The General Strike of 1926 affected all parts of the UK, as miners, transport workers, dockers and other trades went out on strike for better pay and a shorter working day. It lasted nine days and was the largest industrial dispute in Britain’s history. In Dundee, the strike had quite a big impact on the workers as more and more people were getting involved. Local printworkers went out and strikers gathered in in front of the Town House in the High Street. Special constables were recruited and volunteers were driving goods and people as transport workers refused to work or cross picket lines. Three tram drivers were arrested and convicted for going to a man’s house and threatening his wife, because he wasn’t on strike. They were pickets and threatened to ‘make it hot’ for her husband after the strike and see that he lost his job.
The town saw lots of demonstrations against the transport volunteers, and Jessie Latto, a spinner, was accused of throwing a stone that hit one of them. She admitted she was part of the crowd booing, but denied throwing anything, saying that while she was standing with her friends ‘something flew over their heads’. Everyone started running away, but Jessie was caught and arrested.
In Baxter Park, there was the chance to escape the mayhem. A tennis court had opened in 1919, and a bandstand had just been built. The new bandstand was described as ‘handsome’ and built where the music could ‘be heard in almost every part of the northern portion of the Park’. Bands like the Minstrels, the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserves and the Dundee Trades’ Band played in the summer evenings and each Sunday, attracting huge audiences.
But even before the General Strike the harmony of Baxter Park was disturbed when the bands of Dundee threatened strike action. There were two problems. First, they thought it was unfair the way the Council had allocated dates when each band could play. The second problem was that that the Council charged for the seats in front of the bandstand, and they’d decided they’d also take some of the bands’ collection money. When a band did a concert they were allowed to pass a collection bag around, but if the weather was cold or wet or the audience was small, sometimes they didn’t collect enough to cover their expenses. But the Council wanted 7½ % of their collection. The bands were going on strike unless the Council changed its mind. A month later, the bands had agreed they would each play on three Sundays during the summer, but by June some of the working men’s bands were boycotting all the Council’s parks, playing instead at West Clepington where apparently, ‘the public are flocking’. However, they were soon back playing in Baxter Park after the Council voted to drop the collection charge.
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