Friday, 23 July 2021

NEW ROUTES TO RECONNECTION Disabled people enjoy North’s sensory walks

 

NEW ROUTES TO RECONNECTION

Disabled people enjoy North’s sensory walks

Big Issue North article

An organisation that runs sensory walks for disabled people is launching a third northern route after the success of its first two in Yorkshire.

Sense, a charity that supports people with complex disabilities to communicate, learn and develop, has been connecting them to nature on routes in Rotherham and the woodland, play areas and green spaces of West Bank Park in York.

The people it supports include those who struggle to respond to information from senses such as sounds, sights, smells, textures and taste.

Stunning colours

Working with mapping agency Ordnance Survey, Sense’s walks “provide an opportunity to engage with the outdoors in meaningful ways, at the same time as supporting people to be active”, according to Alissa Ayling, Sense’s head of sport and physical activity.

Two disabled people who enjoyed the Rotherham sensory walk are hoping that Sense, partnering with the national mapping agency Ordnance Survey, can build similar projects across the region.

Afzal, aged 41, from Rotherham, is a wheelchair user with arthritis and Crohn’s disease. With the help of his support worker Michaela, he did the sensory walk around the town’s Clifton Park, starting at its museum and going on to the gardens and playgrounds. It has wooded areas for shade in the summer and stunning colours in autumn.

“It allowed me to take a trip down memory lane,” said Afzal. “Before my health deteriorated, I loved walking around the park as it’s close to home and I enjoy being out in the community. Clifton Park is one of Rotherham’s best features.”

Sense was formed in 1955 by two mothers who gave birth to deaf and blind babies after contracting rubella when they were pregnant. Its OS Maps app routes for the sensory walks come with accessibility information, including key milestones and sensory highlights, and are available via the free OS Maps App. Each walk has been established with the help of local walk leaders or groups.

Rajab is another fan of the Clifton Park walk. His carer Neil Davis uses sign language and clear speech to communicate with Rajab. Davis said when he asked Rajab if he would like to go to the park, “he gave a big thumbs up and immediately put his coat on”.

Rajab’s response at the end of the walk – after he had enjoyed the scents, textures and colours of the plants, the sound of falling water and an outdoor exercise area with walk machines – was the same.

One slight negative, according to Afzal, is the steep incline on the return to the museum. But he added: “It was really enjoyable and has been planned well as you can get to see most areas of the park. I love being out in the open air and being able to go on similar walks somewhere else other than my local park would be nice. I am sure disabled people in other towns would welcome similar opportunities.”

Sense is about to launch a third walk, in Cumbria, with the help of Forestry England. Paul Downes, Sense sport and physical activity organiser in northern England, added: “There are plans for new walks to be mapped in the North Yorkshire area with the help of volunteer walk leaders from the Woodland Trust.”

He appealed for anyone who would like to help plot sensory walks to make contact.

GROSS EXPLOITATION The Scottish govt’s seasonal workers pilot scheme exposes a depressing picture

 

GROSS EXPLOITATION

The Scottish govt’s seasonal workers pilot scheme exposes a depressing picture

 Landworker magazine 

A report into the operations in Scotland of the Seasonal Workers Pilot (SWP), launched by the government in April 2019, that brings temporary agricultural workers from outside the EU, exposes a depressing picture of gross exploitation.

Unique

The Focus on Labour Exploitation (FLEX) and Fife Migrants Forum (FMF) report into the horticultural sector is the first ever independent evidence of worker experiences on seasonal agricultural workers schemes.

Between 1943 and 2014 the Home Office ran the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Scheme. Throughout the 71-year period no independent reports based on interviews with participating workers were undertaken, a sure sign of how little successive government’s cared about some of the most vulnerable workers in the country.   

In the lead up to the UK’s exit from the EU there were concerns that the agricultural sector was suffering a shortfall in workers, resulting in crops being left unharvested.

To solve these problems the SWP was introduced. It began with an annual quota of 2,500 workers, increasing to 10,000 in 2020 and 30,000 this year – when it was opened to workers from EU countries. Ukrainians have made up by far the largest group of SWP workers.

Funded by the Scottish Government, the research by FLEX, assisted by an independent expert on labour exploitation, Caroline Robertson, benefitted enormously from the experiences of two FMF caseworkers who had previously been seasonal agricultural workers in Scotland and who later undertook academic research qualifications. 146 SWP agricultural workers responded to information requests.

