Friday, 21 August 2020

Using film to rediscover lost working class heroes - Edward McHugh

 Using film to rediscover lost working class heroes 

Edward McHugh at :-

With Subtitles:

The successful work of Unite rep Luke Agnew from Wallasey for a new headstone to Edward McHugh, an inspirational dockworkers organiser, has been captured in a 10 minute film from Rough Jersey Productions. 

The film is at :- and subtitles at and please watch it and forward to others you think may be interested 

Irishman Edward McHugh, co-founder of the National Union of Dock Labourers led long, bitter, successful strikes in Glasgow and Liverpool in 1889 and 1890 respectively. 

Earlier he led a Land League mission to the Scottish Highlands  where he helped direct the nascent crofters’ agitation. McHugh later settled down in Birkenhead but in the 1890s he spent time in New York City where he organised the American Longshoreman’s Union and preached Henry George’s gospel that the unequal distribution of land lay behind all social ills.

On his death in 1915, McHugh was buried at Flaybrick Memorial Gardens, Birkenhead but his headstone was destroyed by the German bombing of Merseyside in WWII. 

It was Luke Agnew, a gravedigger at the Gardens, who rediscovered McHugh’s burial spot. When Luke then heard a speaker on his Unite stewards course talk about how trade unionists have erected plaques nationally to honour legendary labour movement figures he became determined to mark Edward’s final resting place. 

As a Unite workplace rep he got support from Mick Whitley, a former UNITE NW regional secretary and now Birkenhead MP, who features in the documentary. 

Funds were raised for the headstone and the Unite Education Department also released a concise booklet on McHugh and which can be downloaded for free at:-

In June 2019 a crowd of over 75 people assembled to see the new headstone unveiled. Speakers included local MPs and councillors, Unite officials, Helsinki’s Martin Newby, author of a biography of Edward McHugh, plus Kevin Robinson, one of the leaders of the Liverpool Dock Strikers in the mid 1990s.

By following Luke’s successful campaign, Edward McHugh’s life is recreated through a combination of contemporary photographs, moving images and an explanation of the roles McHugh played in the organisations he was so active within. 

The ten-minute film was created by Rough Jersey (RJ) (*) Productions, who earlier this year released a 7 minute documentary on the successful efforts of Bolton Socialist Club members, including Unite’s Martin McMulkin, to honour with a plaque a local man, James Alwyn, who lost his life fighting fascism in Spain in the 1930s. Both documentaries were directed by Adam Marseille and co-produced with Mark Metcalf. 

To watch the Edward McHugh: Rediscovering a lost working class hero documentary go to:- and

You can also watch the documentary on James Alwyn at:-

If you have an idea for a plaque or headstone to honour a local labour movement figure then please make contact @markmetcalf07 or

Rough Jersey Productions can be found at:-

RJ is now seeking to raise funds to continue this series of works and any help and/or donations would be appreciated. RJ is also exploring other labour movement works as well as moving forward with its football documentary based around the life of Fred Spiksley. 

Halifax Courier article on 1842 plaque announcement

Wednesday, 19 August 2020

Links to multiple articles in incinerators

 With the help of the Big Issue North, Michael Ryan and myself are really the only people who've highlighted how incinerators raise infant mortality levels wherever they get opened. It would not be an exaggeration to state that the excess death levels are around 150 plus infants annually. 

Many articles can be found at:-

Ten recommended books for economics students

Thursday, 13 August 2020

Monday, 3 August 2020

Happy to house homelesss

Happy to house the homeless - Big Issue North article from 20-26 July 

Hoteliers speak of positive experience 

Kangley couple make offer for the long-term 

The owner of a Sheffield city centre hotel that has been accommodating homeless people through the lockdown says he would be willing to continue supporting them after the pandemic if he had the backing of the government and local authority. 

At the end of March the government followed the lead of California by funding the accommodation of rough sleepers in hotels and offices. Around 45,000 people, many vulnerable to Covid-19 because of respiratory and other health problems, were housed under the Everyone In policy. 

