“Look at me. I have been a stitcher for 20 years and at the present time I have to work 80 hours for 30 shillings. Many a time I have worked weeks on end, starting at six in the morning and finishing at home at 10 ten o’clock at night. It is not at all rare for me to work on Sundays. With a wife and children to keep I have to do it. We believe there is no need for cuttings of prices. Cricketers would surely not demur paying an extra shilling if they knew we were working for 4.5d an hour.” – Anonymous Cricket Ball Maker, 20th April, 1914, The Daily Telegraph
The cricket ball makers were striking on account of falling wages.
In a rare show of support for unions, The Daily Telegraph and The Times spoke out on behalf of the striking cricket ball makers. Even in the three months leading up to the First World War the press of the middle-classes was keen to ensure the thwack of leather on willow continued to be heard through England’s countryside.
With around 150 members (about 50% of expert cricket ball makers, which numbered just 300), the Amalgamated Society of Cricket Ball Makers was small, but it turned out to be mighty.
Not only did the strike receive the support of the conservative press, it had the backing of some of the best-known cricketers from the day including Kent’s James Seymour and Gloucester’s Frank Harris. Even the employers acknowledged that the workers deserved better recognition.
The strike was a success with a speedy agreement being reached with the owners. Even though war broke out just three months later and first class cricket was halted, club cricket continued to be played throughout the war.