Wednesday, 28 January 2015

School materials fail to mention workers

The average age for farmers of 58 means that 60,000 new farmers are needed over the next decade. Additionally, with a total farming labour force in excess of half a million there will be a requirement to replace many of them. 

All of which means that attracting young people into the farming industry is essential if Britain is to be food secure. Yet the uptake of modern apprenticeships in the industry remains low compared to other industries. Surveys amongst young children have shown that the industry is viewed as “boring, repetitive and low-paid.” Many believe you have to come from an agricultural background to consider it as a career. 

Speaking at a Lantra Business Surgery on a Modern Apprentice, Gary Mitchell, Chairman of NFU Scotland’s Milk Committee said, “We need to motivate children in schools to get them interested in agriculture.” 

One problem is groups that have introduced farming educational initiatives for schoolchildren don’t include workers within them. Two years ago, Landworker highlighted the Countryside Alliance Foundation charity for its failure to even mention workers on its Countryside Investigators website for schools. ‘Producing our food’ involves only the farmer, vet and gamekeeper! 

It’s the same for much of the materials produced by the major charity Farming and Countryside Education (FACE) that aims to ‘educate young children and young people about food and farming in a sustainable countryside.’  FACE’s 44 page document ‘Why farming matters to the South Downs’ is packed with some fascinating information but only twice do farm workers get a brief mention. 

The British Wool Marketing Board has recently launched ‘to inform school children about the story from farm to product.’ Again, there is no mention of workers although, at least, in this case when the organisation was asked why the omission, its marketing manager, Tim Booth, said, “I take on board your comments and perhaps that is something we can consider in the future.” 

Other organisations may be unwilling to raise the importance of rural workers but UNITE is not. The union is developing a schools visits project and is seeking rural schools invites.  Organiser Joe Rollin said, “It is an educational failure that many bodies working with schools won’t acknowledge the vital role played by agricultural workers. This then means children don’t consider apprenticeships in the industry when they leave school. 

Any UNITE school visits will recognise the role of agricultural workers. We would welcome invites to rural schools as they are often overlooked by the union movement and this then feeds into higher levels of exploitation of young rural workers.” 

You can contact Joe at 

07711 375536 

International support needed by migrant agricultural workers in South Korea

International support is needed to help end trafficking and forced labour of migrant agricultural workers in South Korea by signing an Amnesty International petition to the government there. 

Amnesty’s Bitter Harvest report shows that despite having the tenth highest average wage globally, South Korea badly abuses those who grow and rear its animals. 
250,000 migrant workers are employed under the Korean Employment Permit System the workings of which have led to the repeated raising of concerns by Amnesty and many UN bodies. 

Migrant workers are restricted from changing jobs and challenging abusive practices by employers. This leaves them open to serious exploitation. Amnesty discovered that most are working 10 hours a day and 28 days a month. Few are paid for exceeding their contractual hours or given any paid leave. Late wage payments and work related health problems are the norm. The accommodation and food provided as part of the salary package is generally substandard. Half of the migrant workers are illegally subcontracted during the off-season, putting them at risk of arrest and deportation. 

Speaking up is dangerous with many migrant workers reporting threats to terminate their contract, verbal abuse and violence when they did so. Approximately, one-sixth of migrant workers interviewed told Amnesty they had been physical assaulted. A similar number had their identity documents confiscated. 

It is a bleak picture made worse by article 63 of South Korea’s Labour Standards Act (1977) that specifically omits the requirement for the agriculture sector to offer basic protections on working hours, paid rest days and daily breaks. Finding alternative employment is only permitted if a migrant worker, many of whom have taken on debts at home to secure overseas work, can obtain a signed release form from their employer. Most won’t sign without a bribe. 

The South Korean authorities cannot be relied upon to resolve work issues. None of those migrant workers who reported they had approached government-run job centres and labour offices received adequate assistance. Most were advised to return to their employers to apologise. 

The South Korean government carries out inspections of workplaces employing foreign workers. In 2011 they uncovered 7,994 violations, a quarter of which related to wages and working conditions. Fines were imposed in just 74 cases. Only six cases resulted in prosecutions. 

