Thursday, 24 April 2014

Join the Kinder Scout trespass celebrations this Saturday in Sheffield

Today is the eighty-second anniversary of the Kinder Scout Trespass in which trade unionists such as Bernard [Benny] Rothman were highly prominent.
Thanks to Mark Harvey for this photograph

Born on 1 June 1911 it wasn’t until Benny acquired a bike in his teens that he discovered life outside the crowded, squalid environment of working class Cheetham in north Manchester. He soon became a keen rambler and spent his 16th birthday climbing to the summit of Snowdon.

Following the end of World War I in 1918 returning British soldiers had been promised by Prime Minister Lloyd George a “Land Fit for Heroes.” Landowners, represented in Parliament and the House of Lords by the Tories, were intent on ensuring that didn’t include the right for those soldiers and others to roam Britain’s mountains and moorlands.

So it was that on a sunny Sunday 24 April 1932 Benny Rothman, a lifelong activist within the Amalgamated
Copyright Mark Harvey 
Engineering Union (AEU), found himself as the leader of more than 400 Kinder Scout Mass Trespassers.

Together in opposition to a line of gamekeepers, they successfully crossed the Derbyshire Peak District’s ‘forbidden mountain.’ Stung by this deliberate defiance of the law the police arrested five of the trespassers. If however the authorities felt this would be the end of the matter they miscalculated by sending four to prison for up to six months. The public outrage that followed helped bring the issue of countryside access to the fore.

Benny Rothman, who in 1990 he was given the AEU’s highest award, the Special Award of Merit, died aged 90 in 2002. This was fifty-one years after the Peak District became the first designated National Park under the 1949 National Parks and Access to Countryside Act. An Act that Lewis Silkin, the Labour Party Minister of Town and Country Planning said at the time was “a people’s charter for the open air, for the hikers and the ramblers, for everyone who loves to get out into the open air and enjoy the countryside. Without it they are fettered, deprived of their powers of access and facilities needed to make holidays enjoyable. With it the countryside is theirs to preserve, to cherish, to enjoy and to make their own.”

This Saturday in Sheffield at the Town Hall there will be held a Spirit of St Kinder Day, which will celebrate Sheffield’s vital role in the Mass Trespass. The event starts at 2.30pm. 

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