August 1914

August 1914

In August 1914, local miners and the managers of coal mines had settled their differences from the previous month with collieries returning to full production levels after a reduction in hours and days worked was threatened by Unions. Pit bosses were seeking a less unionised workforce in order to guarantee output in future. Sadly on the other side of the world, many Lanarkshire born men died in a mine explosion in Canada, men from the area were sought abroad due to their wealth of experience, or they had been blacklisted from mines in Scotland and had to leave to find work elsewhere.

Cinemas were running twice nightly shows. One of the features at the Hamilton Hippodrome was a championship boxing match between French boxer Georges Carpentier and American Ed 'Gunboat' Smith recorded from Olympia in London for the 'White Hope's Heavyweight World Championship' which Carpentier won by disqualification in the 6th round (out of 20!), He was already a European Champion.  The title of this bout was a result of African American Jack Johnson being Heavyweight champion of the world during the racial tensions of the Jim Crow Era in America; he held the title from 1908 to 1915.

An odd tale locally was the new introduction of fines for breaking glass in the street. This was highlighted when a local doctor had his tyres slashed and car damaged by broken glass on the road, ironically while attempting to visit a patient who had lacerated his foot on broken glass.

The whole area was thoroughly behind the war effort, local relief funds were quick to be established and a concerts were to help out. One was attended by the Duke of Hamilton and opened with the French national anthem. Local scout groups showed their support by acting as messengers or patrolling and guarding local areas of importance. Girls from a laundry were doing their bit by knitting socks for the soldiers and were appealing for donations and extra help. Recruitment levels were reportedly 'proceeding briskly'.

On the other hand, prices in Britain were experiencing high levels of inflation, especially the basics of eggs, grains (for bread), cheese, milk, butter, beef, and also gas. The stock markets had also been paralysed and the British government had set in motion plans to give consumers faith in their currency, by allowing them to trade money for real gold at the Bank of England.

The Woman’s Column put forward some fascinating views on the war. Firstly, they believed that the British had a moral obligation to step in and fight for the smaller powers in Europe who were being bullied by the Germans, saying, 'It is the privilege of the strong to protect the weak'.  They also expressed relief that war had finally been announced. 'The weekend was a time of great anxiety and tension and the news that the European war cloud had burst came about as a relief – anything was better than brooding uncertainty that seemed to paralyse all activities'.  These highlight that the Great War was well supported in Britain.

In Westminster things were in disarray. The Labour Party (in opposition) leader Ramsay McDonald resigned from his party due to his opposition to the war. An attempt at an early peace meeting arranged by Sir Edward Grey fell through when Germany failed to attend and the Austrian’s claimed it was too late to halt their mobilisation of troops. Lord Kitchener, famous for his promotional poster appearance was also appointed this month as Secretary of War. The Home Rule bill for Ireland was also placed on hiatus for the time. Andrew Carnegie, steel magnate, philanthropist and library proponent said that the Kaiser had changed from "the world’s foremost peace potentate to become the chief destroyer and warlord in Europe" in a speech covered by the Advertiser.

Quarry Street, Hamilton.
Airdrie Cross.