In a bid to dramatically improve the situation facing the migrant workers, Amnesty is campaigning to get the South Korean Government to accept a number of recommendations including scrapping article 63. 

Please help migrant agricultural workers in South Korea by signing the Amnesty petition to the Minister of Employment and Labour. 

Bitter Harvest can be downloaded from 

Coalition fail to tackle rural housing crisis

A National Housing Federation (NHF) report Rural Housing: Countryside in Crisis, has highlighted the rural housing crisis and the coalition government failure to tackle it.

In 2008, Lord Taylor’s Living Working Countryside rural economy and affordable housing review made a series of highly publicised recommendations. 

The then Tory opposition leader, David Cameron, said, “What we need is a system that encourages local councils to do more.” Yet the Tories and their Liberal Democrat government partners have overseen the lowest levels of peacetime housebuilding since the 1920s. No wonder that over 2 million people are on social housing waiting lists. 

Rural Housing examines who can afford a home in the country, second homes, fuel poverty and an ageing population that increases demand for services. 

In rural areas around urban hubs in the South West and the South East house prices are completely unaffordable for many households. Nationally, the ratio of mean house prices to median income in rural localities is rarely less than 10:1. Many purchased houses are for second homes with over 1.5 million people having a second address in England and Wales. Cornwall has 23,000 second homeowners. With second homes only inhabited for part of the year then local services suffer. Village shops, schools and bus services collapse. 

Meanwhile, many rural homes are poorly insulated with 36% off the gas grid. Fuel poverty is thus higher than in urban areas. 600,000 pensioners currently live in low income households in rural districts. 

The report includes examples of where housing associations are supplying new, affordable homes. These are welcome moves but it is apparent that the overall impact is miniscule. NHF state ‘We need a long-term government plan to end the housing rural crisis within a generation’ including ‘clear local policies, ensuring the best contributions from developers, maximising the use of public and private land and for rural councils to say YES to homes.’ 

Labour meanwhile has published the Lyons Housing Review, which identifies how to build 200,000 new homes annually by 2020. Whilst significantly better this won’t solve the housing crisis in rural or urban localities.

With this in mind, Eileen Short from the Defend Council Housing Campaign that UNITE supports, said, “The housing crisis means we should build council houses everywhere. 

“People need secure tenancies, low rents and decent standards. Council housing, with an accountable landlord, is the only way to ensure it. Public land should be used to build 100% public housing. Former schools, clinics and post offices, all bought with our money, should be reconverted into homes with amenities to keep communities alive.” 

Rural Housing: Countryside in Crisis

Defend Council Housing – 

Programme monthly review of Manchester United: The First Halcyon Years 1907-11

Bolton Socialist Club is helping keep radical politics alive

Bolton Socialist Club - this article also appears on the Rebel Road project of Unite Education. 

The origins of Bolton Socialist Club date back to 1886 when a branch of the Social Democratic Federation (SDF) was established and soon grew rapidly during a bitter engineers’ strike the following year. 

Then in 1888, Tom Mann, arguably the greatest British trade unionist ever, was persuaded to assist Bolton SDF. The first Socialist Club was opened and became an important social, cultural, educational and political centre. There were subsequent moves to two other locations before a permanent home was found in Wood Street in 1905.  

Mounting debts meant the Club teetered on the brink of extinction on a number of occasions in the late 70s and 80s but on May Day 1984 it was reopened with a street party following a march headed by striking miners and nursery nurses. 

In the 31 years since, Bolton Socialist Club has survived thanks to the dedicated work of its members who in 2002 raised £10,000 for health and safety improvements. 

In 2005 a month-long festival helped celebrate the centenary of the Club in the wake of which many new members were recruited. 

In the decade since, Club members have revived past political and cultural activities and during an era when labouring people are under attack from a system that prioritises profit over people they’ve helped keep alive a local fighting, radical tradition that promises a better future for all.

The Club is thus the oldest remaining independent socialist club in the country. It is widely used for meetings by a wide variety of groups and organisations including Bolton Trades Union Council whose secretary Martin McMulkin, a Unite member of the club, is keen “for any Unite member interested in becoming a member of Bolton Socialist Club to get in touch.” 

