21st October 1915

Guernsey’s stone crackers demanded a pay rise

Quarrying has long been important to Guernsey. As well as providing the stone it needed for its own domestic use, the quarries also provided rock for export.

Guernsey granite is used in some of London’s paving stones, while granite from Crevichon, as well as being used for Castle Cornet, is incorporated into the steps of London’s St Paul’s Cathedral.

So, when Guernsey’s stone crackers demanded a pay rise, the matter was of sufficient importance to draw attention from the capital. On 21 October 1915, James O’Grady, MP for Leeds East and, later, Leeds South, raised their plight in Parliament.

Hansard reports that O’Grady asked the President of the Board of Trade, Ernest Pretyman, whether he had received “any communication… from certain stone firms in Guernsey respecting an application from the men in their employ (stone crackers) for an increase in wages…”

At that time they were paid either 17 or 18 shillings a week and the firms had “refused to submit the matter to arbitration”. O’Grady pointed out that the firms in question had a contract to supply the government with macadam.

As the First World War was being fought at that time, O’Grady wanted to know whether the Pretyman had considered using the provisions of the Munitions of War Act to force the company to arbitration.

The response

Pretyman had bad news for the stone crackers. He said that the Chief Industrial Commissioner had already looked into the case and, to put it in simple terms, the stone crackers weren’t important enough to the war effort to be given their pay rise.

Of course, Pretyman wrapped it up in rather more official language. He explained that the quarrying firms had told the Commissioner that “the state and prospects of their trade were not such as to enable an advance of wages to be given… owing to lack of orders, it is only with great difficulty that the firms have been able to avoid closing their works [and] the men concerned are not engaged in munition work”.

James O’Grady

James O’Grady, who raised the stone crackers’ issue in Parliament, was a trade unionist and member of the Labour Party. He was appointed 14th Governor of Tasmania in 1924 and, later, 17th Governor of the Falkland Islands between 1931 and 1934. He had previously accepted an offer to be British Ambassador to the Soviet Union for the first Labour government, led by Ramsay MacDonald, but when the posting was postponed it passed him by.


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Other events that occured in October

Guernsey Post Office was established 1st
Guernsey switched to Reichsmarks 2nd
Sark was the target of Operation Basalt 3rd
Sark voted for democracy 4th
Guernsey lifeboat saved a Swedish schooner 5th
Jeeves actor died in Guernsey 6th
Sarnia Theatre celebrated its most successful year 7th
The Story of Adele H opened in cinemas 8th
Howards’ Way came to Guernsey 9th
Guernsey Ladies’ College opened 10th
A Trislander ate itself between Jersey and Guernsey 11th
The Channel Islands’ king set sail for England 12th
Major General Sir Isaac Brock died 13th
Footballer Matt Le Tissier was born 14th
Island FM brings commercial radio to Guernsey 15th
Channel Television saw off a rival broadcaster 16th
The first mines were dug on Sark 17th
Sark’s Stocks Hotel was damaged by fire 18th
Elizabeth College’s foundation stone was laid 19th
Hitler ordered the Channel Islands’ fortification 20th
Guernsey’s stone crackers demanded a pay rise 21st
The desalination plant opened 22nd
Sir Charles Hayward buys Jethou for £91,000 23rd
Guernsey Monopoly board game went on sale 24th
Dame Sibyl Hathaway chose her Desert Island Discs 25th
GUNS founder Charles Machon died 26th
Bailiff Sir Peter de Havilland was born 27th
A man “disappeared” from a Guernsey ferry 28th
Express & Star bought Guernsey Press 29th
The first lighthouses were built on the Casquets 30th
States of Guernsey voted to lower the voting age 31st