Mexborough and Swinton Times, January 7, 1927
Mr John Belshaw and the New Year
“Breeze then a man with soul so dead, who never to himself hath said: this is my own my native town?”
Wombwell folk have as much pride in local associations and the well-being of the municipality as the people of more pretentious towns, and therefore, Scots familiar lines might well be adapted and used as a tuning fork for a few New Year reflections in regard to that go-ahead township.
Anno domini 1926, with the coal stoppage and its attendant abominations has left the colliery district an everyday legacy of difficulties, but that there is a bright future for the town is suggested by a statement given to a representative of the “times” by the chief townsman, Councillor J Belshaw.
Mr Belshaw’s philosophy might be summed up in the phrase “Gather your rosebuds while you may, old Time is still a flying.” He appeals to the community to be up and doing.
Mr Belshaw says: “We shall not readily forget 1926. The past year has been a difficult time for us all. As a Council we have had a very anxious time. In addition to shouldering responsibilities such as few townships have had to contend with, we have also been conscious of the hardships the people of the town have been called upon to endure on account of the coal stoppage.
We started the year full of bright hopes, and I’m going to confess that I am one of those who believe, or at any rate pinned my face on the oak, that the coal dispute would not materialise. Before the trouble in the coalfields came to her head the township was burdened with liabilities largely inherited from the shortcomings of pre-war local administration, but personally I had the feeling that we were gradually overcoming our difficulties.
There is no doubt that had we been allowed to proceed on normal lines we should have been in a much better position now than at the beginning of the year. Our obligations were gradually being discharged and there was a bright prospects of the Dearne District Light Railway and other municipal undertakings yielding something like a reasonable return.
But the coal stoppage came and upset all our calculations. The tramways receipts went down to such an extent that the precepts for the Light Railway had to be considerably increased, increasing the cost of fuel involved, causing great expense at the gasworks, and the taking at the baths went down with a bang. Indeed in every phase of a branch of local administration the cold draft of industrial upheaval was felt very acutely. The inevitable sequel was a big jump in local rates.
As a council we are aware that the town is heavily rated and that as soon as the opportunity permits the acts of retrenchment must be rigorously applied. For myself the public may be assured that, so far as is consistent with the demands of public health, I shall not overlook the need for relief in that direction. However, we could not help the call stoppages, and we have to deal with circumstances as they arise. The foundations of our municipal as well as our domestic life rest upon the coal pits, and when those foundations are disturbed we are bound to feel a shock.
Now let us look to the future. You ask me “What is Wombwell to hope for from 1927?
Well, in the very nature of things we cannot expect relief immediately, but with a resumption of work at the pit I believe there will be a gradual return to a state of happiness and prosperity in the town. Wombwell has had a great past, and I for one believe it will have a great future. There are pessimists who say Wombwell has had its day. Rubbish! I do not presume to have expert knowledge of mining as a science, but all the people who are in a position to know have no hesitation in saying that as far as this district is concerned the best is yet to be.
The period of industrial depression through which we have just passed, and from which we have not yet emerged, is national in character, but sometimes we are inclined to think that the symptoms are purely local. As a trade of the country improves, Wombwell will enjoy its full share in the revival .