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Railwaymen's Annual Banquet.

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Railwaymen's Annual Banquet. The annual banquet of the employees of the Cambrian and Manchester and Milford Railway Companys,which is one of the recognised functions of the year in the town, was held on Thursday evening last at the Talbot Hotel. The gathering numbere-d full, 70, unJ this year the proceedings were graced with the presence of the Parliament- ary representative of the county, Mr Vaughan Davies, M.P., who, in the capacity of chairman, was supported by 31r Arthur J. Hughes (town clerk), Mr A. Thomas (station master), and Mr James Rees (M. & M. Co.) The company were provided with an excellent spread by Mr and Mrs Jones, which reflected the highest credit upon the catering abilities of this popular hostelry. After dinner the post-prandial proceedings, which comprised toasts, songs, and reci. aliens, were entered upon, and were continued to the evident enjoyment of all present until twelve o'clock. The first toast honoured was that of The Queen and Royal Family." and the Chairman, in proposing this, said in all gathering of loyal Britons it was only necessary to sav The Queen," and the name was received with Uie rcojjcct. She had lived to see realised what had been simply a dream in the brains of many of them in his country, and that was the consolidation of the British Empire- (applause)- consolidated by the blood of every class and kind that claimed the light of living under the Union Jack, spilt on the wild hills of the Transvaal for a common cause, and that the united freedom of every man. He asked them. therefore, to drink her Majesty's health, praying God that she might live to see her Empire restored to peace, happiness, and prosperity amongst all classes of her people. Also, he asked them to join with it the Prince and Princess of Wales. The Prince of Wales had marked his high appreciation of the Welsh people by becoming Chancellor of the Welsh University, showing that he was willing to join with the Welsh- men in carrying on what they believed to be so essential to the good of their country, and that was education (applause). The toast was drunk with enthusiasm. The next toast, that of "Toe Army, Navy, and Auxiliary Forces." was also proposed from the chair. Mr. Vaughan Davies said he did not know any words in the English language that could express his admiration—and he was sure their's also--of the way British soldiers had behaved for the last three months in the Transvaal (hear, hear.) His devotion to duty; his courage under trying circumstances, had been simply marvellous. and a wonder not only to them who belonged to the same country, but to I he whole world. He was sure they felt proud to belong to a country that could produce such men. The way in which they had followed their officers with almost certain death before them without a fear, or an idea of fear, was wonderful. Where the officers themselves had led these men had been next, and their valour had surpassed everything in the history of the British Army. Therefore, they could only hope. those who had to stop at home, that this war somehow or other would come to an end with honour to their country ,*and everlasting honour to the army, and to the men who were sacrificing their lives there in almost a reckless manner. As to the generals whom some people had attempted to throw stones at. he could not conceive anything more contemptible than the man who at home derided the man who was willing to sacrifice his li&e and was doing his best for his country. The hon. member also referred in complimentary terms to the navy. Coming to the auxiliary forces the Chairman said tlu y were formerly a portion of their army whom it was thought would never be called to see active service. But when they thought how splendidly during the last month that auxiliary service had answered to the call of the country, it redounded to the honour of the civilians of this country (applause). The toast was received with cheers and musical honours. The toast of The Town and Trade of Aber- vstwyth was submitted by Mr. James Rees, of the Manchester and Mi) ford Railway. The proposer said he need hardly say when speaking of an im- portant matter like this that the prosperity and the welfare of an important watering-place like Aberystwyth depended very much, if not entirely, upon the local railways which entered the town (hear. hear). The connection between the railways ajid the welfare of a town might be compared to the connection between the State and the Army. The connection was so close that they could hardly draw a distinction between the two. This was quite correct with respect to the expansion of the British Empire, where it depended entirely upon the success of the Army. So it was also in the case of a watering-place like Aberystwyth, where the prosperity of the town depended entirely upon tbe railways, and he thought that the local rail- ways entering Aberystwyth had done their duty nobrv in the past, as had been witnessed by the record season they had last summer. The in- habitants of Aberystwyth had great reason to be very proud of their town councillors and all the people who governed and managed the town. In this respect, he believed, Aberystwyth possessed advantages which were almost incomparable with any other town in the Principality, if not in the whole ccyintry. They were represented by people who were imbued with good motives, who had at heart the welfare and prosperity of the inhabitants. and the fact that the town bad prospered so well during recent years went far to show that the Town Council had not been behind in their duties, neither had the railway companies. The town was expand- ing in all directions, and it had hardly found sufficient scope between Constitutional Hill and the Castle. The parade last season was crammed with visitors from every part of the country, and he thought the town councillors were to be encouraged a much as possible by the inhabitants for the purpose of extending the promenade in order to make