There are regular events at Wood Street including a music night starting at 8pm every first and third Friday of the month. The club is open on Friday nights for members and friends and from 12 to 2.30pm each Saturday when lunches are usually available. There are guest speakers on selected evenings such as children’s author Alan Gibbons who in late January 2015 spoke with great warmth and humour on American radical John Steinbeck, best known as the author of Grapes of Wrath

The Club’s website page is regularly updated at where there is also an enquiry form for anyone considering becoming a member. 
Denis Pye 

Thanks to Denis Pye for his assistance with the information in this section of Rebel Road. A former teacher, Denis is the author of ‘Fellowship is Life’: the story of the Clarion Cycling Club. His pamphlet on (Bolton Socialist) Club and Party 1886-2008 costs £1. 

For more on Alan Gibbons go to

Alan Gibbons speaking with passion about John Steinbeck 

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Sunderland 7 WBA 1 in January 1895 - a brilliant exhibition of forward play

25th January 1896                                                                          League Division One

                SUNDERLAND   7                        WEST BROMWICH ALBION   1
                   (Millar 30,??,??,                                           (McLeod)
           Campbell 55,76,88,Gillespie)

Referee Mr W.H.Stacey of Sheffield                                                        Attendance 3,000

Sunderland:-- Doig, McNeil, Gow, Wilson, Dunlop, Johnston, Gillespie, Harvie, Campbell, Millar, Hannah.

West Brom:- Reader, Horton, Williams, Perry(T), Higgins, Taggart, Bassett, McLeod, Richards(J), Richards(W), Heywood.

This was one of those dark, damp and dreary days which almost bring on an attack of melancholia and it was no wonder that there were barely 3,000 people present at the Newcastle Rd enclosure. Those who braved the miserable conditions were rewarded by seeing the most brilliant exhibition of forward play since Sunderland first won the league championship in 1891-92. The transformation was remarkable and it was quite evident that the slating they had received after the display at Nottingham had a salutary effect on the forwards.

West Bromwich were at full strength and travelled on Friday staying overnight at the Grand Hotel. Wilson and Gillespie were again able to take their place in the Sunderland team. The ground had only the faintest semblance of grass on it and the top looked very slippery. Campbell kicked off and Sunderland attacked at once taking play up to Readers goal where Dunlop had the 1st shot of the game saved. Reader saved another shot from Harvie and then a free kick for handball against Perry was shot behind by Hannah.

Wilson’s clever pass gave Millar a chance but he sent his cross shot just wide of the far post. The Albion forwards made only fitful attempts to relieve the pressure on their defence but they were quickly frustrated by the home halfbacks.  Sunderland kept going very strongly and Williams was lucky to block a hard shot from Hannah. Millar was then pulled up for offside when he had the goal at his mercy before at last Albion managed to visit the other end where Doig saved from Higgins.

Grand passing between Gillespie, Wilson, Harvie and Campbell threatened the Albion goal again with Campbell driving his shot wide. Reader made another fine save and then Hannah missed the mark with a good effort. A sudden dash by the two Richards almost caught Sunderland out but when the ball was passed to Heywood the offside flag came to their rescue. Sunderland returned to the attack and Reader with a little luck on his side saved again and again. Sunderland won a corner that was cleared to Bassett who streaked away towards Doigs goal. 

Doig had just gathered his shot when he was heavily charged by Richards. Gillespie soon took the play to the Albion end and more shots rained in on the visitor’s goal. The Albion luck held as both posts were struck and many other goalbound efforts were blocked by the full backs. Horton was hurt in blocking a shot from Campbell and went off for a few minutes but while he was absent Sunderland finally opened the scoring. Gow sent the ball well downfield where Campbell got it to Millar who let fly from long range to beat Reader with an absolute beauty in the 30th minute.

Sunderland continued to press hard and after getting the ball from Wilson Millar set up Hannah to fire in a demon shot that was just too high. Capital passing by the home forwards made a chance for Harvie but Williams got the ball away for a corner. Both Campbell and Hannah got in shots that and Reader saved wonderfully. Horton now returned just in time to see Dunlop find Hannah with a capital pass. The ball was quickly moved on to Millar who scored Sunderland's 2nd goal with a tremendous shot.

