Penarth Dock, South Wales - 150 years - the heritage and legacy  
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Volume Three - The Pontoon Era - The seamen's pay strike of 1911 . . .

"The Great Unrest" were the years between 1908 and 1914 when Great Britain experienced a variety of industrial conflicts. South Wales coal miners employed by the Cambrian mines went on strike, clashing with troops at Tonypandy in 1910. In Llanelli in 1911, disturbances resulting from the national railwaymen's strike resulted in six people losing their lives, two of whom were shot by soldiers. During the summer of 1911, a seamen's strike spread from Liverpool to the port of Cardiff, which included Penarth.

The leader of the National Sailors and Firemen’s Union, Captain Edward Tupper V.C. addressed the seamen during their pay strike from the balcony of the Royal Hotel near the centre of "Dagger Town" on the 31st July 1911.

Tupper was a militant unionist activist and stirred up strife using rousing, them and us, rhetoric; he knew the grievances well and used those which rubbed salt into the wounds of the seamen to advantage! Tupper, was no seaman, according to some sources, was never a sea Captain and certainly had never been awarded the Victoria Cross!

The reaction to the strike was that ship-owners hired foreign labour in an attempt to break the seamen’s resolve and to get exports moving again. Across in Tiger Bay and in Dagger Town large numbers of Chinese seamen were signed-on, often at higher pay rates than the striking seamen and dock workers. There was a large degree of animosity directed at Chinese seamen being employed on the S.S. “Foreric” which was rushed by a gang of strikers stopping all work on the vessel and enforcing a crew boycott. The oriental crew were threatened and forced to disembark.

However, reports reached the strikers that two of the Chinese seamen had been later seen alighting a tug at Penarth Pier bound for the Shipping Federation vessel “Lady Jocelyn” moored nearby Penarth Head. She was being used to house and protect the strike breakers.

A group of strikers mobbed the offices of the tug company which was forced to promise not to hire non-union labour. The strikers also ransacked the homes and businesses of the Chinese community.


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