24 hour deadline 

Sheffield City Council asked Grant Kangley to accommodate rough sleepers at the 16-bedroom Dalbury and Palmer Hotel in Sheffield’s Antiques Quarter. 

Kangley, who bought the hotel five years ago to add to the two he and his wife Anne own in North Wales, said: “After meeting the council it was decided after discussions with staff that because of
the often chaotic nature of homeless people we should play safe, take just three people and see how it went. We were also concerned that some local residents would complain if all the hotel was used by homeless people.” 

But the council wanted to take over the entire hotel. People needed to be taken off the streets and safely housed within 24 hours. Family rooms at the hotel were converted within eight hours into single rooms. Almost before staff knew it homeless people were at the hotel. 

“I must admit that the first week was slightly scary,” said Zoe Burke, aged 27, who had just been appointed manager, with her partner Jordan also employed with responsibility for security. Having always worked in hospitality, she had been looking forward to priorities such as building
up business in the new restaurant. 

“We had been told only negative things about the people we were now hosting. I suppose the council has to highlight the problems that homeless people are facing, such as drug and alcohol abuse, but also there was a suspicion amongst people that we would police them and keep them permanently indoors.” 

In normal times, rooms at the boutique hotel – “each with its own story, with some nice finishing touches”, according to Kangley – cost £85-£95 during weekdays and more at weekends, when it had generally been fully booked. But all visitors had cancelled reservations just before the lockdown. 

Kangley and Burke admit they had never previously considered homeless people’s needs but they soon began to understand their new guests, some of whom were asylum seekers while others had been recently released from prison. 

“A mutual respect was quickly established. I heard some difficult stories and soon realised many homeless people have just fallen, often very quickly, on hard times and can’t recover without help,” said Burke. 

Begin living a better life 

One of those who moved into the hotel was Nick, a trained chef who had become homeless after losing his job, becoming ill and then getting into difficulties with claiming benefits he was entitled to. As well as sleeping rough Nick had been staying with friends. They had to turn him away once the advice on how to tackle Covid-19 included telling people not to accommodate anyone outside their own families. 

After the council agreed with Kangley’s request for the hotel to provide everyone staying there with breakfast and an evening meal, Nick was asked to do some cooking. The council has since found Nick permanent accommodation and he hopes to find work again once as a chef. 

Nick is grateful for his accommodation at the Dalbury and Palmer. “I hope anyone who needs it can be moved into the room I was using. Having a place to live, even temporarily, makes it easier for other agencies including the council to make contact and start helping homeless people to begin living a better life.” 

Ann Clarkson moved from Grimsby to Sheffield a year ago. She had worked full time for over three decades. Her last job, for 13 years, was a supervisor at Howden Kitchens. But she got breast cancer, which damaged her mental welfare, even though she overcame it. She loved her dog and, when it was stolen and the police refused her request to investigate the person she believed had taken it, she sought her own revenge and was arrested. 

This first ever offence resulted in just over a month in prison and she was living on the Sheffield
streets when Framework, a street outreach project run by a local housing association, found her outside Sheffield Cathedral and gave her a bus ticket to get to the Dalbury and Palmer. She too helped make meals at the hotel, laughing that it kept her out of mischief. But she knows she would otherwise have been living in a squat or doorway this summer. 

“Covid-19 might, if projects such as this can continue for a while, really help homeless people,” said Clarkson. “But I am concerned that if people are moved on without ongoing help they won’t be able to cope. The manager and staff here have helped create a community and people feel safe.” 

She wants to use her considerable work skills to set up a cafĂ© as she likes cooking and has arranged to meet the Together Women Project after lockdown has ended to discuss how to take her ideas forward. 

Like Clarkson, Burke fears for homeless people if this support is removed. 

“This is the best thing I have ever done,” she said.

“I can get quite emotional about it and I have developed some great friendships. For some guests this experience will help greatly in the future but I worry about others who currently have support, including being able to discuss things that worry them.” 

