Diary of Margaret Woods during the 1926 General Strike

Diary account from a schoolgirl during the 1926 General Strike which is largely critical but reproduced for reference.

Submitted by flaneur on November 8, 2012

Tuesday 4th May.

Went to Tooting with Spot, on foot because of the strike. The way in which people have accepted the inevitable is wonderful. The High Road is thronged with an unending stream of motor cars, and cycles. It looks cheery enough and to my mind, we will show the strikers and the trade unions that we are certainly not entirely dependent upon them for food supplies, papers and buses. Everybody is willing to give anybody help or a liftand the number of pedestrians is comparatively few. Had Connie to tea and afterwards walked part of the way home with her. Took Spot, nearly got run over at the Wheatsheaf but I still live!

May 5th Wednesday

School reopens [after holidays]. Mother thought that I ought not to go to school on my bicycle but I went. It was lovely. You could not stop but had to keep on with the long line of moving vehicles. Winnie walked. We were swept across the Wheatsheaf and, had I alighted by Trinity Tavern to walk across the road, without much doubt I should have been run over. There were no girls absent or late in our form and very few in the whole school. Miss Mason is delighted to send an excellent report to the council. Miss Mason said very earnestly to us, 'you will have to [be] true to your first two s's girls, during the strike. Carry on Steady and Straight and I can trust you to make no fuss.

May 6th Thursday.

Third day of the strike. England has a very efficient way of getting food supplies and protecting her people against unruly strikers. It makes me proud to think how loyally the men and women from all quarters have responded to the call for volunteers. Mother said that later, of some of the strikers, if they are true Englishmen they will be ashamed to have shirked their work (especially the bus & train & tram drivers) when they see the cheery city people struggling to work on any conveyance that will carry them, and also to see how quickly and steadily England's people are being supplied with food, conveyance and news. Mother added too, that all along she thinks the strike will soon end, because sound British common sense will come to the fore & all will be well.

May 7th Friday.

School. All the mistresses are here: there have been very few lates and still fewer absent girls. The council has replied to Miss Mason's letter and says he is very proud of us. So we have to 'keep on keeping on' so to speak. Dad is splendid in the strike. He takes up people every morning and keeps a weapon on the seat behind him, because many of the Bolshy Roughs like to demonstrate their feelings on the hardworking citizens and their doings is not by any means pleasant. People are all well protected though by police and special constables and riots have been quickly suppressed by baton charges. Anyhow, the strikers have ruined the press and as long as we get a piece of paper 12" x 8" for the 'Times' we are perfectly happy.

May 8th Saturday.

Music lesson. Mr Holland at the end said I should pass but I don't believe him yet. Mother said he ought not to have told me I should pass, as it would stop me practicing but she need fear not in that direction. Came home and helped mother. Saw Mr Grable on his beat (he is a special constable). Dad brought home the British Gazette (2 pages for 1d) I am saving the papers as relics. Some buses are running. The volunteer drivers and some conductors are being guarded by a special constable and the bonnet by barbed wire. Mr Stanley Baldwin sent a cheery message to everybody, saying that every man who did his duty would not be forgotten and telling us all to keep calm and support the govt.

May 9th Sunday.

Quite a peaceful day. All of us went to church in the morning. Met Vera and went for a walk with her after church down the High Road. Bought a small page titled 'Sunday Pictorial' for 1d and from it I gathered that the miners' question was almost forgotten and the union's and the strikers are attacking the Government. I read in the official papers that Mr Baldwin said there are two alternatives to the present Government 1) Fascist Govt 2) Socialist Govt and he was right declaring that no true British man would stand those. I hope everybody will loyally support Mr Baldwin and our present Parliament. Went with Mother to Uncle [illegible]. Gran was there. Came home with roots. Saw Newton coming home. Took Spot out after and he trundled with me. Quite slick.

May 10th Monday.

School again. Miss Mason says we shall be docked of milk supplies so the alternatives are cocoa and water. The papers report that shipping and the transportation of food etc is improving and that many men have defied the union orders to strike and have returned to work. I'm so glad. It's about time some of them came to their senses. I fell positive that the strike cannot continue much longer and mother is so optimistic and cheerful about it, that Miss Firewash and Mrs Bush declare her a regular comfort. Dad all along has had forebodings about its duration and often tell us that we shall have no jam etc soon. He has had a baton made for him and so has Mr Fourniss - they mean business evidently. Dad took Mr Fourniss out to teach him to drive.

May 11th Tuesday.

By all appearances of today's papers the strike cannot last much longer. Everything is improving. There are many trains running - by slick volunteers - some of them university men in Oxford Bags etc. Walter Fourniss has joined up for the South Western Railway and I think that Vin & Don or Vin and Bruce, although only seventeen, are going to join up as special constables!! I wish we could do something to help. Did my music practice and homework, then took Spot for his night meander. Skinny came round and laughed at Nellie who was cutting the hedge. Quarrelled with A. over an equation.

May 12th Wednesday.

The strike has ended! Mother saw the sweep and he told her that news had come through by wireless. Mother said she could go into the High Road and sing God Save the King, three cheers for Mr Baldwin and the Government. I expect Dad and Mr Fourniss will be so peeved not to have been able to use their new batons but I expect they will be reserved for future household use!! I had better start being angelic henceforth. Took Gwen home on my saddle like I did yesterday. No accidents occurred today however, and we went along in fine style. Newton's scout evening. Took Spot out all the afternoon practically. Saw quite a lot of 49 'buses for the first time.

May 13th Thursday.

School. Cycling to school we saw ever so many 49 'buses - those going towards London packed full - those going to Streatham Hill nearly empty. Stayed to school dinner. Gwen managed to bag my beloved rubber in scripture - and I had made up my mind she wasn't going to have it. Alas. Came home and took Spot out on the common. Met Alan, Titch and George, the two latter having a holiday because it is Ascension day. Alan felt ill and mother packed him off to bed before tea. Did homework.

May 14th Friday.

'Buses and trams are running today driven by the original 'bus and trammen. Mr Fourniss told Dad that the attitude of the tramway-men was glum, and a little later they will wish that they hadn't struck more than they do now.

May 17th Monday.

Everything seems normal now with 'buses, trams and trains running. The 'buses we saw were absolutely crowded. Did all my algebra during the morning and gave it in.

Taken from Woolf Online.