Until May 2021, recruitment for the SWP jobs was undertaken by Concordia and Pro-Force Ltd. Migrant workers who are offered posts must fund their own travel costs plus a £244 visa fee. Costs average out at around £900 for each migrant worker. Many are forced to borrow this money from black market sources.

Many workers complained of discrepancies between the information they received before travelling and the nature of the work they were actually required to undertaken on arrival. Documents are rarely translated into mother tongue languages.

Unsafe caravan accommodation, which is exempt from local authority licensing and must be paid for even if there is no work, and the use of zero hours contracts, combined with payment by piece rates, paints a depressing picture made worse by deportation threats by some employers and the impossibility of finding alternative employment.

The report authors state it ‘identifies a serious risk that forced labour could take place on the SWP if action is not taken.’

They want the  UK and Scottish Governments to consider a lengthy series of recommendations.  They include removing the visa fee and ensuring workers get a guaranteed minimum weekly income of £332.50 for 35 hours a week.

 Increasing resources to the Gangmasters and Labour Authority, which has just one staff member in Scotland, is required and there should be new regulations relating to piece rate calculations. An independent helpline with translation into workers’ languages would allow them to raise potential labour abuse. The Scottish Government is asked to offer financial support to migrant community organisations and trade unions.

 

The Assessment of the risks of human trafficking on UK Seasonal Workers Pilot report is at:-

https://labourexploitation.org/news/new-report-highlights-risks-human-trafficking-uk-seasonal-workers-pilot?fbclid=IwAR3YLZrK2eKEf_M5RjYbCXXC8bLAN-DYiMRLk2z6BLcMr5QimjbYnvVhvDw





Hands Off Our Agri Workers' Pay in Northern Ireland as young English workers again lose out

Northern Ireland agriculutral wages board threatened 

Young English workers paid less  

Landworker magazine for Tolpuddle Festival 

With agricultural workers, especially those under 22, across England continuing to be worse off than their UK counterparts it is vital that UNITE defeats proposals by the Northern Ireland executive to abolish their own Agricultural Wages Board. (AWB)

The England and Wales AWB was scrapped by the Con-Dem coalition government in 2013. Agricultural workers in England faced being paid less than those in Scotland and Northern Ireland, which have had their own AWB’s, on which Unite represents agricultural workers, since 1949 and 1977 respectively. 

The move left thousands of workers in Wales and England without union representation over wages and conditions and with no way of knowing when they might next receive a pay increase. 

In Wales there was a devolved assembly Labour Government which fought a successful legal battle that allowed it to establish a dedicated Wales AWB, (officially known as the Agricultural Advisory Panel for Wales) on which Unite sits, to protect 13,000 low paid agricultural workers.

English workers again lose out 

On 1 April 2021, the minimum hourly rate for all Scottish agricultural workers, irrespective of age and duties became £8.91, which is the national minimum wage (NMW)  rate across the UK for 23-year-olds. In Wales those aged 16 to 20 are paid £7.84 hourly and those aged 21-22 get £8.36. In Northern Ireland, a minimum hourly rate of £6.95 is paid for the first 40 weeks of employment which rises to a minimum of £7.49 an hour for workers aged under 23.

In comparison to these AWB negotiated rates, young agricultural workers in England are only covered by the NMW hourly rates of £4.62 for under 18s, £6.56 for 18- to 20-year-olds and £8.36 for those aged 21 and 22.

A 20-year-old in Scotland is thus guaranteed £356.40 for a 40-hour working week, in Northern Ireland it is £299.60 and in Wales the figure is £313.60. The sum in England is £262.40, considerably less than elsewhere. The differences for a young person in England aged 18 or under is even greater. It is hardly surprising that young workers in England are not considering entering the agricultural sector.

AWBs also cover pay for workers or all ages in lieu of wages, sick pay, holiday pay, piece rates, overtime rates at 1.5 times the standard rate and it limits deductions for accommodation to a flat rate and which in Northern Ireland is £45 weekly.

UNITE’s predictions were correct

The drop in living standards for agricultural workers in England is exactly what UNITE predicted eight years ago.

A UNITE survey in 2014 found that just 56 per cent of those previously covered by the AWB had had a pay rise. This was despite a third asking for one. Those that did get a pay rise had received less than the whole economy average. Eighty two per cent had any pay rise imposed by their employer, destroying the government and employers earlier claims that abolishing the AWB would free employees to conduct individual negotiations with their employer.

