#LEEDS1914 Repercussions for vice-chancellor after student “blacklegs” help break council strike

(Leeds, early March 1914)

Dr Michael Sadler - there's a building named after him at Leeds Uni

Dr Michael Sadler – there’s a building named after him at Leeds Uni

It’s well over two months since the dispute ended, but the repercussions of the winter strike by workers at Leeds Corporation are still being felt.

The city had ground to a halt in December when over 4,000 council workers stopped work to back their claims for an across-the-board pay increase of two shillings a week:  gas supplies were limited, only a skeleton tram service was running, street lamps weren’t lit and waste wasn’t collected.

Extra police had been drafted in to Leeds from neighbouring towns and a Special Committee of Conservative and Liberal councillors had been given powers to deal with the dispute.

The dispute over, members of the Leeds Branch of the Workers’ Educational Association, vote by a large majority in early March to chuck out their president, Dr Michael Sadler, who’s also the vice-chancellor of the recently-founded University of Leeds.

Why? Because some 200 of the university’s 600 students had been recruited by the Conservative-led council as part of its (successful) efforts to break the strike. Gasworkers’ Union leader Walt Wood tarred them as blacklegs. 

“It was decided by a large majority to depose him (Sadler) from the presidency, his action during the strike being considered directly contrary to the interests of labour, and calculated to seriously prejudice the work of the Association,” said a report in the Leeds Weekly Citizen.

“Moderate advance” for chief constable

Atcherley, when he was a captain during the Boer War

Atcherley, when he was a captain during the Boer War

While Sadler is being ejected from the post, the powers that be are meeting to decide another pay rise.

The West Riding Standing Joint Committee is discussing a proposed £200 increase (up from £900 to £1,100 a year) for the Chief Constable, Maj. Llewellyn William Atcherley.

Not everyone on the committee is convinced.

“Why, when workmen asked for 2s a week advance, did the employers get the Universities to help them defeat the men’s object on the grounds that they were asking for something unreasonable?,” one alderman is quoted as saying in the Yorkshire Evening Post.

“Major Atcherley’s salary worked out at £2 14s and 9d a day, and that there was not one man in every 5,000 in the West Riding getting as much in a week as the major gets in a day. If the present proposal was passed, it meant that, reckoned on seven days a week, he would be receiving £3 5s 9d a day, or £23 a week. It was only a question of a moderate advance of 11s a day!”

The pay increase was approved.

A former soldier who fought in the Boer War, Atcherley was back in uniform by September 1914, spending the war as a Lt Col in charge of salvage operations, recycling material damaged or abandoned at the front.

The war over, he returned briefly to his police job in the West Riding before being promoted to the Home Office to work as an Inspector of Constabulary.   


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1 Response to #LEEDS1914 Repercussions for vice-chancellor after student “blacklegs” help break council strike

  1. flohri1754 says:

    Hello … I am doing some research regarding an Australian graduate student in Physics who was at Leeds University for most of the year 1913. I am trying to get to the bottom of a story I have run across that he had to leave Leeds earlier than expected because ” … he’d got himself a little mixed up at Leeds in some political things.” His name was George Eric McDonnell Jauncey. Was wondering if that name rings a bell at all? He was a very socially/politically aware “Progressive Socialist” as he described himself. AND seeing some of the history regarding what was going on in Leeds in the period of 1912 – 1914, I can see he would have certainly had a choice of “political things” that he could have been involved with. (I don’t really see him as being one of “blackleg students”, however, even though he was certainly not well off financially).

    If the author of this blog, or anyone else, has anything to add to this, would appreciate them contacting Steve Flora …. email floras@netspeed.com.au


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