Another Sunderland corner followed and Reader saved once again. Johnston, Millar and Dunlop all got in shots that that the Albion goalkeeper kept out and then Campbell had a fine shot tipped over the bar by Reader. When the corner came in Millar scored Sunderland's 3rd goal with a grand shot. Albion started the 2nd half well but Bassett was ruled offside and after some give and take play Sunderland worked their way up field again. Hannah sent a fine pass to Millar whose shot flashed across the face of the goal.

Reader saved from Harvie but Sunderland maintained the pressure and Hannah just missed with a telling shot. At last Albion got away and forced their 1st corner which was headed away by Dunlop. Gillespie then ran ¾ of the length of the field to get in a rare shot that went a bit too high. Millar was in splendid form and worked the ball up to give Campbell the chance to beat Reader for the 4th time. Moments later Campbell drove a shot just over the bar and Johnston went close before Gillespie put in good shot that struck the post and came back into play.

Harvie whipped it back in low and Reader was lucky to trap it between his legs. Harvie shot wide from Hannah’s neat pass but Sunderland stormed back again and Gillespie drove in a low cross shot to notch Sunderland's 5th goal. Wilson swung in a free kick to the home side which Hannah headed over the bar. McLeod and J.Richards swapped places for Albion and it almost brought success when Richards sprinted away to give Doig a hard shot to save. The ball was cleared but McLeod got possession again to stride forwards and beat Doig with a splendid shot.

With 15 minutes to go Sunderland were still not satisfied and Campbell got in a fine ground shot that hit Reader on the foot and bounced away to safety. A minute later and Campbell had better luck when he raced past Horton and Williams to drill the ball into the net well out of Readers reach. Sunderland continued to press right to the end and with 2 minutes left a grand solo run from Gow gave Campbell the chance to make it seven for the home side.                                                                                (Newc Dly Ldr)

Monday, 26 January 2015

Grave of first ever League goalscorer is located in Bolton cemetery

The grave of Bolton Wanderers’ and England international footballer, Kenny Davenport, scorer of the world’s first ever League goal on 8 September 1888, has been located in Heaton Cemetery, Bolton. 

On Friday 23 January; Mavis Callaghan - a sprightly 87-years old and who is the granddaughter of Kenny’s brother, James – and author and football historian, Mark Metcalf spent the afternoon on what for much of the time appeared to be a fruitless search. They examined many hundreds of headstones in a section of the Cemetery where according to the grave resided. 

With darkness fast approaching the pair were just minutes away from abandoning the search when Mavis rested her arm on a headstone, Glancing down, Mark screamed, “That’s it. That’s Kenny’s grave. You’ve got your arm on it.”

To some considerable joy, the soaked pair could clearly see the inscription:-

The beloved husband of EMMA DAVENPORT
Who died 27 September 1908, aged 46 years
At Rest 

Half an hour earlier, Mavis had remarked that she had never previously visited Kenny’s grave but along with her mum she had once visited her grandmother’s grave in the same cemetery. 

“I can recall my mam pointing towards where Kenny’s grave and I am sure it is over here.”

“How old were you at the time?”

“I was 10.” 

76-77 years ago! Mark was a little sceptical but armed with this ‘new information’ it was agreed to continue searching. The problem was that the not all the headstones which remain standing (and a good number are now lying on the ground) still have on them an engraved number and even those that do don’t run in sequence. That was certainly the case with the Davenport headstone. 

Mavis Callaghan 

The information on also lists 7 names in the burial plot, which is by no means extensive. We expected therefore that the headstone would contain seven names. In the event it had just the one. It is not known if there ever were more names on the headstone or not. Has the weather washed away the names or were no more names added as Kenny was the first of the seven listed to die?

Whatever the answer we do, at least, know the final resting spot for the man who achieved the unique feat of scoring arguably the most significant goal ever when he netted for Bolton Wanderers against Derby County at 3.47 pm on Saturday 8 September 1888, the date of the first League matches in World Football.  

Of course, the finding of the grave ‘at the very end’ of an exhaustive search fits with the pattern by which it finally proved possible to confirm that Davenport – and not Wolves Gershom Cox, who put the ball into his own net against Aston Villa on the same day – scored the first goal. 

