HENRY COOK R.W.M. 1873 - 1880
THE COOK FAMILY
Brother Andrew Kerr PM
Henry Cook was born into one of the oldest mining families in Lochgelly. Born on the 12th Feb. 1830, to Adamson Cook and Agnes Adamson, he was one of four brothers and two sisters all of whom had been born at Launcherhead.
Launcherhead was no more than a row of houses built to accommodate the miners who worked in the pit nearby. Although in the present day it lies within the village of Lochgelly, at that time, it was just outside the village, going down today's Station Brae, and to the left of the railway station. Lochgelly at that time was still a small village, in the process of changing from the hand loom weaving industry to mining.
A description of life and conditions for these miners, including his own fore bearers was written by Henry's brother Archibald Cook, also a miner - in 1896, by which time Archie was 62 years old. On Archie's death certificate in 1908, aged 74, he was now described as a Librarian ( perhaps not quite as qualified as today's Librarians ).
In his account, Archibald described how his Grandmother, Hannah Hodge, was widowed when his Grandfather William Cook died in 1790. Hannah, who had previously worked underground with William, was forced to return to work, and did so, taking her two youngest children underground with her. Archibald's uncle, also named Archibald - or Baldie as they both came to be known, and his Father Adamson, who was only 6 months old were taken underground -- Strapped to Hannah's back in a coal creel. The creel was propped against the stoop so that Hannah could work at the coal face, returning occasionally to feed the children. This was not uncommon in these days, with some women even recorded as having given birth underground. Hannah became something of a legend in the area, due to the amount of coal she was able to dig and carry to the surface. The records of the time show that she regularly carried more than the men around her.
By the time of Henry's birth, mining was fast becoming the main industry in Lochgelly, and although we can not be sure of exactly when Henry began his working life ; the average age for children, both boys and girls to go underground was 8 to 10 years old. In later years, Alexander MacDonald, a man who was to become a great friend of Henry, began his working life in Lanarkshire, at 8 years old.
In 1841, according to the census of that year, Henry aged 11, was still living at Launcherhead with his parents, along with his brothers and sisters, who included Archibald and Agnes. A year later, in 1842 ; Mr R.H.Franks published his report into the conditions suffered by women and children working underground in the mining industry. Franks had interviewed women and children throughout the industry. Thanks to this report, women and girls were banned from working underground, as were boys under 10 years of age. This of course, came too late for Henry, who would most probably already be working underground.
One of the girls Franks had interviewed was Agnes Cook of Lochgelly. At the time Franks interviewed her, he described Agnes as being 15 years old. She had worked the last 12 months in Lochgelly as a putter ( i.e. working under ground, pushing coal along the shafts ), and previously in the fields. She had 4 brothers and a sister. Her Father was a collier and her Mother was a farm servant. Agnes could read but could not write, made her own clothes and stockings and was described as intelligent. It is quite probable that this girl was the same girl mentioned in the 1841 census, a sister to Archibald and Henry. Intelligence must have been a family trait, considering that Agnes had been described so by Mr. Franks. Baldie had managed - albeit in later life, to be able to write his account of his family and Lochgelly in general, and Henry himself had managed to rise from his humble beginnings to be able to hold his own with the coal owners and to appear at Parliament - seeking to improve conditions for his fellow miners.
As Henry and his siblings were growing up, it was possible that children of the mining community attended one of the schools which did exist in and around Lochgelly at this time, but this was rather hit and miss with most children attending for only a few years, before leaving to start work underground before the age of ten.
Considering that this was some 30 years before the Education Act Scotland, 1872 made it compulsory for children to attend school, this must have been a remarkable family indeed. We will never know just how much schooling Henry Cook did receive, although like his friend Alex Macdonald, he too may well have attended evening classes.
According to the 1851 census, Henry had left his family who were still living in Launcherhead and He was now living in Kirkcaldy with George Lindsay and his family. Henry was now 20 years old. Included in the Lindsay family, was George's daughter Agnes aged 17, and on 2nd August 1851 ;- Henry and Agnes were married in the Parish of Auchterderran. Henry's first child - Adam was born at Launcherhead and there then followed another son George and a daughter Sarah.
