, over union recognition and wage demands,12 initially against the wishes of senior rail trade union officials who favoured negotiations via the conciliation boards.13 Mounted Police were used to quell disturbances at the Edge Hill goods station as clerks from the goods offices began to unload railway vans.14 “
“The Liverpool Transport Strike of 1911 lasted for nearly three months and brought the city to a standstill. It could have been avoided, but for the inflexibility of the employers to recognise trade unions and their right to represent the workers for improved pay and working conditions.”
“Although Syndicalism was minimal throughout the country, Mann’s presence and leadership had ensured that it was well represented in major cities like Hull and Liverpool, and this is where the major conflicts of the transport strike occurred. On Merseyside there were a significant number of syndicalists within the National Union of Ship Stewards, and union officials Frank Pearce and Joe Cotter, both syndicalists, worked closely with the Seamen’s and Firemen’s Union in the lead up to, and during the strike. Each group of workers supported each other’s claim in turn, and when Cotter’s members supported the striking seamen when they went on strike, it was the first time that seafarers had acted together.”
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