"You may say that I am a dreamer/But I am not the only one" John Lennon: "Imagine"

"So come brothers and sisters/For the struggle carries on" Billy Bragg: "The Internationale"

Elizannie has a reading room at 'Clarice's Book Page' http://www.villiersroad.blogspot.com/

Monday, 30 April 2012

What sort of strike are we talking about, then?

The previous generation of my maternal family came from the 'Essex side' of the Thames Estuary, more or less at the 'end' of the East End of London. In fact if mentioned in news reports nowadays the area is often referred to as as the East End.

When undertaking family history research I have always hoped that I would come across some female ancestors who took part in the Bryant & May match girls' strike of 1888. This is not as daft as it sounds, as a surface to air missile flies Bow to my maternal great-grandparents home is only about eight miles and my g.grandfather was a trade unionist in the docks whilst my grandmother was an active trade unionist too.

The Bryant & May strike was of course famous in our part of the world when I was growing up in the 1950s. There was even a musical about it in the 1960s.

The match factory was an awful place to work, not only because of the bad pay and long hours and usual bad factory conditions but working with phosphorous caused a terrible condition called phossy jaw The story of the strike is so interesting in itself that it deserves a blog of its own! I am currently reading by Louise RawStriking a Light: The Truth About the Match Girls Strike and the Women Behind it: The Truth About the Match Girls Strike and the Women Behind It However there is a very interesting article here: http://www.unionhistory.info/matchworkers/matchworkers.php

Back to the 21st century, and the old Bryant and May Match factory building was redeveloped into a 'gated community' called the Bow Quarter in 1988. In the past few days residents have received notification that their rooftops may be the location for surface to air missiles 'as part of Britain's air defenses[sic] for the Olympics'

One wonder what pacifists like Annie Besant who led the Matchgirls' strike in 1888 would have made of this? Pacifists living not many miles away aren't too keen, it has to be said.

Some definitions of the word strike:
strike (strk)
v. struck (strk), struck or strick·en (strkn), strik·ing, strikes
4. To make a military attack on; assault.
a. To produce by friction or a blow: struck fire from the flints.
b. To produce flame, light, or a spark from by friction: strike a match.
26. To undertake a strike against (an employer).
For even more definitions please go to http://www.thefreedictionary.com/strike

The photograph shows Match Workers at the Bryant and May Factory, London, 1888
courtesy of http://www.unionhistory.info/matchworkers/matchworkers.php

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