A TRUE STORY by JANET SMITH
This is a true story of an ordinary man who lost his job and was on the run from the police seventy odd years ago for complaining to his employers about their treatment of the environment.
D.A. Mackie was a Scot. It is presumed he left his native land to find work. He found it working in the private coalmine of Alfred Miller Mundy in the early part of this century. The seat of the Squire Miller Mundy’s is and has been since 1729. Shipley Hall, near Heanor Derbyshire. The family owned much of the surrounding area, which was originally recorded in the Doomsday survey of 1086 as belonging to Gilbert De Gand, William the Conqueror’s nephew.
Up to the eighteenth century. Shipley’s history had been a pastoral one of raising cattle and growing crops. From the eighteenth century until recently, the areas lifeblood and major employment was digging for the black diamonds. There were many pits and owners in the vicinity. Squire Alfred Miller Mundy was one.
The Squire and the Scottish miner had something in common. The only person found who knew the two, said that whenever the Squire visited the coppice colliery, he always had a chat with Mackie. They talked easily together and shared a love of wildlife and nature.
When the Squire died, the estate was rapidly disposed of by his son and heir Geoffrey. Geoffrey had made a marriage to a girl with music hall connections, maybe not entirely approved of. The rapid disposal of the estate is interpreted by some as "Geoffrey’s Revenge".
The new owners The Shipley Iron and Coal Company, were not too sensitive to the balance of nature as the old Squire had been. Mackie was heartbroken to see the company felling century old trees for pit props and generally savaging the face of Shipley that he and the Squire had loved. The locals even renamed the company "The Forty Thieves" because of the way they plundered the estate. Mackie watched mutely as ancient habitats and havens were destroyed, but then he found a voice, He wrote a poem criticizing the company. It probably wouldn’t have won any literary prizes but it made the company angry enough to sack him. It is thought that he was in his late thirties by that time.
Sacked from his job, it can be imagined that his deed proceeded him. To keep body and soul together, he had his poem printed, together with a mining poem completed earlier, and sold the pamphlets at one penny each to his friends an colleagues. To stop this vilification of their name, his ex employers set the police onto him and made it known that any miner found in possession of the pamphlet would face dismissal. Hunted and hounded he lived for a time on the little he made from the sale of his pamphlets, always keeping one step ahead of the law. It is thought that he returned to Scotland in the mid or late twenties,
Nothing was known of D.A. Mackie from that time on until ten years ago, showed an original pamphlet of Mackie’s to another ex miner.
Although the pamphlet was tatty, he wouldn’t part with it, either from sentimental reasons, or from an instinctual sense to keep it hidden. He did however allow a photocopy to be taken. Nothing else has been discovered about this lone protester despite writing approximately twelve poems in all.
Today, 600 acres of Shipley estate is a country park. The hall has disappeared due to being under-mined and the Squire moved his family’s new base. Locals say he is still around though, revisiting his old haunts on a white charger.
Who knows who he meets, a canny Scottish miner named Mackie maybe?
Below is the preface to Mackie’s protest and fitting memorial.
Shipley Then And Shipley Now
By D.A. Mackie (1924)
On this sheet just over leaf,
you’ll find a truthful poem.
And for the truth my job I lost,
so now the streets I roam.
But I’m quite proud of what I’ve done,
for I have made amends,
For deep within my soul I feel,
I’ve made a thousand friends.
Now friend’s I hope you’ll pardon me,
should you be asked to buy
This sheet whereon a poems wrote,
whose word will never die,
So when you’ve bought one,
frame it and hang it on the wall,
For remembrance of the Squire,
and once the glorious Shipley Hall,
And keep this too for a remembrance-
this poem you have bought-
And thinking of the Squire,
don’t forget the canny Scot.
BEGONE! Be gone!, the cruel hands
His pits that used to be the best,
That laid to waste these precious lands.
Have suffered also with the rest.
Your actions have aroused humanity
The gangers were but schoolboys then
On seeing this, vast, cruel calamity,
But now it’s changed, they need strong men;
The beauty spot is now in ruin,
The gates then were high and wide
And all it’s natural state you’ve strewn,
But now the ponies tear their hide
For lust of money, worldly gain,
And wagons then ran smooth and fine
It makes one thing that we’re not sane
But now they’re seldom on the line;
To let your evil hand destroy
The gaffers they have changed likewise,
God’s handiwork we all enjoy.
Their brains they do not utilize,
The rabbits, flowers and bees,
But the deputies are like us lads
The splendid oaks and elm trees.
They can’t afford to buy kneepads,
Have now deserted this estate-
For they have lost a lot of power
For scarcely one, has missed its fate.
And just like us they’re turning sour,
And in these grounds they laid to rest,
Contractors too, look sad and pale,
The workers friend- they loved the best.
And can’t afford to buy good ale;
For when alive his joy was aye So
this is Shipley now and then
To give his workers decent pay.
And many thoughts I’d like to pen
He’s gone, and hundreds feel the blow
But if there’s something I’ve forgot
For when in need to him they’d go Please,
remember I’m a Scot.
This article first appeared in a past issue of Country Images, a Derbyshire magazine a few years ago. Recently I received a poor photocopy of it and decided to re-write it into a more legible form.
My father, born in 1893 worked down the Shipley coppice pit for 57 years from the young age of 12, to work along side his father and brothers. They were Contractors; it was their job to dig new roads and tunnels to new coalfaces.
I remember Friday evenings, when my father stood outside the Rutland Hotel, paying out wages to the miners who worked for his family. He retired aged 68 in 1961.
My mother, a dressmaker, recalled to me, visits to Shipley Hall, being picked up by a jogging cart to go and take measurements and choose fabrics for the Squires family and housekeepers clothing from 1919 until the Miller Mundy’s left Shipley Hall. In reality Squire Mundy was Squire Winters in Lady Chatterley’s Lover.
Growing up in the Cotmanhay area, I spent countless hours in Shipley woods down by the reservoir and scrumping (stealing) apples from the old Shipley Hall orchard, only to be chased off scared half to death by a gamekeeper or grounds man. At this time Shipley Hall was in the hands of the N.C.B. (National Coal Board). My father probably knew D.A. Mackie and maybe bought one of his pamphlets,
Contrary to D.A. Mackie, I never heard my father utter one good word for the Miller Mundy’s.