Hundreds of hours were spent by Mark Metcalf and librarian Robert Boyling trawling through every possible newspaper they could find for early September 1888. It was vital to find the kick off time for the Wolves – Villa game. It was only when every possible avenue appeared to have been exhausted that Robert found an advertised kick-off time for the game in the Midland Evening News edition of 7 September. When this confirmed that the game commenced at 3.30pm - and not the previously believed 3.00pm - it became clear that Davenport’s goal on 3.47pm was quicker than Cox’s 30th minute mistake on 4.00pm. 

This information subsequently appeared in Metcalf’s book The Origins of the Football League - the first season 1888/89 that was  published by Amberley Publishing in 2013. Coinciding with the 125 anniversary of the start of the Football League, the news that the name of the first League goalscorer could now finally be confirmed drew world wide publicity. 

The locating of the grave will now make it possible to organise a suitable commemorative event. Mark Metcalf, a Sunderland fan himself, had entertained hopes that someone with a ‘bit of clout’ might have been able to organise a suitable historical marker that publicly marks Davenport’s achievement.

However approaches to Bolton Council, leading councillors, local MPs, Bolton Wanderers, the Football League and the Professional Footballers Association have so far proved totally unproductive. Nothing has happened or appears likely to do so soon.

There will thus be a wreath laying ceremony at 3.47 pm on Tuesday 8 September 2015, exactly 127 years after Kenny Davenport scored for the Wanderers against Derby. It is intended to assemble a list of distinguished speakers at this event. Anyone wanting to assist with this then please make contact with life-long Wanderers fan and secretary of Bolton Trades Union Council, Martin McMulkin on 07918 839327 or Mark Metcalf on 07952 801783. 

Stop press 

Anyone who may have information on Kenny Davenport and would like to share it as part of Mark Metcalf’s research into the player then please get in touch on 07952 801783 or at 

Mark Metcalf at the grave of Kenny Davenport 

John Fielding Statue, Bolton

Taken from the Rebel Road project of Unite education. 

Queen’s Park, Bolton is the location for the John Fielding Monumental Statue. 

The inscription on the pedestal reads:-

J.T. Fielding J.P.

For over 20 years
The Secretary of the Operative Cotton Spinners Association and United Trades Council of Bolton and District 


Erected by the trade unionists and public of Bolton and presented to the Borough, July 11th 1896.

The son of a cotton worker, Fielding was born at Redlaur, near Blackburn in 1849. He took up the same profession at aged 12 and remained a mill worker until 1874, when he replaced his father as secretary of the cotton spinners association, In November 1874 he became secretary of Bolton Trades’ Council.

He successfully united the two trade union branches of the cotton spinners’ into one organisation, the Operative Spinners’ Association. According to the Bolton Journal the Association was ‘second to none in the kingdom for wealth and power.’ The paper praised Fielding for his ‘energy, great gasp of thought and forceful character’ that ‘lifted his fellow workers……to the proud position they now occupy in the industrial world.’ 

When he became in 1879 a Bolton J.P he was one of the first trade union leaders to be appointed to the magisterial bench. 

When he died in 1896, his many friends and admirers wanted to get together to maintain his memory. A memorial over his grave was considered but discarded in favour of a statue to mark his true value and in recognition that a workman’s life is just as important as those of soldiers, politicians and the wealthy. The 6’ statue, costing £250 and sculpted by J.W Bolden, stands next to that of Benjamin Disraeli, Britain’s first and to date only Jewish Prime Minister. In 1984, the heads of both statues were removed by vandals and when discovered were quickly restored. 

Tens of thousands attended the unveiling, undertaken by Lord James of Hereford, a sponsor of factory legislation, of the Fielding statue on 11 July 1896, at which speakers attacked the ‘sweating’ processes and poor employment practices that were driving down wages in the cotton industry. 

The ‘discovery’ (*) by the Rebel Road project of the Fielding statue has come as a bit of surprise to radicals in Bolton. The Lancashire town has a long-running (Bolton) Socialist Club, where the meetings of Bolton Trades Union Council take place. Unite member Martin McMulkin is secretary of the Trades Council and admits; “I’d no idea we had a statue here in Bolton of a trade unionist. Other people I spoke to also had no idea. I’ve little doubt we will now do something to mark John Fielding’s achievements in the future.”

