IN a series of articles Esther Clark, the great granddaughter of Ayrshire’s Miners' MP, Sanny Sloan, has been sharing her research with us into his life and times.

Here is fourth instalment — The Peace and the Hunger

After the war ended, all the villages collected for War Memorials. Rankinston men who died were commemorated on the Coylton Parish Memorial on December 19, 1920 where Sanny’s mother was to have unveiled it because she had lost most sons. She was too ill and a son represented her.

Her four sons were also remembered on Rankinston Memorial on August 7, 1921 on a simple grey obelisk and she officiated there. She died soon afterwards.

For the miners, peace did not bring a promised better world. The government had controlled the mines during the War and set up the Sankey Commission.

The mines had been worked out. Safety was poor, investment was low and working conditions dreadful. The commission was to decide the future. It recommended Nationalisation but Lloyd George returned the mines to the owners.

There were large stocks of coal, so the owners wanted less production and then prices would not fall. They cut the miners’ wages by 60 per cent, below starvation and the miners were forced on strike.

The owners, however, wanted the mines kept in good working order, so used 'volunteers' to keep the boilers lit and the water pumped out. Then they could resume production whenever it suited.

Sanny had been a salesman for Singer sewing machines and insurance and had been a Registrar of Births and suchlike. His poor eyesight and political activity had posed problems.

At this stage he was a union checkweighman and an unpaid county councillor. He and his wife with her shop were also running the village soup the later 1926

strike they gave away all their stock.

Sanny was asked by a group of 17 miners to go with them to Houldsworth Colliery, near Polnessan, where voluntary workers were pumping water. They reached there at 2.30 am.

They said that the man who met them at the gate had expressed surprise that they were expecting a much larger crowd.

Five of the miners led by Sanny went in to the office and met 17 'volunteers'. Sanny was said in court to have advised them to stop work and put out the fires as there was a big crowd outside.

The men went home. Sanny denied using threats of violence or exaggerating his numbers.

The five men were later arrested and went to Barlinnie, charged with mobbing and rioting which carried a sentence of up to life imprisonment which lasted till death at that time.

One seems to have his charges dropped and Henry, Sanny’s brother had not been at the colliery according to the family, but his case was found not proven.

The others appealed on the basis that three was not enough for a mob. They got between two weeks and two months in the end and it was felt that the charge was too much.

However a great many miners went to jail in that and other strikes for little reason.

This was the Hunger Strike. It is commemorated by two stones carved by Joe Ireland of Patna and whitewashed to this day by his family.

It says: "In memory of the unemployed 1921,1922 and 1923",