A HYDE-BORN author is telling the story of a local man who became known as one of the Chartists that fought for workers’ rights.
When Brent Shore spotted the Chartists’ memorial outside the town hall, one name leapt out at him – James Shore.
Now after months of research and writing, his story around the time of the ‘Plug Riots’ is told in new novel Blessed are the Meek.
A machine mender at mills around the town, James became involved in the movement that aimed to end the days of 15-hour working days in horrific conditions.
Described as ‘one of the most remarkable social upheavals ever known in the history of Britain’, James’s role in the events could not be downplayed.
He eventually received two years’ hard labour, the longest sentence of anyone, after being convicted.
People from Hyde played a particularly important role in ‘ringing the change’ for social and political reform.
John Bradley (Clogger) of Manchester Road, was responsible for helping to frame the ‘Declaration of Hyde Chartists’, which demanded the proper recognition of rights of the labouring classes.
And with so much material on his doorstep, Brent, who lives in Dorchester, Dorset, could not resist.
He said: “There was definitely a connection because it’s my home town and having seen his name, I wanted to tell his story.
“I’ve done some checking and he’s no relation to me.
“He worked as a mechanist in the mills around Hyde and he was given a long sentence.
“I got a lot of help from people like that Tameside Local History Society about who he was, what he did and what life was like then.
“James was basically a foundry worker in Hyde. I’ve got his birth and death records but there’s not much else about things like what he was like.
“I was determined to tell his story, or at least as much of it as I could discover.
“I was enormously helped by members of the Tameside Historical Forum, the Local Studies Centre at Ashton Library and by a large array of books, pamphlets, maps, newspaper articles and so on, but historical records can only tell the factual bare bones of a story.
“Along with a degree of educated guesswork I felt it necessary to flesh out the tale with imagination.
“I make no excuses for creating scenes which are entirely fictitious as I wrote them in good faith: they enhance James’ story by giving it an honest context and depth.
“It’s a departure for me as all of my work till now has been contemporary fiction. But I wanted to tell the story of the Chartists and particularly the Plug Riots which took place in my home town of Hyde.”
Blessed are the Meek tells how James joined up with the Chartists after growing tired of inhumane treatment by mill bosses.
The Chartism movement gained its name from its charter of six points, including a vote for every man aged 21 and payment of members, enabling an honest tradesman, working man, or other person to serve a constituency, when taken from his business to attend to the interests of the country.
However, some protests turned violent as the strike in the summer of 1842 became known as the ‘Plug Riots’ because of strikers’ practice of disabling the mill boilers by removal of their plugs.
The military was sent to Hyde when it was reported there was a large gathering on Godley Green.
And on August 14, 1848, a band of armed Chartists marched through Hyde at midnight, determined to effect a stoppage of the mills for a month by drawing the plugs of the boilers.
For Brent, the book was as much a trip down memory lane as it was a labour of love as James lived in Gee Cross, where the 64-year-old and his wife Heather grew up.
And he revealed the thing that still brings him back from the south coast to the north-west.
Brent added: “I lived in Gee Cross until I was 18, went to Hyde Grammar School but moved away to go the university in Nottingham then did a PGCE.
“I lived in Bermuda for nine years from 1982-1991 but came back to the UK to start a family.
“I’d come back up to Hyde three or four times a year and I still keep in touch with all of Hyde United’s games!”
• Blessed are the Meek is available online from www.brentshore.co.uk priced £8.99.