Perhaps you know of a statue in your town or city that commemorates a trade unionist? If so, please get in touch, as so far the research undertaken would indicate there are very – far too – few such statues. 

  • The information on this came from The Lefties Guide to Britain: from the Peasants’ Revolt to Granta Restaurant that was edited by Peter Clark and published by Politico’s Publishing in 2005. 

Much of the information on this page comes from the Friends of Queen’s Park website at

See also the website of the Public Monuments and Sculpture Association at 

Monday, 12 January 2015



In September 2015 it is proposed to hold a suitable commemorative/social event at the Red and Green club in Milnsbridge to honour Lesley Kipling who died in September 2013. To do this an organising meeting will be held at the club at 42 Bankwell Road, Milnsbridge HD3 4LU on Thursday 12 February at 7pm.

Lesley was a historian, socialist, trade unionist, internationalist, anti-racist/fascist, worker, librarian and mother. Her funeral demonstrated the wide respect she enjoyed within the local working class community. Whilst the proposed September 2015 event will be a time for reflection it will also be a celebration of her life. 

If you would like to get involved then please make contact with either Alan Brooke on 07802 318241 or or Mark Metcalf on 07952 801783 or or @markmetcalf07

Barbour workers take strike action

A slightly edited version of this article appeared on unite on Friday. 

Unite members on strike at prestigious jacket maker Barbour in Gateshead today (Friday 9 January) held a highly successful solidarity march and rally. It came at the end of the first of four weeks planned stoppages and follows six days strike action in December. 
All of which has led to the company requesting ACAS talks on Monday. (12 January) With it comes the prospect of a negotiated settlement to a dispute over forced changes to warehouse staff contracts. These include removing unsocial hours payments and introducing new shift patterns, including starting at 6.30am and working as late as 11pm. This will impact on anyone caring for elderly relatives, childcare and travel arrangements. 
“I support my father, Ralph, aged 94. Quite honestly I can’t just leave him on his own
so early or late,” said Ralph Nichol junior. Meanwhile, Dawn Hallcro fears being forced to leave her two teenager children alone for lengthy periods. 
Workers, who handle around 70,000 items weekly, have until 30 January to sign new contracts or face being sacked. Jobs are not exactly plentiful on Tyne and Wear. Yet the self-confidence and organisational support derived from being in Unite has meant Barbour management has badly misjudged the mood of its employees, many earning just  £7.45 an hour, to defend one another.
“We feel loyal long serving employees should be treated much better. We work on an isolated estate. The first bus arrives after the proposed new starting times. The last one leaves before 11pm. We belong to Unite so everyone can look after one another. That’s what we are doing by striking,” explained Eric Bone, one of two Unite workplace representatives amongst warehouse staff. 
It’s not as if Barbour is struggling. Last year the company made a healthy 14 percent return with £21.5 million profit on worldwide sales of £152 million. Staff have worked hard as demand for the products of the successful family-run company has soared in recent years after Barbour jackets became popular with celebrities. 
After picketing their Gateshead workplace from 7.30am, strikers crossed over to nearby South Shields. Accompanied by local Labour MPs, Stephen Hepburn and Emma Lewell-Buck, employees, flags flying and horns sounding, marched determinedly to Barbour’s main offices. Sales director Ian Beattie accepted a signed letter to the company chair Dame Barbour requesting she intervene to help restore unsocial payments and get management to consider a day shift for anyone unable to work till 11pm. 
There was then a short rally at which Labour North East Euro MP Paul Brannen expressed his solidarity and urged “Barbour, please reconsider as this dispute will damage your brand.” 
Unite regional secretary Karen Reay and national officer Roger Maddison were as one in praising the strikers for standing up for “family values and your fellow workers.” 
“The strikers have stood firm in pursuit of basic principles. They are buoyed by the possibility of resolving the strike.  Barbour management should act responsibly by considering the day shift we have proposed and entering Monday’s talks constructively. We certainly will do so,” said Unite regional officer Fazia Hussain-Brown. 

