I’m so lucky. I came across this exciting story of these martyrs just in time to tell you about it a few days before Labour Day. Stay with me, now.
Once Upon a Time, in a province not too far away, Ontario, to be more precise, several gravesite headstone names were recently recognized. This was the last resting place for some of the Tolpuddle Martyrs.
I want to pull that thread so badly. I hear a voice – “Oh, go ahead, see where it leads.”
It was a time of much upheaval in England. New machinery and regulations were changing the rural way of life. A family’s weekly cost of living was 13 shillings. Workers were only being paid a weekly sum of 9 shillings. Something had to give.
In 1867, the year of Canada’s Confederation, a group of 6 men in Tolpuddle, England, decided to start a trade union. They all swore a secret oath to the newly created Friendly Society—big problem. Swearing a secret oath was illegal. A nearby landowner turned them in, to the authorities. They were sentenced to Australia for 7 years. Because of the public uproar, they returned to England after 3 years.
They were now martyrs.
This notoriety made it hard for them to find gainful employment, so 5 of the original group emigrated to London, Ontario. They made another secret pact not to tell anyone of their past.
I’d say they were successful. One of them became Mayor of his District. Everyone is buried in a cemetery near Guelph, Ontario – in marked graves, gratefully forgotten and neglected.
I quote from the book that caught my curiosity, On Class:
“Each May Day, there is a picnic in the park to commemorate their actions, actions which established the beginnings of the labour movement we know today.”
Whether May or September is a better Labour Day to tell this story, please give this a bit of a think. Do you know of a small beginning that has grown into something important in your life today? Do you know of something that needs a small beginning now?
What about a bit more of a think to draw similarities to our current times of upheaval?
I’m curious about your thoughts. Please share your bit of a think in the comment section below. It will come to me for approval before posting.
This snippit of history was brought to my attention after I purchased On Class by Deborah Dundas.
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