The survey also revealed that no sick pay was being paid by some employers, who had also added an extra hour to the working week before overtime was paid.

Nick Clegg and David Cameron attacked pay and conditions

The history of the AWB can be traced back to the radical, reforming Liberal government in the years leading up to WWI. In his role as Deputy Prime Minister from 2010 to 2015, the Liberal Democrat leader  Nick Clegg propped up the austerity programme of David Cameron and George Osborne and  helped scrap a board that even Margaret Thatcher retained.

Clegg, who is now Vice‑President for Global Affairs and Communications at Facebook, was knighted for his services in the 2017 New Year Honours list. He should never be forgiven for attacking agricultural workers throughout England.

Northern Ireland fears

In Northern Ireland the AWB is the final collective bargaining mechanism with a responsibility for private sector workers. As the evidence from England since 2013 demonstrates its abolition will ”open the door to a post-Brexit race-to-the-bottom on workers’ and farmers’ pay and conditions” states the UNITE regional officer Sean McKeever.  

In January, the Northern Ireland (NI) Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs Minster Edward Poots of the Democratic Unionist Party announced his intention to end the NI AWB that covers over 11,000 agricultural sector employees. Poots is a member of the Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) which champions the interests of big ranchers and the agri-food bosses.

At the NI AWB meeting in March, Sean McKeever, unsuccessfully pressed UFU representatives to retain the AWB. “There is a particular need for a collective bargaining body covering agricultural field workers………the sector receives a huge amount of public funds ..it is one which is inherently difficult to organise given the scattered distribution of workers and the prevalence of part-time working……..

“The AWB is of vital importance in countering exploitation, which all too often includes the practice of trafficking and modern-day slavery  – especially as many are migrant workers with little other protection.”

Abolishing the AWB in  Northern Ireland will also offer further encouragement to the National Farmers Union in Scotland who are known to favour abolishing the board there. 

Defend and extend the Northern Ireland AWB

UNITE is strongly opposing the proposals to scrap the NI AWB. See:- https://www.unitetheunion.org/campaigns/stormont-hands-off-our-farm-workers/

The union has written to the leaders of all political parties to oppose abolition.

If you live in Northern Ireland please send a message to your MLA demanding their party stands up for agricultural field and farm workers and use their Ministerial veto, which is what former Agricultural Minister Michelle Gildernew did in 2007, when it was first proposed to scrap the AWB. Details on this can be accessed by the link above.





Thursday, 22 July 2021

Tory rural revitalisation likely to fall on stony ground

 

According to agricultural science worker and Unite member Charlie Clutterbuck the absence of hedgerows and soil in the government’s post-Brexit vision is a sign that any hopes of a rural revitalisation are likely to fall on stony ground.

 

Relatively unsung by nature lovers and Romantic poets, hedgerows are a fundamental aspect of the British countryside.

 

Hedgerows come in many shapes and sizes, the best ones for wildlife being broadest at the bottom with woody species such as hawthorn, hazel and field maple. Hedges provide shelter and nesting opportunities for woodland and farmland birds. Nectar, berries, nuts and leaves are food for mammals, birds and invertebrates. They can also help reduce soil erosion and water run-off on arable land. According to Natural England, hedgerows also preserve carbon stocks and wildlife that may have taken centuries to develop.

 

“A romantic view”

 

Historically, hedgerows were planted to show ownership boundaries. Many were laid on common land during the enclosures beginning in the 18th century to exclude people who previously used the land. In the 1980s, the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy encouraged farmers to pull them down by offering subsidies to make fields bigger. It proved disastrous, with the loss of 23 per cent of hedgerows during the decade.

 

But Charlie Clutterbuck, who first began writing for the National Union of Agricultural and Allied Workers in the 1970s, believes Boris Johnson’s statement that “we will use the new freedoms we have after leaving the EU Common Agricultural Policy to support farmers to beautify the landscape” excludes hedgerow restoration and is instead a call for big vistas, reservoirs and rivers.

 

“It is a romantic view of the countryside, which, sadly appears to have the backing of many environmental organisations.” said Clutterbuck. “You would imagine hedgerows should be in there somewhere – most people would back this – but I have yet to see any words confirming this. Johnson is playing to the City, to big finance who are being invited to make bids under the new Natural Environment Investment Readiness Fund (NEIRF).”

