IGNITING THE FLAME OF UNITY


THE HISTORY OF THE

BRIGHTON BRANCH OF A.S.L.E.F.

 

 

 

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The following articles have been extracted from the Locomotive Journal regarding the amalgamation of A.S.L.E.F. with 

Locomotive Enginemen and Firemen Friendly Societies which would latter allowed A.S.L.E.F to become a larger trade union 

reaching out to all areas of the United Kingdom.

LOCOMOTIVE JOURNAL

FEBRUARY 1888

Page 20

AMALGAMATION WITH THE OLD SOCIETY.


Sir,

A great deal has been said of late respecting the amalgamation of the Locomotive Steam Enginemen's and Firemen's Friendly 

Society with the Associated So- ciety of Locomotive Engineers and Fire- men. Some members are very much opposed to the 

amalgamation, while others are very much in favour of such a course, but, whichever side is taken, whether for or against, I 

hope there will be no prejudice, but that each one will support that course which he thinks will most benefit his fellow-

workmen.

I hope that I shall not be presumptuous if I offer a few reasons why I think the amalgamation would be beneficial to all 

concerned. In the first place what need is there for two societies for the same class of workmen when one is sufficient, and so 

constituted that it will meet all the requirements of enginemen and firemen, whether as a Friendly Society or as a Trades’ Union. 

Perhaps the answer will be, how can you expect us as members of the L.S.E. & F.F.S. to let you have our funds of £80,000 when 

you have no adequate amount of funds to- place alongside of it.

I would reply that we do not wish to- take any advantage of your funds, our object is solely this, to bring as far as possible the 

whole body of locomotive enginemen and firemen in this country into one grand association, for the purpose of improving our 

position as a body of responsible workmen, and by being combined in one grand organisation to be able to give each other 

mutual support, either in sickness or old age, and to help the widow and orphans in the case of the death of a brother.

If prejudice can only be kept out of the way, and the amalgamation take place, the difficulties of arranging the funds can easily 

be overcome, and with regard to the older members, they could remain as they are at present, paying the same contributions, 

and receiving the same benefits as now. The younger members could, by paying a little more in contributions, become entitled 

to the full benefits of the A. S. L. E. & F., and thereby become members of a Trades' Union and Friendly Society at the same 

time.

The fact of there being no fund for the protection of our labour interests in the L. S. E. & F. F. S. was the cause of the A. S. L. E. 

& F. being established, and since its establishment the progress made has quite reached the anticipations of the most sanguine, 

its value per member is far greater than could have been reasonably expected in so short a time, and at the present time such 

progress is being made as to warrant the anticipation that before long the majority of locomotive enginemen and firemen in this 

country will be enrolled as members.

I would ask the members of L.S.E.&F.F.S. if they do not think it would be far better for them to be members of an association 

that, in addition to giving relief in sickness, old age, and death, would be far better for them to members of such an association, 

then I say at once support the amalgamation of the two societies, and let us become one grand organisation for mutual help in 

cases, whether for Trades’ Union or Friendly Society purpose.

An army on the battle field, to be suecessful, must be directed, supported, and controlled, from one central body. The same may 

be said of the great army of enginemen and firemen; there is weakness in divided authority and action, and if you wish to be 

successful in defending or improving your labour interests, or for helping each other in Friendly Society matters, by far the best 

result will be obtained by thorough combination.


In this country there are over 30,000 locomotive enginemen aud firemen, and I think most men will see the great advantage to 

all if we were all enrolled in one organisation. We should be able to obtain a respectful hearing from our employers, and also get 

some attention paid to our appeals for reasonable concessions, where as, at the present time, if we offer to send a deputation 

before them, with a view to coming to a better understanding with them in relation to our labour, we are very often snubbed, and 

very discourteously turned from the door as if we were not endowed with common sense equally with themselves.


The only way to merit respect from others is by having for ourselves, and I think a man cannot claim to have that resect for 

himself he should have if he neglects to make provision for the protection of the interests of his labour, or his relief in sickness. 

What is the cause of so much sickness among our own class? I think it can clearly be traced to the want of provision for the 

comfort of the men while at work, and the unreasonable number of hours men are compelled to remain on duty at one time.