Kangley added: “The vast majority of homeless people who have stayed at the hotel have been very friendly, kept the place clean and also done many spare jobs such as gardening. I’d be happy to continue doing this for a while but that is up to the government and the council. Whatever happens I intend taking a keen interest in tackling homelessness in the future.” 

Sheffield City Council did not respond to Big Issue North’s request for comment. 

20-26 July 2020 

Sunday, 2 August 2020

2005 article reprint on Ops linked to sheep farmers suicides

Bought for £640,000 in 2008 and since when no one has lived there

This house outside Kirkby Stephen was purchased for £640,000 in 2008, up £400k on the sale price of £240,000 in 2001. No one has lived in the place since 2008 but it has a gardener and it is regularly cleaned inside even though all the furniture in each room is in the middle. The British Countryside! 

Call to record COVID works deaths

Call to record Covid work deaths
Big Issue North article 27 July - 2 August 

Employers have not controlled work risks 
A Manchester health and safety advice centre has called for workers who have died from contracting Covid-19 to be recorded as workplace deaths.
The decision would have implications for employers, including public bodies, and grieving families of the dead workers. 
According to the Heath and Safety Executive (HSE) their were 111 fatal workplace injuries in 2019-20, 38 fewer than in 2018-19. The HSE believes part of the fall is due to reduced economic activity resulting from the impact of Covid-19 in the final two months of 2019-20. 
But the total omits deaths from Covid-19. According to the HSE separate data about deaths associated with the coronavirus will be available at a later date. 
Lack of PPE 
The Greater Manchester Hazards Centre (GMHC) lobbies and advises workers on occupational health, safety and welfare issues. Co-ordinator Janet Newsham believes workers have died because workplace risks have not been controlled and is particularly critical of the lack of PPE for health and care workers. Employers found guilty of breaking health and safety laws can be fined, or, in some cases, imprisoned or lose the right to be a company director. 
“There wasn’t a precautionary approach taken to PPE,” said Newsham. “A higher level of stock was needed for health workers and anyone coming into contact with the virus.” 
GMHC wrote to the HSE when the coronavirus crisis crisis began, asking it to make it easier for workers to report concerns about employers not providing PPE. The HSE agreed to the Trades Union Congress producing an online form that sends concerns direct to the safety enforcement agency. 
The HSE also increased the number of people taking calls from employees. But Newsham said: “We have seen, for example, how the construction industry has been widely working and social distancing has been flouted. There has been only a handful of cases that have resulted in HSE or local authorities action.” 
According to an HSE spokesperson “all cases reported to HSE and local authorities are being assessed and investigations initiated where incidents meet our published incident selection criteria”. 
In the US a union is suing meat companies including Smithfield Foods and JBS USA, as well as retailers such as Amazon and Walmart, on behalf of workers who have become infected and died. The first multiple victims case at one workplace during the pandemic was filed in court recently. 
Newsham said: “Unions and families here should be considering legal action against the government, perhaps in a similar fashion to that by soldiers’ families who successfully sued over a lack of adequate equipment and protection in the Iraq conflict.” 
In response to a series of questions an HSE spokesperson told Big Issue North: “With the Covid-
19 virus prevalent in the community at large it is very difficult to be certain that an individual case of the disease resulted from occupational exposure... It is too early for us to comment on potential lines of enquiry.” 
HSE’s response concerned Unite member Abdul Tan Rashid, a Middlesbrough bus driver who has seen colleagues die across the country. “I hope it does not mean Covid-19 deaths among people with underlying health problems are recorded as due to the natural progression of a naturally occurring disease. Employers might then escape their responsibilities.” 
One potential avenue of enquiry was closed down in April when the chief coroner said an inquest was “not the right forum for addressing concerns about high-level government or public policy” and “by no means will all Covid-19 deaths be reported to the coroner”. 
For Newsham though the priority remains “to get high standard PPE and more effective workplace practices in place while not letting down workers who have died by allowing them not to be recorded as workplace deaths”.