 

Government regulations in 1997 sought to reverse the loss of hedgerows, preventing their removal without local planning permission. The EU also sought to repair some of the damage by later introducing ecological focus areas that included hedgerows.

 

Funding cuts

 

Anecdotal evidence suggests the total amount of hedgerows, estimated at 402,000 km across England in 2007, has stabilised, but there is no official data.

 

Clutterbuck is himself part of a Ribble Valley consortium NEIRF bid led by the Larder Project in Preston, which includes key organisations such as the National Farmers Union. NEIRF will provide natural capital grants of between £10,000 and £100,000 to “people interested in tackling climate change, creating and restoring habitats or improving water quality”.

 

But he says government guidelines on these improvements do not include aspects such as hedgerows and soil health. Instead, he said much of the money on the bid he worked on is set aside for consultants at £500- £600 a day.

 

“Money that once went direct to farmers through Countryside Stewardship Schemes is being replaced by the Sustainable Farming Initiative but half of this funding, around £2 billion, will be cut and replaced by schemes that the government has yet to announce, which will be based on NEIRF ideas.

 

“These consultants will be focused on attracting large scale funding, whereas in the past farmers big or small got direct payments. Jobs will be lost.

 

“I fear that attracting large-scale private sector investment will mean large[1]scale landscape picture box projects rather than a working countryside.

 

“As such a good number are likely to be rewilding and tree plantation projects, neither of which will, after an initial boost, provide long-term employment for local people. “

 

Clutterbuck is not totally opposed to tree plantations but would much prefer to see priority given to locations such as river banks where trees can hold the soil, thus helping to control water flow and possibly prevent flooding. 

 

Over 200 NEIRF bids have been submitted this year and the 100 or so who have been successful will be notified in July.

 

” A Defra spokesperson said: “Our new schemes will enable us to reward the work farmers do to manage every metre of hedgerows on their holdings’ sustainability.” But she did not provide any guarantees that any NEIRF projects would include hedgerows.

 

She did not respond when asked whether funds will be used to pay consultants rather than farmers and farm labourers.

 

Perhaps the most important aspect of hedgerows is not what we can see above ground, but what is going underground. So often forgotten, soils,  are vital to ‘regenerating’ our farming. Regenerative means improving soils, so building from the ground up. Improved soils do more for reducing global warming than any other measure. This is not just because they can hold a lot more carbon than they are now, but they can hold water, enabling more plants to grow. This keeps the temperatures of the earth lower, and should be built into any climate change scheme.

Hedgerows provide deeper rooting systems, so that water runs down the roots instead of running off the land.  They will play a vital part in natural flood management, where – by holding water – they can control erosion of land and faster flowing rivers causing erosion and silting up.

The loss of hedgerows in the eastern part of England and where there are now vast plains of monocrops with no hedgerows has led to the erosion of 2 million tons from our best groundwater-dependent ecosystems/land into the North Sea. That – our most valuable asset of any – cannot come back. It is a man-made disaster that will hurt future generations.

“Hedgerows not only create that classic British scene, they also protect our most important asset, our soil, “ said Clutterbuck. “ Marx said that the source of all our wealth is labour and soil. Let’s value both more. We need to regenerate our soils to protect our environment better and so that they can provide better living for those working the land and those of us eating off it.

“That old EU subsidy money should be going to paying workers a decent living wage to regenerate the land, as I proposed in Bittersweet Brexit: The Future of Food, Farming, Land & Labour.”

In Charlie’s book he outlines how the £3bn annual subsidy that was paid out under the EU’s CAP, most of which subsidised large landowners, should, by providing an annual subsidy of £10,000 per job, be switched towards creating 300,000 new rural, decently paid land-based jobs.

 

 

Crown Office rules out holding a fatal accident inquiry into death of forestry worker in Scottish forest

 Unpublished Landworker article - June 2021 

 

The Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service (COPFS), which is responsible for crime prosecution in Scotland, has ruled that ‘it would not be in the public interest to hold a Fatal Accident Inquiry in relation to the death’ of Lesley Whitfield, aged 42, who died on 28 November 2018, in an incident involving a quad bike in a forest near Castle Douglas.

The decision followed an HSE investigation into Whitfield’s death, who was one of 32 workers killed in 2018-19 across the agricultural, forestry and fishing sector, around 22 per cent of the UK total of 147 deaths.

A year previous to the tragedy, Unite had warned through its Forestry Commission lead rep Neil Grieve that in Scotland: “Private companies are doing some of the harvesting, road repairs and replanting. This could reduce the direct workplace and we are aware that, just like in Wales, the employees are not enjoying decent terms and conditions.