Friday, 2 January 2015

One of Sunderland's finest ever games took place on this day 120 years ago

2nd January  1895                                                                             League Division One

                     SUNDERLAND   4                                      ASTON VILLA   4    
            (Gillespie25,??,Hannah,Millar 70)              (Smith15,30,Reynolds(Pen),Devey)

Referee Mr                                                                                              Attendance 12,000 

Sunderland:-- Doig, Meehan. McNeil, Dunlop, McCreadie, Johnstone, Gillespie, Millar, Campbell, Hannah(J),Scott.

Aston Villa:- Dunning, Spencer, Welford, Reynolds, Cowan, Russell, Athersmith, Chatt, Devey, Hodgetts, Smith.

This was the biggest game of the season at Newcastle Rd when current league champions Aston Villa came into town. They started badly and lost at home to Sunderland in September but since then they have gradually climbed the league ladder and are now in strong contention for the championship. Villa were confident of winning and at odds of 6 to 4 appeared a good bet. There was a great deal at stake for Sunderland who following Everton’s defeat a few days ago stood proudly at the top of the table. 

Villa arrived on Tuesday and looked in the peak of condition. The weather was fine and much warmer than Tuesday although a strong NW wind was blowing. Meehan returned at right back for Sunderland and Johnstone moved to left half with Auld dropping out. The pitch was in pretty fair condition with a lot less snow on it and the crowd of around 12,000 was bigger than that of New Years Day. Sunderland won the toss, took advantage of the wind and Devey kicked off for Villa.

Sunderland were first to show and Gillespie raced away to send a hard shot just wide. Villa were very lively however and Cowan got in a shot that went a few yards wide. Sunderland came again and were pressing very strongly but Villa were not to be denied and came at Sunderland with terrific pace with Smith driving in a shot that Doig kicked away. The Sunderland defence was kept busy and Meehan was doing very well. A grand rush from Smith saw the Villa man strike the post with an absolute beauty as the visitors kept going with great dash.

Sunderland at last managed to mount an attack but Spencer cleared and then a free kick to the home side was gathered right under the bar by Dunning. Dunning saved again when the home forwards made another rush. Sunderland were having a bright spell and again and again the Villa custodian stopped shots which could easily have brought goals. When Hannah did beat him his hotshot struck the post and went wide. Villas forwards were playing well and a long raking pass by Athersmith found Smith who neatly popped the ball past Doig to put Villa ahead in the 15th minute

Sunderland retaliated but were soon driven back and Doig did well to save a cracking shot and keep Sunderland in the game. The home side were struggling to find their form but at last managed to work the ball into the Villa goalmouth where some neat passing set up Gillespie to shoot home the equaliser after 25 minutes. This made it a much better game and play became very exciting. Villa were playing very forcibly but they had to fall back when Hannah nipped in and fired a hard shot just wide. A spell of midfield play followed.

After 30 minutes play Smith broke away and dashed past Dunlop and Meehan to let fly from long range. Doig had begun to advance and was astounded as the ball sailed over his head and dipped into the net. It was a superb shot that was worth a goal. Villa continued to buzz around the home goal and Doig was kept busy as the ball was remained in the Sunderland half. In fact Doig was busier that he has been for many a long day at home and his left fist was constantly on the go. 

In view of the pressure that Villa were applying a 3rd goal seemed inevitable and it duly arrived when Smith sent in a fine pass. Devey raced onto the ball and was promptly flattened by Johnstone inside the penalty area to bring Villa penalty kick. Reynolds hammered the ball against the underside of the bar and into the net to put Villa 3-1 up. Sunderland rallied after this and Campbell took a pass from Hannah to crack a shot against the crossbar. Amidst great excitement Sunderland pressed again.

 The ball was swung into the Villa goalmouth and a fierce scrimmage took place in front of the posts. Dunning kept out one shot and when the ball was returned Hannah poked it into the net to reduce Sunderland's arrears to one. Villa were still a lively lot and were on the attack when the halftime whistle blew. Facing the wind in the 2nd half Sunderland started strongly and Gillespie was just off target with a good shot. Villa went straight to the other end and Doig saved well before sending the home forwards away again. 

