The Oldham Outrages
11 November 1837
Elisabeth Pothelswaite, The Way of Freedom: Learnbook for the Under-Elevens (Manchester, 1917)
And so, boys and girls, we come to that fearful day! You remember well, for what good little child would not, that the Great Struggle for The Charter had, in but a few months, swept across the land. The General Convention of the Industrious Classes – what a long and hard name, but a worthy one! – had met. It was filled with all the Hard Working Folk of the Isles – coal-diggers from the valleys of Wales, tailors from the busy streets of London, carpenters from mighty Birmingham, spinners from heaving Manchester, millers from cold and wet Scotland, why even shoeless cotters from the bogs of Ireland. All were alike and all were Brothers and Sisters, cheering their love for The Charter.
When the Happy Meeting had ended, they went back to their homes to spread the news of The Charter, and O’Connor, and The Six Points (which we have all of course Learned by Heart).
In Oldham too they heard the call for The Charter – for Right, and for Freedom, and for Never Being Hungry again. And the men, and the ladies, and the children met in the streets, and sang songs and danced and merried themselves in the Hope of their coming Freedom.
But the horsemen and the constables – the tools of the Steam Lords and that Despot Peel – saw them, and were frightened. Yes, children … they were fearful of what they saw in the Joy of The People, and sought to stamp it out beneath their boots.
So, they turned on them – their own Brothers and Sisters – and cut them down.
Men, like your own fathers!
Women, like your mothers and grandmothers!
And children, like your brothers, sisters, friends – nay, even like yourselves!
All were put to the sabre, the hoof and the gun.
The Tyrants hoped that the dreadful flowing of blood would drown the Hopes of The People.
But boys and girls, we know that it did not.
The Blood of the Martyrs of Oldham nourished them, and made them know, if any more knowing was needed, that Enough was Enough. There could be no reasoning with the Tormenters and the Oppressors.
As if with One Voice and One Hand, the People of Britain – the diggers, the tailors, the carpenters, the spinners, the millers, the cotters - raised themselves, and moved to cast their Despots down.
Let us Cheer – Hurrah, hurrah, hurrah!