Being exposed to the inclemency of the weather so many hours weakens the system, and often brings on severe colds, which are 

admitted by all medical men to be the primary cause of most diseases. 


This state of things could be remedied if men were thoroughly united in one organisation, we should be listened to respectfully 

by our employers, and our recommendations would be acted on, our comforts would be studied, and our interests would be 

protected.

This argument could be carried to a much greater length, but I think enough has been said to show the advantage of being unites 

in one grand organisation. Therefore, I say, throw prejudice on one side, and look the object in the face, and support that which 

will be most beneficial to us as fellow women, and I feel sure the majority will decide that the amalgamation of the two 

societies will be the best means to attain the desired result.  


LOCOMOTIVE JOURNAL

APRIL 1888

Page 88

To the Editor of A. S. L. E. and F. Monthly Journal.


Sir,— Allow me to congratulate you and the Society at large on the appearance of our Monthly Journal, which I trust may have 

a long, useful, and brilliant career, and be the means of propagating the Society until we have the whole of the enginemen of 

Great Britain within our ranks. It is some years since I first addressed the enginemen and firemen of the country on the subject 

of amalgamation of the “two societies,” but nothing has come of it except that men will say it is a good thing if it could be done, 

and there it is allowed to remain. I have not the figures near me, but I think there are over thirty thousand enginemen and 

firemen on the railways of the United Kingdom, while there are not more than eleven or twelve thousand who think it worth a 

thought to protect themselves by paying into a Society of their fellow workmen, the greater number pay into the “Old Society,” 

which is pure and simple a friendly society, and a good one; a smaller number pay into the A.S.L.E. and F., or the New Society, 

whilst a yet much smaller number pay into the A.S.R.S., so that it is not two but three societies enginemen, who are society 

men, try to keep up, whilst the great bulk of the men, some 18,000, are heedless alike of their own and their fellows’ welfare. Is 

it any wonder we are continually reading of meetings on this line and the other, and of great amount of dissatisfaction there is 

on various lines amongst loco. men? The resolutions that are passed, and the tall talk that is indulged in, until the men, stung to 

madness by either real or fancied wrongs, commit themselves to a strike, as did our brothers on the Midland a short time since, 

ill arranged and lacking that combination which would have insured success ; is it any wonder that it should have collapsed and 

ruined hundreds, if not thousands, of comfortable homes, and cost the three societies a good deal of their funds, as the strength 

of a chain is its weakest link, so with the non-society men of Great Britain is the strength of the men ? Those men are our weak 

link, and, in my mind, very little stronger links in the chain are the men who do not try all they can to join even the whole of the 

society men in one Society to protect your labour. It was the non-society men who caused the Midland strike, it was they who 

ruined their brothers, it is they who are answerable for all the misery that strike has entailed, and the effects of it will fall on 

them again, for other directors or high officials will try to make their lines be worked cheaper than others, and knowing the 

divided state you are in and the apathy and cowardice of the greater number of the men, will put the screw on until they make 

even the coldest blooded amongst you shriek out, meet resolute &c., until you again sting the more manly amongst you to again 

resist, with the usual results, and so on to the end of the chapter. ThenwhyinHeaven's name cannot you see it is your own 

interests to join altogether in " One Society;" help each other, by doing so you help yourselves; sink all your petty jealousies, 

and pull together. I see in your first issue an article on. The Unemployed Midland Railway Strikers,” and knowing that the 

Societies 

have done all they could for their members, leads me to ask what has the enginemen and firemen of the United Kingdom done 

for those men, who, had they been successful, would have been lauded to the skies, because it would have cost nothing but talk. 

I have not heard that the enginemen, as a body, have felt in their breeches-pockets to help the poor fellows that have been beaten 

in the strife; no doubt but the men would do it, but you have no organisation. Another reason why there should be only one 

Society, and all should belong to it. This is the third time I have appealed to enginemen and firemen of the country to 

amalgamate their Societies, and will keep pegging at it until I see it an accomplished fact.


I am. Sir,

Yours truly,

An Old Engineman. 


