Wednesday, November 14, 2007

To Discourage The Others

Following on from the recent post/link on the blog relating to working class history in Hammersmith and Islington, John B over at Class Warfare blog has a post on William Jobling, the last man to be gibbeted in England.

Jobling, a native of Jarrow, was a miner convicted of the murder of Nicholas Fairles, a colliery owner and local magistrate, way back in 1832, and in the articles that John B links to in his post, there is still some doubt 175 years later whether or not Jobling was in fact guilty of the crime.

There can be no doubt that the gibbeting of Jobling - gibbeting being the public display of executed criminals in iron gallows-like constructions to deter other would be 'criminals' - was as much about the period and place of when the murder took place, as it was about the murder itself.

The North East of England was in the throes of heightened class antagonism between the miners and the mine owners at that time - there had been two major strikes in the area in 1831 and 1832 - and the conviction of a miner for the murder of a magistrate/colliery owner had to be seen to be acted upon swiftly and decisively. A message sent out to the miners and their supporters that this is what happens to your kind if you cross us.

It's a little known piece of working class history, and as John B. states:

"Many in the labour movement will be able to tell you about the Tolpuddle Martyrs. There is even an annual two-day event in Dorset to commemorate them and indeed the wider struggle of the labour movement. How many, I wonder, could mention the case of Will Jobling, a miner from Jarrow who was gibbeted at about the same time as the men from Tolpuddle were being sent to Australia, or indeed of seven men from Jarrow who were likewise deported for their union activity? "

The sooner we know a little more about our history of our class, the sooner we can move on from being swallowing the 'official version' spoon-fed to us by those who don't want us to know any better.

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