“They are being exploited by being employed on zero-hours contracts. For the first time in my 30-year career I have seen planting contractors who are living in tents in the forests.” Unsurprisingly, very few workers across the private companies are trade union members.

In response to the COPFS decision a spokesperson for Forestry and Land Scotland (FLS) said “We are not in a position to comment on the individual circumstances in this case.  However, the health and safety of our contractors continues to be  the top priority for the agency– from the tendering and procurement phase right through to contract delivery.

“Every year we are independently audited to ensure we are meeting the standards laid out in the UK Woodland Assurance Scheme (UKWAS). Amongst other requirements, the standard sets out employee and contractor’s rights to trade union membership, pay exceeding the statutory national living wage, access to a grievance procedure and relevant measures relating to compliance and conformance (including anti-corruption) and workers’ rights (measuring compliance with workers’ rights legislation).”

Nevertheless, planting contractors on FLS land in the winter months are still living in makeshift camp sites.

It is clear, and is confirmed by the article elsewhere in this magazine on the seasonal workers project, that land-based workers in Scotland are being expected to endure living conditions that should not be acceptable in the 21st century.

 

Long standing Labour Party member Gerard Dempsey's resignation from the party

 

21  July 2021

 

 

David Evans

Acting GS

Labour Party

Southside

London

 

 

Dear Comrade,

 

Re: Gerard Dempsey Resignation with Immediate Effect


I write to resign my membership and record my utmost disgust at the ongoing misconduct by the so called Leadership, acting GS, Officers and most of the current inept PLP.

 

It is a challenge to keep it brief at the toxic nature of the above and almost any tangible trace of socialist values from the party. 

 

 

 

1

Expunging socialism from the party and attacks on decent socialists.

 

2

Whipping up bogus Anti semitsm with right wing groups and the BoD.

 

Whilst engaging in racism and inequality against other groups including by MPs and staff towards muslims, blacks, gypsies and travellers.

 

Failing to defend Palestinians from the brutal oppression and genocide by the Israel state including murder, torture, ethnic cleansing of palestinians.

 

 

3

We have witnessed Assaf Kaplan being hired by Labour as a social listening and organising manager, a new post described as “a crucial new role at the heart of Labour’s new approach to digital campaigning”.

 

The complaint from Bindmans solicitors alleges that Kaplan worked for Unit 8200, the cyber branch of the Israeli Defence Force, from 2009 to 2013. It adds that the unit has been mired in controversy over its surveillance practices against Palestinian civilians in the West Bank and Gaza.

 

 

 

4

The party failure to suspend /expel all those Cllrs involved in the Rotherham CSE Grooming that caused over 1600 children to be sexually abused and raped. The lack of safeguarding and the Coverups on an industrial scale for years.

 

Failure of the LP to deal with above complaints on the above for many years; then again approving the same unfit Cllrs to 

re-stand.

 

 

 

5

 

Rotherham Council and other councils embraced tory cuts rather than fight.

 

They ignored the valiant campaign to save Day Care Centres in Rotherham that every major union, socialists, communities  and over 100, 000 who signed petitions, campaigned and opposed  the Council's pernicious  closure of every Learning Disability Day Care centre in Rotherham serving the most vulnerable.

 

6

On the NHS bill we are treated with  a

kak handed policy.

 

Labour is rightly voting against I believe and yet it is Labour Cllrs who have sat in the integrated care partnerships for 2-3 years and which are now to be key to further NHS destruction

 

Not one Labour Cllr has ever resigned from being a member of the integrated care partnerships.

 

Its all about the cash and gravy train.

 

 

Just 32 Labour MPs (approximately 16%) signed the motion opposing the USA takeover & wholesale privatisation of our NHS.

 

Labour should be Standing up for our NHS night & Day to defend our frontline heroes.

 

They should be Exposing the sale of the NHS 24/7.

 

But They won't, they are funded by spivs, fat cats and several Private Health Vultures.

 

Labour are reduced to flogging off NHS/Labour pin badges

 

 

 

7

Undermining the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn for 5 years by most of the PLP and GLU staff.

 

Recklessly and deliberate acts to lose the 2017 and 2019 elections.

 

Putting forward the 2nd brexit referendum by Starmer that was incendiary and toxic on the doorsteps despite the most welcome and progressive manifesto for generations.

