LETTER: Heroic coalminer is focus of new play

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I am a professional playwright and I am writing to ask for your help in gathering information for my next play which will be based on the life of John Marshall, an Alfreton coalminer, who was became something of a hero during the first ever national coal strike in 1912.

John Marshall’s photograph appeared on the front page of a number of national newspapers when he was the first collier in the UK who defiantly “downed tools” and reached the surface.

John’s fame spread far and wide and he was invited by a well-known London Music Hall Manager to appear on stage in the capital city during the strike dressed in pit clothing and helmet.

As a member of the colliers’ male voice choir he may well have imagined that he was being asked for his singing prowess but in fact the Music Hall Manager wanted him to tell mining stories. He probably agreed to this patronage because he was paid £10 a week for his services and the strike pay was significantly less than that.

There is a brief mention of John Marshall in John Williams’ History of The Derbyshire Miners and I have uncovered a reference to his trip to London in a local paper of the time and a photograph of him on the front page of an edition of The Mirror in February 1912.

I am hoping that there are local historians and archivists or indeed descendants of John Marshall still living in Derbyshire who might be able to help provide more information about his life.

With this in mind I would be grateful if you would ask for people with information or relevant archive material to contact me. My email address is dougieblaxland@hotmail.com.

Dougie Blaxland

By email