THROUGH THE ARCHIVES: Statement highlights the plight of Lurgan handloom weavers

From the News Letter, May 5, 1888

Wednesday, 5th May 2021, 6:00 am
The statue to Colonel Edward Saunderson outside St Mark's Church in Portadown. Picture: Google

The News Letter on this day in 1888 reported that Colonel Edward Saunderson had brought before the House of Commons a bill which it was hoped would highlight the conditions under which the handloom weavers of Lurgan worked and lived. In response to this workers who resided in the locality of New Street had issued the following statement.

It read: “We, the handloom weavers of New Street, Lurgan, are desirous to direct attention to the grievance under which we suffer, and to the distressed condition in which we are placed owing to long lengths, low wages and bad yarns. Of all this the manufacturers are well aware. Now, sir, we invite them to visit the homes of starvation and distress in this town and to see for themselves the weavers’ condition: their upstairs and downstairs with neither beds nor comfort of any kind; their wives and children neglected for want of means – all through the hands of their employers who are living in splendour with their wives and children, and heaping up thousands of pounds.”

The letter continued: “Now, although we are not in Spike Island with the convicts, we are chained from 14 to 18 hours a day to earn one shilling per day on an average; taking our winding and harness to keep up a loom out of that would leave us about 8d per day to live on, pay rent and fuel.”

The statement concluded: “We call the attention of the shopkeepers and people of the town of Lurgan to this matter and ask them to sympathise with us in our distressed condition.”