 

 

 

8

Emma Dent Coad was spot on with her recent comments about the Establishment clone 

Sir Starmer. We are under no illusions about Starmer as he continues his merry way to wreak destruction on the Labour Party on behalf of the Establishment, with whom Starmer is very unified.

 

https://skwawkbox.org/2021/07/03/former-mp-dent-coad-i-dont-know-what-toxic-labour-stands-for-any-more-video/

 

 

 

Starmar jailed julian assange on a pack of wicked lies for the Establishment.

 

https://skwawkbox.org/2021/06/29/uk-media-ignores-as-us-case-against-assange-falls-apart-after-accuser-admits-lying-about-hacking/

 

 

All part of preserving the status quo  for  the establishment with Starmers dodgy involvement in the Trilateral commision.

 

 

 

9

Finally, Keir Starmer refused to sign Unite’s letter demanding an end to fire & rehire. 

It says so much. Disgraceful. 

Time he showed some guts and passion by genuinely talking for workers. 

It’s pathetic.

 

 

10

Covid:

Starmer and his front bench failed to challenge the Government for months including on lack of PPE and duty of care to our  NHS and social care staff. They were woefully silent and in a state of paralysis.

 

The movement and public had to do it.

 

Then Starmer infamously pushed the government to re-open schools, “No ifs, no buts, no equivocation” – and schools promptly became the main driver for the new ‘Delta’ third wave of the pandemic.

 

They refused to heed the pleas by our dedicated teaching staff and their trade unions.

 

We had a footballer who had to lead the just fight for free school meals. Whilst Sir keith was too busy waiting for  his focus groups to tell him which way to go!

 

At best, Starmer is totally inept, out of his depth and got dreadful judgement.

 

 

 

11

The failure to publish the findings of the Forde Inquiry.

 

Using members and trade union monies to reward wrongdoing of party staff instead of dismissing them for gross misconduct.

 

Plotting against party members

 

There is nothing in the custom & practice of Labour’s best traditions that prevents members from voicing criticisms of the current leadership. 

 

Plotting, scheming, diverting election monies - now that would be different!

 

 

 

12

The above factors demonstrate the appointment of an unfit and not fit for purpose acting Labour GS.

 

 

13

A Leadership that has been took over again by Neo liberalism and  that has rode roughshod over the values & principles of the movement.

 

Behaving more like a Tory Reserve 2nd eleven or bargain basement Tory Tribute band.

 

It's difficult to have principles when you frankly don't believe in anything under the current leadership.

 

 

When you inherit the largest socialist party in Europe, lose over 115k members on YOUR watch, alienate loyal Left trade unionists, create disunity, take your party to the brink of bankruptcy. And your answer is to proscribe groupings. Its absolutely appalling.

 

 

 

14

The latest attacks on socialist groups and members.

 

What has happened to the values of 

UKLabour when members  and MPs can jump in bed with those who attacked trade unionists, Liverpool supporters and phone tapping families like Milly Dowler. 

 

As they brief & write for The Sun, seek the support of Murdoch, without fear of discipline.

 

But going to political schools to understand the relevance & application of the theories of Marxism creates panic.

 

 

 

"An attack on one, is an attack on us all

 

We stand in Solidarity"

 

 

I have broken free from my chains.

 

I have cancelled my direct debits.

 

 

My conscience will not tolerate it for a moment longer to now belong to a party that has lost its moral compass.

 

It now exists in name only - it stains and violates real labour values of our Movement.

 

Yours sincerely

 

Ged

 

Gerard  Dempsey

 

A189388

Wentworth & Dearne CLP

 

Former Unite the Union Executive Member

Print & Media Sector - GPM&IT Sector

 

 

 

Wednesday, 14 July 2021

Bert Whalley and Manchester United

 

Bert Whalley and Manchester United

After moving to the club from Stalybridge Celtic in May 1934, Bert made his Manchester United debut against Doncaster Rovers at Old Trafford on 30 November 1935. The match ended in a 0-0 draw before a crowd of 23,569.

In a playing career cut short by WWII, during which he played for United and Bolton Wanderers in unofficial wartime competitions, and injury, Whalley went on to make 32 League and 6 FA Cup appearances for Manchester United.  His final game for Manchester United was at home to Blackburn Rovers in Division One on 19 April 1947. This resulted in a 4-0 victory before a 46,196 crowd. With Old Trafford out of use due to war damage this game was played at Maine Road, Manchester City’s ground at the time.