LOCOMOTIVE JOURNAL

JUNE 1888

Page 154

To the Editor of A. S. L. E. & F. Monthly Journal 


Sir, In reading the May issue of our Journal, I must say I felt grieved that none of your readers had taken up the question of the 

Amalgamation of the two Societies of Enginemen and Firemen whilst I see some of your correspondents are writing able letters 

on other matters, who, if they will only turn their attention to this, as being a question of the first and greatest importance, will 

do more to advance themselves and their fellow work men than has ever yet been done. You men who are in the north know the 

evil of being connected with a Society whose officials are not of yourselves. More I will not say to open up a painful matter, but 

trust that in your next number some energetic member of the old Society will take the matter up and ventilate the subject in

better manner than I have done. 

I am,

Yours obediently,

An Old Engineman. 


LOCOMOTIVE JOURNAL

JULY 1888

Page 186

To the Editor of the Associated Society of Locomotive Engineers and Firemen’s Journal. 

Dear Sir,—I see your correspondent, "Old Engineman," in your last issue, feels grieved that no one took up the question of the 

amalgamation of the two societies. I can assure him that as a member of both societies I should like to see so desirable a result 

attained. I may also state that I believe that there are hundreds of members of the old society who are of the same opinion. But I 

should like to state that there is still a large amount of prejudice against us in some men's minds. They are of opinion that we 

wish to make ourselves rich at their expense. There would not be much difficulty in dispelling these prejudices if they would 

face the question with calm unbiassed minds. That the time will come I have not a doubt, and it is the interest of members of 

both societies that that the time should be hastened on when the amalgamation could be achieved. The question is asked, why 

amalgamate? There are many reasons, of which the following are a few :—

(1) It would reduce friction, and tend to join the men in a common brotherhood

(2) We should be enabled through the old society to reach men whom it is not possible to reach now, because they hold aloof 

from us; 

(3) We could practise greater economy, as the management would be curtailed; 


(4) The old society would gain, from the fact that the branches would be increased, as the Associated has planted branches in 

districts where the old society has never reached. 

There are many others, but I think this will suffice for the present; what has been already stated, if the members will only take 

the matter up, and state their views on the subject and enlarge upon them, is quite sufficient to enable us to form an intelligent 

opinion on this important question. I would earnestly hope that this question may receive the earnest consideration of the 

members of both societies, and be met in the right spirit, actuated for the common good of all the members. One word to the old 

men; depend upon it the young men who are rising up at the present time are watching your action in this matter they, the 

majority, are fully alive to their own interests, and know if they are to rise to your position there must be a strong organisation, 

and they are looking to the Associated for succour and support.

As one who loves the old society, and full of hope for the newer one, allow me to sign myself, 

A Member of Both Societies


LOCOMOTIVE JOURNAL

JULY 1888

Page 187

THE AMALGAMATION OF THE ASSOCIATED SOCIETY WITH 

THE OLD STEAM ENGINEMEN AND FIREMEN’S SOCIETY. 


The Secretary of the Exeter branch writes : The successes which have attended the Associated Society, in this its seventh 

year of existence, is most gratifying, and while with its 41 branches making itself felt as a strength to its members, it is also 

permeating a feeling of trust  and hope outside its borders, which is a matter for thankfulness.

But granting this, and while it is opening wide its arms to young members to join its ranks like healthy walls of granite still to 

minds given to thought, the subject cannot be viewed by them otherwise then with mixed feelings. The reason is not far to seek, 

for with all its marked success, nothing  can make the Society be placed on a basis of absolute strength until the amalgamation 

of the two Societies take place.

In discussing this momentous question, I would do so with every consideration and courtesy due to those members of the old 

society who are opposed against the step being taken, well knowing how hard it is to break into old associations, the building up 

of which has been a matter of years of anxiety and care. But the question of seriousness and importance will thrust its head to 

the front, demanding an answer. Good as the old society has been in the past, is it keeping pace with the present times ? Let us 

calmly look well into things as we now find them ; in the first place there is an entire revolution taken place, in the railway 

world; shareholders were content with fair profits on their holdings years ago, 4 to 5 per cent, was then considered satisfactory. 

