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The miner's soliloquy
Title : The miner's soliloquy The miner's soliloquy
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Creator : Chinner, J.H. (John Henry), 1865-1933
Source : Quiz and the lantern, 25 September 1891, p. 9
Date of creation : 1891
Format : Magazine
Dimensions : 230 x 120 mm
Catalogue record
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Description :

From the beginning the (largely) Cornish mining community of the copper triangle did not allow mine owners and managers to dictate to them. And with over two thousand miners employed by the syndicate at its height, they had the numbers to give weight to their demands. When mine managers dismissed several workers who had taken Easter Monday as a holiday in 1864, various issues came to a head, including pay rates and the extreme unpopularity of brothers, Captains Eneder and William Wormington. The miners went on strike, gathering widespread community support across South Australia as the strike moved on to May. The directors of the Wallaroo and Moonta mines were finally forced to agree to investigate the grievances, and subsequently dismissed the Wormington brothers. After nine weeks out, the miners went back to work in June.

In 1865 unhappiness at treatment received at the hands of Captain Jones saw not just the miners striking, but their wives attacking the unpopular manager, and having to be removed by the police. (Wallaroo times, 15 February 1865, p. 3) In 1874 during the 'Great strike,' the women, armed with brooms, attacked strike breakers. Following the strike the miners formed their earliest union, the 'Yorkes Peninsula Trades' and Miners' Union,' under full-time president and secretary, John Prisk. The infant union had 1,500 members. The Great Strike was caused by a proposed pay cut, unfortuinately announced a day or two after the shareholders' half yearly meeting announced a dividend of 1600 pounds. (Wallaroo times, 8 April 1874, p. 2) The miners working conditions improved from this time, but they did not hesitate to strike when they felt it was warranted - in 1877, 1880, 1889 and 1891.

The 1890s was a time of Australia-wide industrial upheaval. At Moonta, rivalling the Great Strike of 1874, the miners went on strike for five months, from September 1891 to February 1892. The issues were pay rates and the unfair system of contract work. Despite union advice against it, the miners went on strike and stayed off work for 18 weeks. They had wide-ranging support. Many miners left for Broken Hill and other places. When the government sent a police reinforcement to Moonta they found there was nothing for them to do, and the striking miners suggested 'a friendly game of cricket.' However the extra police were withdrawn. (People's weekly, 3 October 1891, p. 2)

Coverage year : 1891
Place : Moonta (S. Aust.)
Region : Yorke Peninsula
Further reading :

'A conversation between two miners,' People's weekly, 9 January 1892, p. 5

'End of the Moonta strike,' Kadina and Wallaroo times, 3 February 1892, p. 2

'Moonta strike,' Illustrated Adelaide post, 16 April 1874, p. 16

'Moonta strike,' Kadina and Wallaroo times, 21 October 1891, p. 2

'More recollections, less reflections by Uda Naw,' People's weekly, 16 April 1921, p. 3

Moss, Jim. Sound of trumpets: history of the labour movement in South Australia, Cowandilla, S. Aust.: Wakefield Press, 1985

Payton, Philip. Making Moonta: the invention of Australia's little Cornwall, Exeter: Exeter University Press, 2007



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