Central League winners medal

 Whalley was by now the longest serving professional at Old Trafford and in 1946-47 he led the reserves to the Central League championship. The Manchester Evening News of 18 March 1947 said of him; “The experience of Bert Whalley is a real asset to Manchester United…. signed from Stalybridge Celtic in 1934. His transfer cost nothing, but he has turned out as an invaluable utility player – as pivot, wing-half and even full-back.”

In his final first team game the Manchester United side was Jack Crompton, Johnny Carey, John Aston senior, Jack Warner, Whalley, Henry Cockburn, Jimmy Delaney, Johnny Morris, Jimmy Hanlon, Stan Pearson, Jack Rowley 

Manchester United had ended the 1946-47 season as runners-up in Division One but nevertheless Matt Busby took seriously the comment of Jimmy Murphy, who had managed the successful Central League side that season, when he told him there was not one reserve who could strengthen the first team. Busby replied; “in that case we will have to find our own youngsters.”

Serious injury

Later in 1947, Whalley, who according to Jimmy Murphy, manager Matt Busby’s assistant, always describe described himself as “just an honest trier”, was coaching some schoolboys at Stockport County when a miskicked ball hit him in the eye. The player did not complain until on the way to a reserve match at Newcastle United, he confessed that he was having trouble with his vision.

Loyalty

On visiting a Tyneside hospital, he refused to be kept in and returned to Manchester for treatment. On Christmas Eve 1947, a depressed Whalley faced losing his sight in one eye and the end of his football career. It was then that Matt Busby showed one of the reasons why he was a great manager by demonstrating loyalty. Busby, who had become manager at United in 1946, told Whalley that when left hospital he had just the job. In August 1948, Whalley replaced Arthur Gale as the man in charge of Manchester United’s ‘A’ side, the third team at the club.

Manchester United won the FA Cup in 1948 and over the next three seasons (1948-49 to 1950-51) Manchester United finished twice in second place and once in fourth. They won the title in 1951-52 but when they slipped back to eighth in 1952/53, Busby undertook a major reshuffle as the emphasis moved to youth with Duncan Edwards, aged 17, Jackie Blanchflower, aged 20, playing regularly in 1953-54. Tommy Taylor was signed from Barnsley. Dennis Viollet, aged 20, scored 11 goals in 29 appearances. David Pegg, 19, played nine games and Bill Foulkes, 21, made 32 appearances. 22-year-old Ray Wood became the number one goalkeeper.

Aided by the experience of Roger Byrne and John Berry, Manchester United won the title in 1955-56 with a side known as the ‘Busby Babes.’

The search for talent

Busby explained what was key to the success. ‘We search relentlessly for young talent. Jimmy Murphy and Bert Whalley are two of the finest spotters in the land. We look for boys who have decent ball control, who can pass, and shoot, show ball sense and some form of positional play, and are useful with their headwork. These are the bare fundamentals and we look for a boy’s qualities that will enhance this development, namely keenness and love of the game. These will ensure he will spend hours perfecting his ability, and ride the inevitable disappointments, and avoid arrogance.

“Our greatest asset is the floodlit practice ground at Salford. Here, on Tuesday and Thursday evenings we coach the youngsters who have just left school. Jimmy Murphy and Bert Whalley are in charge. I take charge when I have the time. In the practice matches here, the lads get an early sense of our system and tactics. We prefer to produce a few new players.

“When the youngsters have developed sufficiently, they join senior practice sessions….this ensures that the young players are ready for the big day when they play in the first team…………..I estimate that 80 per cent of our ‘Babes’ turn out well…”

The faith that Busby placed in Murphy and Whalley and also Joe Armstrong, the Manchester United chief scout, served him well as Manchester United again won the title in 1956-57 and also reached the FA Cup final.

It was also the season when Busby refused to be deterred by the ‘Little Englander’ attitude of many of the football authorities and politicians who felt English teams should not enter the new European Cup competition that had kicked off in 1955-56. Manchester United did well in the competition in 1956-57 and were beaten by a quite brilliant Real Madrid side in the semi-final.

The two sides both reached the semi-final stages of the competition in 1957-58. What a final that would have been! But, as we know, by the time of the final many of the Busby Babes and one of the men who helped them to develop into the stars they were – and still are, 63 years on – in Bert Whalley had tragically lost their lives at Munich on 6 February 1958.