Now all is changed! To keep up the value of shares to 7 per cent. pressure is put on to reduce the expenditure of the working of 

the lines, which, of course, all know what that means. Look well into the M. R. strike, which like a dark cloud over shadowed 

those who took a manly part in it ; a strike of hopeful breasts fighting for honest rights, but without unity and organisation, and 

being crushed like a flower, bringing suffering and disaster to many of those noble fellows. In thinking over this painful subject 

what efforts could the old 'society put forward to protect its members? Of course, the answer will readily be given, ‘ We, as a 

society, have nothing to do with members working grievances ‘) and this shows that living in realistic times, not to grapple 

with the stern necessity as it stands, in surely cutting away the ground from our feet and feed ourselves on husks. The younger 

men coming up in our midst demand protection as a necessary part of the benefits of the Society they belong to, and in the case 

of the old members of the Steam Enginemen and Firemen Society, it might be well said that the child has become father to the 

man. There are, I know, many obstacles in the way of the amalgamation, one of which is the question of finance (which must 

be treated in a separate letter), which could be settled with dignity and justice to both societies. In conclusion, I do appeal to 

those fellow-members of the old society as a member myself of over twenty years standing to grapple with its problems, 

trusting that light and reason will in the end effect a powerful influence to its satisfactory solution. 


LOCOMOTIVE JOURNAL

OCTOBER 1888

Page 284

AMALGAMATION WITH THE OLD SOCIETY.


Sir,—To those who are so anxious for the amalgamation of the old and new Societies, I would ask them, first, their objects? I 

suppose they are to put the old Society on a similar basis to the new one. Assuming such to be the case, I would remind them 

that in any event the mem- bers of the old Society would have to be balloted for their votes, pro and con. I also ask them to 

compare the composition of the two Societies, and I think it will be found that whilst the Associated have made overtures to 

them, and are nearly to a man in favour of the amalgamation, the old Society members are composed of various factions, some 

who are no doubt in favour of combination, but others who have offered us a determined resistance for what reason I am at a 

loss to know, as we only seek the combination from a desire to see the condition of enginemen and firemen improved, and not 

from a mercenary motive ; and I am of opinion that the Associated members must keep on expounding and advocating its 

principles until the opposing element of the old Society are enabled to perceive that we are established upon a firm basis, and in 

harmony with the requirements of the times, whilst their's falls far short of them. That being accomplished, there will be little 

difficulty in bringing about the amalgamation, as the question of finance could easily be equitably adjusted.

Yours fraternally,

J. H., Manchester. 


LOCOMOTIVE JOURNAL

NOVEMBER 1888

Page 312

AMALGAMATION WITH E. AND F. SICK BENEFIT SOCIETY.


Sir,—I see in your last issue a letter from “J. H., Manchester,” on the above subject, and although friend J. H. answers his own 

questions, yet, if you will allow me, I will try and give the history of the formation of the Society, In 1878 the enginemen and 

firemen on a certain line were threatened with a serious reduction of their wages and increase in the hours of working. Having 

appealed to their Board of Directors, between whom and the men negotiations were pending for a considerable time,  during 

which time the men were both not idle. The Society was first considered as local help for this one line, when some of the men 

thought it would be wise to extend it to all enginemen, as up to this enginemen had no Trades Union. I will ; if not go through 

the details of the opposition from selfishness and other causes; sufficient is it that the Society has proved a benefit to many 

thousands, directly and indirectly, and to individuals whom it has protected, its aid has been priceless. The men who drew up the 

rules of the A.S.L.E.&F., were actuated simply by one motive,“The Welfare of their Fellowmen,” knowing that in course of 

time the “ Old Society,” as it is called, would be forced  to amalgamate or become bankrupt. It is  no use disguising the matter, 

we know  that the Old Society is not getting the  young members in the same numbers as before the inauguration of the new 

