Railwaymen's church parade

[From the Beds & Herts Tuesday Telegraph: July 8th, 1919]

On Sunday the annual church parade of the National Union of Railwaymen was held at Luton in aid of the widows and orphans fund.

The procession in the afternoon formed up on the East Ward Recreation Ground. The members worse their sashes and carried their picturesque banners, and many branches took part in the imposing parade, including several from the London boroughs, St Albans, Leighton etc.

As usual, willing co-operation was forthcoming from the Luton Friendly Societies, who also joined in the procession through the various thoroughfares on the town. The lengthy procession was enlivened by the music of several bands, including those of the Salvation Army and the King's Royal Rifles cadet buglers. Collectors accompanied through the streets with boxes.

The service was held at the Parish Church, which was well filled. Mr George Punter was at the organ, and the congregation heartily sang the hymns 'Soldiers of Christ Arise,' 'Fight the Good Fight' and 'O Worship the King'. The Revs A. E. Chapman and W. C. M. Winter officiated, and one of the men's representatives read the lesson.

The Vicar preached an eloquent sermon. He said it was with great pleasure that we welcomed the railwaymen, because he would never forget his indebtedness to the men of the Midland Railway when he started his ministry in Derby nearly 30 years ago. The men's executive invited him there to speak to them at their breakfast meetings. Those meetings arose out of the earnestness of one Christian railwayman. The working men of our land were filled with a very real religious feeling, and there was very little atheism.

The war had changed the face of human life, and all were called upon today to help in a larger measure the widow and orphan societies, which had greater burdens. In the new era of regenerated society they must see to it that no man should have anxiety for the subsistence of himself and his family.

In the evening there was another procession through the streets. The rallying-point was the recreation ground in Dallow Road, and the route selected was through some of the streets in the Ash Road locality, and later through the area between Wellington Street and Chapel Street, then to the Moor in New Bedford Road. Bands played on the march, and there was also a band selection on the Moor before the speech-making began.

Referring to the two processions, District Organiser Mr W. Carter said he was glad to find the local men knew their business, for they had selected routes which ran through the poorr districts of the town. It was the poor who always gave most – the poor that helped the poor. If they relied on the rich to help them, they would rely on a broken reed.

Mr Tom Knight said the objects of the demonstration would appeal to the sympathies of every man and woman, but, however admirable, there should not be the necessity for such things. Why was it that immediately the breadwinner of a family was removed, the family was brought to poverty?

During the last four years, in order to safeguard the realm, it was necessary to call upon each individual in the State to defend it. The value of the individual should be recognised in time of peace as in time of war.

He asked them to examine what the State had done for those men and women who worked for the State. There should be a re-adjustment in the system of payment. There was no doubt that they were on the eve of a great change in the relations between the State and industry, and there was one direction in which he wished to see a definite change.

Payment of services rendered was not adequate. Under the Peace Treaty the working classes had secured an innovation – an international charter for labour. They had received a charter which had been preached from Labour and Socialist platforms for generations. It was laid down in the Treaty that a man was entitled to sufficient wages to enable him to maintain a reasonable standard of life.

It was now for the working classes to say what was a reasonable standard of life. He urged them to see that every man received sufficient to maintain his family entirely free from the necessity or taint of charity, and to see that every child born into the world inherited the opportunity of living in the best possible sense.