it capable of holding the larger number of people who would certainly visit the town in years to come. Mr. Rees also made reference to the provision made by the Town Council for suitable workmen's dwellings. He hoped the town would also gp on expanding in every direction, not for pecuniary profit alone, but also for educational purposes. They had higher motives in view than making money, and they should encourage in every respect such noble institutions as the college, intermediate school, etc., which they had in their midst (applause). Mr. Arthur J. Hughes, who responded, said he might say that the town and trade of Aberystwyth at the presant time were in a very satisfactory position indeed. He scarcely remembered the time when Aberystwyth trade looked as prosperous and felt as prosperous as it did now, and he was sure it, I was gratifying to find it so. Not so many years ago matters looked unterentto what they were at the present time. RetVrtince having been made to the Town Council, he could assure them, knowing what a poor town councillor had to put up with, that verv often it was very gratifying to find the efforts of he Council appreciated and spoken of in the way it had been by Mr. Re- s. He believed he was not alone in the opinion b- had expressed, for they were fortunate in the Council they possessed in this town. Of course, as happened in all happy families, there w M' + 'e storms at finics, but however keen thu argument, and' however heated the debate, after the room %vas left, they found as uniied a number of coun- cillors as they would find anywhere. Mr. Hughes characterised the financial position of Aberystwyth as second to none in Wales. They had only borrowed jus' about half the amount they were entitled to borrow. and very few Councils could say that. Their rateable value during the pa.t ten years hail increased 50 per cent. Their progress was rapid, and they must keep pace with it. They all knew b" advantages which would accrue from the extension of the promenade. They .v had commenced the erection of workmen's dwell- ings, and he hoped that was the first instalment onty. for they hoped to see a continuation of this scheme,'so that in a few year's time they would not be ashamed of the residences of the working men in Aberystwyth. Another material improve- ment was the exren-io;i of the town sewer in the Harbour. Mr. Hughes said if the ratepayers wanted all these improvements, they must support the Town Councillors, and put no obstacle in their way (applause). The Chairman submitted the toast of the even- ing, viz., •• The Loca1 Railways." He did so. he said. with immense pleasure. He was old enough to go back to the time before either of these rail- ways entered Aberv h, and could go to the davs when the ouiy communication they had with England was the coach. He could go back to the davs when he ha 1 had to go out of Aber- ystwvth and up Pengl.use Hill with six horses to the coach, and con!d r member when be had to leav^ Gloucester at ? -'(,lock in the morning, and get to Aberystwyth a* x o'clock in the evening, being then so cold ai,, petrified that he had t) be lifted off the bo. So ne need not tell them how highly he and others of those times appreciated the present facilities for getting into Abery-tvv 51. He 'I' l not wish to tell 'hem that they were perfect, but h" thought people t, be contented wi; h the excellent, saloons they found on the Cambrian, and he pace they travelled at on the M. and JoL, and ff they were not: L.ey were hard to please. Regarding the toast, he might say he had received a paner from the House of Commons, which struck him would be of great interest to them. But he wished to take this opportunity of saying one word in reference to their managing director, Mr. Denniss. Some little time ago the town of Aber- ystwyth and district d him to his utmost to get the postal arrangement- altered. In doing this he had to deal with the Cambrian Railway Company, and be was bound to record the fact that no one gare him such strong support, and worked so pit;a.:>auuy and so thoroughly with him during the whole of that undertaking than Mr. Denniss (hear, hear). And he had no hesitation in saying that he was the means of saving him an immense amount of trouble. He had four railways to contend with, and it was a great advantage to him to have Mr. Denniss willing to carry out any suggestions he had to place before him on the authority "f the Pest Office in carrying out the altered service to a successful issue. The question he wished to bring before them, however, was this. Last session in Parliament, Mr. Ritchie brought before the House a Bill in reference to automatic couplings, and the coupling system of the present time in the United Kingdom. No sooner did the directors of the railways hear of this Bill, than they took action at once, and went and interviewed Mr. Balfour, who, to use his own language "was in one of those childish moods." The pressure put upon him by the railway directors was so great that ¡. insisted upon Mi-. Ritchie withdraw- ing ti Bi L The outcome was that an Automatic Coupling Commission was appointed, and the report of that commission was what he had re- ceived that morning. The chief thing he was going to bring to their attention was the number of accidents that took place among the servants of the railway companies during the removal of trains, and also during the time they were stationary. In 1898 there were no less than 542 men killed, and 12,979 injured. Talk about battles. He did not think there was any battle heard of in which so many were killed and injured as in moving the trains of this country. Someoftho chief sections of their employment which had suffered were the following Brakesmen, 43 killed and 711 injured permanent way men and platelayers, 122 killed and 204 injured; shunters, 47 killed and 616 injured. In 1895 there were 7091 shunters employed, and of these 26 were killed. In 1898 the number had increased to 9,244, and of these 47 were killed. An awful rise in proportion to the number employed. This was what the Commissioners said on this