Deeping St Nicholas villagers in Irish labour dispute in 1916

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Irishmen looking for work in Deeping St Nicholas were rounded up by villagers armed with sticks in 1916.

As a result of many local men being away at war, the district’s farmers would have been glad to employ the Irish during harvest time.

However, at Deeping St Nicholas Irishmen looking for work had already been advised by the locals to leave the next day, which they did.

The report said: “The feeling was that it was grossly unfair to employ them, and allow them to earn 7s 6d per day and more while our young men and boys were in Ireland at the present time keeping peace and earning the Government pay of 1s per day” – a view shared “by the whole of the employers and labourers alike in the parish”.

When a further batch of Irishmen appeared in the village , a “fair crowd of labourers collected, each with a very determined look (and a stick to use, if necessary), and a ‘rounding up’ process began.”

There followed a “short but pointed” explanation before they were marched to the railway station. As there were no trains due, they were sent to Spalding by road.

The Deeping St Nicholas labourers then held an impromptu meeting opposite the Harrow Inn to discuss their future response.

The report said: “They were quite in sympathy with the farmers and employers being short of labour, but took into consideration the fact that farmers, labourers, ploughmen, and tradesmen who volunteered to fight, were now in Ireland, under not too friendly circumstances, while the Irishmen of military age came over and stepped in their places. They most strongly objected to the procedure, and it was unanimously agreed that under no conditions would they work with the Irishmen.”

Two thousand Irishmen were said to be working on the county’s corn and potato harvest at that time.