Society, our rules are drawn up in accordance with Old Society. I have now before me a circular, signed an “ Old Engineer," 

which I have had some years, asking the question why there should be two Societies ? in which the writer says‘’Driver fed 

from one spring and divided into two streams is not as powerful as if confined to one course.” I would pursue the simile further, 

and say that if you make the one course deeper and wider, so that you take all or nearly all the water from the other stream, that 

in a short time the water course will dry up the vegetation within and the once promising place will become a desert. I will make 

one further extract from the circular referred to. The writer says - “I ask you enginemen of thee Unied Kingdom to ‘amalgamate 

your two Societies’ in the interest of the members of both Societies, so that you may be a power in the country and have word in 

the engagements which you enter into with your employers, and take your place amongst the other skilled labourers and artisans 

of your native land. It is still only mater of detail for the E.c. of both Societies to establish the basis of an agreement, giving the 

members of either Society, up to a certain age, liberty to join both by paying the ordinary subscriptions into both if they so 

choose, and giving the members of the E. & F. Friendly Society, who are over the age agreed upon for full benefits, the option 

of paying into the Trade Union if they choose to do so; if not, let them only receive the benefits for which they pay, but make it 

imperative on all new members to join both funds, in other words, to pay one shilling per week, receiving the benefits which are 

now given by the A.S.L.E.&F. Society. By doing so you at once become a power to do good. As I think the latter Society is 

more in accordance with the spirit of the present age, there will be none of that contention between the two bodies of men in 

getting the young men to join their respective Societies. These should be no desire to  interfere with existing rights, but build up 

a Society that will be a security to yourselves and your children; if your officials will not take the matter up, you yourselves 

should do so and tell them you are not going to let your welfare wait on red tape. I will not weary you by pointing the many 

great acts of injustice you could put an end to at once by such amalgamation of the advantages of all being joined in such a 

Society, but ask each man to consider, ‘are we doing right to have two Societies?’ Is the E.& F. Friendly Society able to afford 

me any protection in the event of a trades dispute? Are we increasing in numbers in the same ratio since the foundation of the 

so-called New Society? If not, why not? Will the amalgamation be of any benefit to me and my comrades?” Having made this 

lengthy extract, will you allow me to say if the E.C. of the A.S.L.E.&F. Society would make an offer to the members of the Old 

Society, on those lines or something approaching it, what they would consider fair for their members, it would be clear the 

ground a good deal. I or any single member, pointing out a line for them to follow, would seem presumptuous, but I take it that 

all members have the welfare of their fellows at heart, which is my only excuse for occupying so much of your valuable space.

I am, sir, your obedient servant,

AN OLD ENGIENMAN 

TO THE ENGINEMEN AND FIREMEN OF THE UNITED KINGDOM.


Fellow “Workmen,


The Associated Society of Locomotive Engineers and Firemen was formed eight years ago, and is making rapid strides. It was 

established in order to give greater security to our labour, and to prevent our employers from taking advantage of our 

disorganised condition. Experience has proved that we could have our grievances redressed if we were a thoroughly organised 

body, and thereby raise ourselves to that position to which our responsible duties entitle us. We know that men have striven for 

years to improve their position by appealing to superintendents and directors, with results that are but too well known, and we 

have only to instance the Midland dispute to illustrate our meaning. But how different might those results have been had all 

Enginemen and Firemen been bound in one common brotherhood, for not only is it necessary that we should prepare for 

sickness, old age, and death, but that we should also be afforded protection in our labour ; for so great and arduous are the duties 

to which Enginemen and Firemen are called upon to perform, and their responsibilities so great, that the most careful men are 

liable to accidents, which may result in their being indicted for manslaughter. Why, then, should you pay away your hard-earned 

savings in obtaining legal defence, when you may belong to a Society which will provide you with legal assistance, in addition 

to other trade protection benefits, for the sum of fourpence per week ? Surely the result of the Hexthorpe trial, in which the 

driver and fireman (both members of our Society) were implicated, ought to be an inducement to Enginemen and Firemen to 

join our Society, for we believe that had it not been for the valuable assistance rendered them by our Association, which is 

composed of Enginemen and Firemen only, whose interests and sympathies were identical with the accused, it would have been 

more difficult to have established the men's innocence, but owing to the practical experience of the officers of our Association, 

they were enabled to point out the imperfections of the system under which the men were working, which could not have been 

so lucidly explained by men unacquainted with the calling of Enginemen and Firemen. We hope you will therefore, recognize 

in our Society a long-felt want supplied, and come and join us. Our Schedule of Contributions and Benefits will be found on the 

second page of cover of this publication.

T. G. SUNTER,

General Secretary. 

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