question-" It seems that the railway com- panies have been on the look-out to discover an automatic coupling suitable to the railway system of this country, but apparently without success." It did not, Mr. Davies commented, want the Com- mission to tell them that. The question was what had the railway companies done toward trying to find out a remedy 1 He found that the first time any exhibition of couplings took place was at Darlington in 1882-18 years ago. For those 18 years he had been endeavouring to make out the percentage, and found that 139 had been killed per year, and in 18 years 540, while the railway directors had been looking out for some system of improved couplings. He did not wish to say any- thing against railway directors, but thought Eng- lish wtalth and ingenuity could have devised some system. In America Congress passed in 1893 an Act that automatic couplings were to be on all the trucks, and in 1898 70 per cent were in working order. If the Americans could do it in five years, surely Englishmen, if they wished, could do it in 18 years. There was a rather serious item in the report, which said, "After carefully considering the facts and figures above set out, we have come to the conclusion that the deaths occurring and the injuries sustained among railway servants are unnecessarily great in number, and can, by means of authoritative action, be diminshed." The question, therefore, was how could they bedimin- inished? He said most distinctly that in his own belief if Mr. Ritchie had been left alone last Session he would have brought forward that measure. But the pressure of the directors of the United Kingdom and Mr. Balfour was too great. There was also another point. Where were the railway servants ? What were they doing? They knew that at the present time they had the right to write a letter to the President of the Board of Trade marked strictly private, and lay any griev- ance they had before him, and that department would at once take cognisance of it and go into the question. No less than 46 complaints were laid before the Board of Trade in this way during 1898, the majority being in respect of long hours, and .out of that number 20 were ad- justed, and 26 were not. One great benefit came, however, through the death of a watchman in a tunnel, it now being enacted that no railway com- pany are allowed to keep a watchman in a tunnel for more than eight hours instead of twelve under the old system (applause). But what had the rail- way men (lone to help themselves ? There were in the United Kingdom 534,141 railway servants. The directors of the railway companies represented capital, and the railway servants represented labour. And they could take it from him, and he did not say it in a political spirit, but simply as a citizen, that as sure as they were in that room, a sovereign would always get the better of a penny, and if they allowed wealth to get the better of them they could not blame the public. But they should remember that if they could get euough pennies they could tackle the sovereign (applause). Now, he would show them what they had done. He was not going to make a political speech in any shape or form, but lie was a great believer in Trades' Unions (cheers). He believed that if the workingmen of this country were united they would he strnT)g enough to h<ir} their own against the wealth of this country. Unless they did so, as individuals they were mice fighting with elephants, but when they all joined together they would find they were just as big an elephant as the other elephant (applause.) In 1897, the number of railway servants belonging to trade unions was ]L01,5I4. In 1898, they went down to 67,614. In Scotland, there were none at all, and in Ireland, there were only 328 members. They knew that his private opinion was that if the railway servants of the United Kingdom did not think it worth while looking after themselves, and join a trade union- not to quarrel and fight with those who emplovfed them, but simply to protect their own interests ana life-if they did not do that, did they think they had a strong case to go before the public? Did they not think they weakened those who wished to help them? Did they not think if the directors went to Mr. BaFnur, and put the screw on him that if the representatives of 500,000 railwayman had gene to Mr. Ritchie, he would have withdrawn his Bill? He did not thipk so. In the House of Commons was a stupendous railway interest. He believed there were scores of railwaymen in the United Kingdom sending railway directors to the House of Commons. The speaker also compared the finances of th railway servants' societies and those of a small friendly society, the latter consisting of farm servants and labourer*, which showed a great difference in the figures in favour of the latter. If farm labourers, therefore, could look after their own interests, could not the railway servants of this country do so as well? (applause). He would like to see the ]W altered, and still hoped to see the law altered, and his vote would go to have it altered so that the railwayman should reap the bcncSt of thy dividends and *>lill retain his life (cheers.) The tnast having been heartily received. Mr. Thomas (station master) responded on behalf of the Cambrian Railway Company, and Mr. James Rees on behalf of the M. &: M. Company, both stating their respective companies did everything to promote the safety and comfort of passengers using the line. Mr. A. J. Hughes proposed the toast of The Host and Hostess," and Mr. Jones responded. The toasts of the health of the Chairman and Vice-chairman (Mr. A. J. Hughes) were also sub- mitted, the proposers being Mr. Ellis and Mr. J. Rees, and in each case they were enthusiastically honoured. The toast list was interspersed with an enjoyable musical programme, those who took part therein being Messrs. E. Wall, M. Williams, C. Campbell, James Rees, J. Davies, Wilson, Armitage, W. D. I Harris, Chas. Jones, etc. The gathering concluded at midnight v>ilh the singing of the National Anthem.

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