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Luddite Spring, Luddite Spring: 27 - Captain Gledhill

...I must impress on you that this is a serious business that could turn deadly. That is why you need to understand what you are getting into and what the end might be. Masters are calling police and troops to rout us...

Ronnie Bray continues his epic novel about the Luddite rebellion.

Two days after Gledhill’s meeting with Crowther on the green, a group of men met at the Moorcock Inn. It was common for men to assemble in public houses and sit, drink ale, and talk, so their gathering did not strike anyone as strange. The Moorcock was now a regular place for Luddite meetings. It served well because it was isolated, there was no light in the area unless the moon was bright, and it was not patronised by clothiers because it did not suit their tastes. Masters preferred more accessible places with better furnishings where they could meet with their own class.

Twenty men crowded into the Moorcock’s back room and ordered drinks. They listened as Jack Crowther introduced Gledhill as General Ludd’s Captain in the Huddersfield district. Gledhill moved to a position where he could see their faces. He knew most of the men but a few were strangers. Each had been invited by a trusted associate. A hush settled over the assembly as Gledhill cleared his throat.

“You know why we are here, so I needn’t go into that. However, I must impress on you that this is a serious business that could turn deadly. That is why you need to understand what you are getting into and what the end might be. Masters are calling police and troops to rout us, and although we have had a fair measure of success, we it is going to get harder, and we expect to meet with stiffer resistance from now on. The authorities are going to meet force with force and we have to fight back. It is a dangerous venture and no one can foretell what it might cost you. We have a fight on our hands, and there is a victory that we must win or else thousands more will starve. In some places, masters are arming themselves, recruiting men to stay in their factories by day and night, and the army waits nearby for their alarms. They are better equipped than we are, but firearms are available. We know where some of them are, and some we have to guess where they are, and we must collect them and be ready to use them or be overwhelmed. We will collect them voluntarily if we can, but forcibly if we must. Once we are armed, we will march against those that stand against us and persuade them that resistance is vain, we mean to have our way, save our jobs, restore work and wages as they were, and bring justice into their workshops.”

Those that knew Gledhill were surprised at the force of his speech. He was transformed from a world-weary cropper into a man of iron and fire with a skilfully expressed cause and the determination necessary to carry it to completion. Had they met in any other arena, his fellows would have applauded and hurrahed, but that would have been dangerous because spies were known to be getting close to them. His hearers let their faces show their approval of Gledhill’s call to arms.

“As you know,” he continued, “we are an oath-bound secret society. That is for our safety and for the safety of our families. If any of you choose not to walk with us into the new tomorrow, if any man feels this is not for him, then if he gives his word not to repeat what he has heard here, he can leave and none of us will feel ill of him. Our society is voluntary and we don’t want any with us that are reluctant to come along.”
Gledhill paused, cast his eyes into his beer mug, and took a long drink. Seeing no movement towards the door he asked, “Are you all chosen to stay and be with us, then?” They murmured and nodded their unanimous assent.

“Good. We welcome you. Now, if the new men seeking to join us will stand towards the front here, I will administer the Oath of Allegiance.”

This he did from memory, having destroyed the written copy of the Oath as Jackson had bidden him do. Each was twisted-in bearing a glow of pride that they were now gathered in the ranks of the Luddites, and ready to change their world for the better.


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