Sunderland were very poor in front of goal and their shooting left much to be desired. Russell took a Villa free kick and dropped the ball right in front of Doig but he managed to fist clear and Hannah went racing away over the centre line. Sunderland mounted a concerted attack and play remained in Villa territory for quite some time. The Villa goal was in constant danger but the visitors defended well and kept the home forwards at bay. Athersmith raided for Villa but Reynolds fouled McCreadie and Sunderland returned to the attack.

Hannah went close but Spencer got the ball away and then a free kick handed the initiative back to Sunderland. McNeill took it and found Millar who fired into the net from close range to equalise in the 70th minute. The ground erupted as hats and sticks flew into the air amidst immense excitement. Soon afterwards Russell fouled Campbell and from the free kick another scrimmage occurred in the Villa goalmouth. Players from both sides clustered around the ball and it fell to Gillespie who whipped it into the net to put Sunderland ahead for the first time.

Villa retaliated strongly and applied tremendous pressure on the home goal although the attacks did not have the same sting as their earlier onslaughts. Russell put a shot over the bar and then Devey got in a grand long shot that Doig collected comfortably. The ball was moving rapidly from end to end and in one spirited attack Sunderland had hard lines in not being awarded a penalty when Campbell was deliberately fouled. Villa were soon back on the attack and bombarding the Sunderland citadel with only grand defending preventing an equaliser.

As the game drew to a close the fast pace did not diminish and the excitement remained at fever pitch. Dunning made a magnificent save to keep out a long shot from McCreadie and then Villa swept the ball up the field. After a bit of neat passing Devey shot home an equaliser for Villa in the last couple of minutes and soon after a magnificent game ended in a draw.                                                                                          (Newc Dly Ldr)

Pesticide claim challenged

From the Big Issue in the North magazine

Banning pesticides will not increase food prices or damage the UK’s agricultural and horticultural sectors, says a leading soil scientist.
This follows the release of a report making these claims commissioned by the National Farmers’ Union (NFU), the Crop Protection Association and the Agricultural Industries Confederation.
There have long been calls for pesticides to be restricted on environmental and human health grounds. Sandra Bell of Friends of the Earth claims there is “strong evidence” that some of the very pesticides the National Farmers Union is so keen to use are harmful for the bees and worms that are crucial for pollination.
The report, Healthy Harvest: the Impact of Losing Plant Protection Products (PPPs) on UK Food Production, says around a third of 250 approved PPPs are under long-term threat from “over-regulation” arising from these concerns.
It contends that restrictions “would make it more difficult to control weeds, disease and pests... leading to lower yield decreases of between 4-50 per cent in the crops studied”.
Hardest hit would be apples, fresh carrots, onions and frozen peas.
Lincolnshire vegetable farmer Mark Leggott claimed: “In the pea sector, poor weed control can lead to significant crop loss. Therefore, a wide range of herbicides is needed.”
Healthy Harvest concludes that £1.6 billion in farming profits would be lost from banning pesticides, leading to increased imports and higher food prices. Approximately 35,000-40,000 jobs would be lost, claims the report.
‘Massively exaggerated’
But Charlie Clutterbuck, a Lancashire soil scientist, believes the threatened numbers are “massively exaggerated, as the report provides no evidence that 87 PPPs are really threatened”.
He added: “It also presents as ‘undeniable facts’ some contentious claims, such as that damage to crops are caused by flea beetles when the evidence is pretty weak.
“This is a big debate that links closely to a chronic lack of investment in our land science research, such that three-quarters of our public field research stations are closed. These could have helped find alternative, often natural, ways of controlling bugs.”
Georgina Downs, who has campaigned for 13 years against pesticides, said. “Pesticides have been approved without any risk assessment to those living near sprayed fields.
“I have many reports of acute health problems that, by increasing demands on health services, also have an economic cost. We need a pesticides policy that places public health first.”
Downs wants tougher laws introduced to force farmers to inform residents in advance about spraying – but the NFU is opposed.
An NFU spokesperson said: “The report identifies that farmers strive to maintain
high standards when using pesticides. Agricultural sectors comply with strict legislative requirements, and through the voluntary initiative on pesticides we have in place a range of additional safeguards.”

Clutterbuck said: “We need to find the money to redevelop the UK’s public land science independent of major agro- businesses.”