Ma Moore and the baton charge

Photo:A police baton

A police baton

Read the original reports of the incident and the subsequent trial

This is the report in the Midlothian Advertiser newspaper of the famous protest organised by Mrs Sarah Moore of Addiewell (Ma Moore).  The protest was a ‘sit-in’ by women and children outside the offices of West Calder Parish Council, the body responsible for paying relief to the families of striking miners.  The protestors were dispersed by a police baton charge.


Evening Scenes in the Village

On Saturday a large demonstration took place in the village as a protest against the Parish Council having stopped the payment of relief [to striking miners]. The leaders asked that the relief be continued, but the Clerk was on holiday.

The demonstrators remained in front of the Council Chambers all the evening, and it was about midnight before they dispersed to their homes.

in a state of destitution 

The Clerk returned from holiday on Saturday night, and on Monday morning the crowd returned, and took up a position in front of the Council Chambers.  It appears that the doctor had signed lines that a number of women were in a state of destitution and physically were in need of relief.  Food lines* for these cases were asked for.  As the day wore on the, the Strike Committee arranged for the demonstrators, many of whom were women and children, getting a meal.  Tea and bread was served out to them as they sat on the street. 

A woman had fainted, and evidently some feeling had arisen between the crowd and the police, as stones were thrown.  The police replied with a baton-charge,  when the crowd broke up temporarily.  Order was speedily restored, and after a time the demonstrators left.  Additional police were drafted into the village, and in the evening the crowd gathered again.  It was getting dark, and it looked as if there would be trouble, when, about nine o’clock, the Chairman and Clerk of the Council agreed that food lines to the value of 2s 6d would be issued on Tuesday.  On this being intimated to the demonstrators, they dispersed to their homes.

On Tuesday the Clerk issued the lines as promised, and there was no further demonstration. 

*(A Food Line was a voucher that could be used to buy food.)


Court Sequel to Disturbance

A sequel to the disturbance which took place outside the West Calder Parish Council offices during the weekend was heard in Edinburgh Sheriff Court on Wednesday, when three miners appeared in custody.

All three, Alexander Gillies, James Quin, and James Davidson, were charged with having on Monday formed part of a disorderly crowd in the public road outside West Calder Parish Council offices, and conducted themselves in a disorderly manner, threatened violence to the lieges, and committed a breach of the peace, while Quin was also charged with having assaulted a Mid Calder inspector of police and an East Calder police constable, while they were in the execution of their duty at the same place.  The men pleaded guilty.

“Bash the windows”

Mr R.D.C. McKechnie, Depute-Fiscal, stated that relief had been paid to miners’ dependents, but on the day in question relief had een refused, and a disturbance arose outside the Parish Council offices.  A large crowd of some five or six hundred people collected.  Shouts of “We won’t go away until we get something”, and that a demand that the Clerk to the Council should be brought out or they would “bash the windows” were heard.

Stones were thrown, and when the police came to relieve the inspector, who was on the spot, Quin committed the assaults.  The constable was pulled about and struck.

Baton charge

The police had had to make a baton charge to clear the crowd away.

An agent stated on behalf of the men that during the disturbance, a number of women fainted, and were removed to the Parish Council room.  One of the women was a sister-in-law of Gillies, who asked the police to be allowed to get into the room and attend his relative, but this was refused.

He asked a second time, but again he was refused and he and Davidson alleged that they were pushed by the police.


In a state of starvation

Quin, who was also present in the crowd, he stated, was in a state of starvation at the time and had lost his head.  He had been living on 17s for the previous ten days, and consequently was quite destitute.  He had a wife and six children to support.

Quite destitute

On the Saturday he had walked three miles from his home, and had been told to come back on the Monday, when a deputation from the Parish Council to the Board of Health was made.  On the Monday he had come back again, buoyed up with the hope that relief would be paid, but it was intimated that the Parish Council would not grant relief.

Sheriff Donald said the charges were very serious and it was difficult to understand why applicants for relief would invade the Parish Council offices and behave in a riotous manner.

One naturally expected the husbands of those dependents who drew relief to attend, but that did not excuse any attempt to compel the Parish Council to grant relief.

£2 or twenty days

Fining Gillies and Davidson £2, with the alternative of twenty days’ imprisonment, and Quin £3 or twenty days’ imprisonment, Sheriff Donald said these penalties were very lenient in the circumstances, but they must understand that much heavier punishment would be made on such conduct on any future occasion.  The men were allowed fourteen days in which to pay their fines. 

 Midlothian Advertiser, 3 September 1926, page 2.


This page was added by Sybil Cavanagh on 10/03/2013.

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