WE HAD three excellent talks, covering the general theme of “Lancashire Between the Wars”. Alan Fowler gave a fascinating account of the Lancashire weavers—the struggles against speed-up in north east Lancashire in the 30s, and the role of unoffi¬cial organisations in pushing the union leadership to put up a fight. The talk had particular relevance for today when managements in several industries, including textiles, are still trying to get themselves out of trouble at our expense!
Judith Emanuel talked to us about Manchester women’s campaigns for better maternity facilities in the thirties, and the role of the Women’s Citizen’s League and Manchester Women’s Co-op Guild. The campaign began over the fury and indignation surrounding the death of a jewish woman after giving birth in a hospital waiting room. Many towns in the north west—Blackburn immediately comes to mind—are still short of decent maternity facilities and Judith’s talk showed how united action by women did get some results. Maybe the men should start doing something too!
Finally, the Rev. Chris Ford spoke about the life of John Wilcockson: a clergyman, and at least in his early political life— a revolutionary socialist. Wilcockson dominated Farnworth Labour Party—and in turn, through the council, Farnworth itself. For much of the inter-war years, Farnworth was ‘one man’s town’, and the Rev. Wilcockson would brook no opposition. He got Farnworth people decent houses—the ‘flower’ estate in Harper Green, a model of inter-war council housing and now being steadily sold off, and was a pioneer of local sanitary and health improvements. Wilcockson’s style was that of a one-man band and perhaps as a consequence Farnworth Labour Party is today an inactive organisation, only springing to life at election times. But still, they managed to ditch John Roper after his defection to the SDP!
I think everyone got a lot from the day—all the talks were interesting and enjoyable to listen to. The accommodation—in Manchester Polytechnic Student Union—was very good indeed. Everyone had a chance to have a natter with each other, and I would say this is one of the most useful aspects of having ‘regional’ conferences, where you meet people you haven’t seen for a while. Attendance could have been higher—35 out of a membership of over 120, with some non-members, is grounds for concern. Let’s make the next one bigger!