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Tony

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  1. I have written before about Joshua Batty, a Salford man who was to become a familiar figure in the Magistrates Courts of Salford and even the Crown Court in Manchester, for his political beliefs and his no nonsense attitude to the authorities. Prior to this appearance in the Salford City Reporter from February 1908, he was in trouble for slandering Sir Andrew Lees Knowles the owner of several local coal mines and Thomas Greenhalgh who was the President of the Lancashire and Cheshire Mineworkers Federation, it has to be said that Batty had no fear of speaking out, on matters he felt strongly about and in the next few weeks I will tell you the outcome of those court cases. On the morning of Sunday 27th January 1908, the 11 o' clock mass at Salford Cathedral, Chapel street, was interrupted by shouts of, "Query" and "Hear, Hear" as Father Walsh was preaching a sermon from the pulpit. A man then stood up and shouted, "Dearly beloved Brethren, in the name of God..." and proceeded to accuse the priests of the Catholic Church of hypocrisy and demanded to know what they had done for the unemployed people of Salford?. This turned out to be Joshua Batty, who refused to be quiet when told by members of the congregation and continued saying that he had a right to speak for the unemployed people, he was eventually bundled out of the Cathedral but shouted that they had not seen the last of him. Half a dozen men took him to the police station with a view to having him prosecuted, the police however, said that they knew Batty and he was searching for notoriety, and he was given a caution, not to approach Salford Cathedral again, then released. The Salford City Reporter visited Batty at his home in, Arthur Street, Pendleton and he gave them the reason why he had stood up in the Cathedral and spoken out and here are his exact words, strong stuff. "I am sick of the hypocrisy going in the Church, I was brought up a Catholic and I know all their attitudes on all such questions when it comes to the unemployed, it was my intention to get into the pulpit and say the following before I was dragged out. "I appeal to the Catholic clergy to give me one instance of what the Roman Church has done to uplift the low wage workers and starving unemployed from their present condition of poverty. "I appeal to the Pope and his followers to come out of their fools paradises and try to do something for the material benefit of the downtrodden masses of humanity. "It might be said that they care not for the worldly interests of the body, only for the spiritual needs of the soul, I contend not for the spiritual needs of the soul, but for the material needs of the body, a God on earth and not a phantom in the sky. "It is a hollow mockery for you to come here and waste your time while there are men and women in Manchester and Salford, starving, homeless and shelterless" The church was given the chance to reply and the Catholic Times said that they were indignant that an agitator was given the chance to disrupt the Mass and added that they feared that the "brawler", would not be saved from "the indignant chastisement of an outraged people" if he attempted this again. A youth by the name of John Bonar Thompson, a friend of Batty's who was also removed from the Cathedral, told the Salford City Reporter that he was told by those that dragged him out that if he tried it again, the police would not be called, and they would be taken into the backyard of the Cathedral and thrashed into an inch of their lives. Not sure if this was brave or foolhardy of Joshua Batty to stand up in the Cathedral and let his feeling be known, and strange that the police didn't press charges against him, Batty was certainly well known in Salford as a champion of the unemployed, having been sacked from his job at Pendleton Pit for what he he said was, "asking the right questions to the Management" Perhaps they thought the publicity may have swelled his popularity with local people? This certainly didn't deter Batty for within months he would be back in the courts on the more serious charges of inciting people to riot in Manchester at a gathering of unemployed people in Stevenson Square. I went into the Working Class Museum on the Crescent and was astonished to find that they had never heard of him and had no newspaper reports of his activities. I firmly believe that Batty was a genuine, believer in standing up for not only his rights but for those of the less fortunate, the homeless, the starving and unemployed of Salford, despite the efforts of the authorities to persecute and hound him, which they did, right up to his death in 1929. I have mentioned that he is in an unmarked common grave in Weaste cemetery, Salford, my intention is to try and find the exact location and pay a visit to pay my respects to this unsung hero. More on Joshua Batty and his exploits over the coming weeks.
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