In 1861 Henry and Agnes, with their three children, were still living in Launcherhead.
In 1867 Henry, by now was being described in the Press of the time, as Henry Cook of Lochgelly, and apart from becoming recognized for his work with the Miners Union, his standing within the community was evident when, during the Annual Lochgelly Games day of this year, Henry Cook of Lochgelly was a judge at the dancing competition and made time for some fun when he took part in the over thirty men’s race and in a field of four - Henry came in third.
In 1871 Henry, Agnes and their daughter Sarah were now living in Hall Street. So what had happened to their two sons ? In 1863, tragedy visited the family when their youngest son George died of fever, when he was only 8 years old. According to the 1871 census, Adam, who had married, was now living with his wife Rachel and son Henry, at Moor House in the Parish of Auchterderran. Later this same year, Adam, with his wife and son, emigrated to N.S.Wales, Australia where Adam proved to have some of his father's civic and community spirit and qualities. In the Dunfermline Journal of 1921, which reported his death, Adam was reported to have been a pioneer of Wallsend Mining District Hospital. He became Town Clerk of Wallsend in 1897. Henry's daughter Sarah married Thomas Bain around 1877, and had at least 7 children and by 1901 she was living in Sligo Street, Lumphinnans. Some time between 1871 and 1880 ;-- Henry moved to Dunfermline. In the Dunfermline Journal of the 10th of July 1880, the paper carried a report of the death of Henry. After attending a Masonic Meeting in Crossgates, on Wednesday evening, Henry took ill on his way home to Dunfermline and died early the following morning of June 8th. The full report will appear later. In the 1881 census, Henry's widow Agnes, now head of the household, was to be found living with her Mother at 80, Appin Crescent, Dunfermline.
HENRY AT WORK.
Between 1861 and 1871, Henry had moved to Lochgelly, and in the census returns taken in both of these years, he was described as a coal miner, but by now his time was taken up with more than just going to work in the pit.
Henry was now becoming well known in Lochgelly in fact in 1864 - - it was reported that at a meeting of the 'leading' villagers, a move was made to form a Cooperative Society. At this meeting, rules were drawn up and a committee formed, on the Motion of Henry Cook. Henry's brother Archibald was also one of the Society's first members. Henry must have retained his interest in the Cooperative movement, so much so, that at the time of his death in 1880 - He was a member of the Management Committee of the Dunfermline Cooperative Society.
Henry would have been well aware of the difference the Cooperative Societies would have made to mining communities who would have suffered under the hated ' Truck ' system, which had caused miners families much hardship and in earlier years, even a form of slavery. Although officially banned in the 1830's, it still persisted in parts of Scotland for many years before it disappeared completely.
By the early 1860's, Henry had also become interested in the fight for Trade Union recognition in Lochgelly. This was a time when mining Unions in Scotland were still localised and acting independently and in fact the Fife Miners Association was formed in 1860. Henry's involvement at this time becomes clear through a letter written at the time of his death in 1880, by Alex MacDonald, who had become one of the first working class Members of Parliament. In an open letter to Henry's widow, published in the Dunfermline Journal, MacDonald relates that he had known Henry Cook for over twenty years.
MacDonald, who was born in Lanarkshire, would often visit Fife and Lochgelly in particular, trying to establish support for Union recognition and also to unite the Unions across not only Scotland, but through out Britain. He would recall staying with mining friends on these occasions, one of whom may well have included Henry Cook.
One of the most enduring and efficient of the Miners Unions was the Fife and Kinross Miners Union which lasted without a break from 1869. It was reported that this Union owed much to the able leadership of several men, one of whom became it's Secretary, - namely - - Henry Cook in 1873. Thanks to this leadership , the Fife and Kinross Union became the first to obtain legal recognition from the employers, and in June 1870, after a stay down strike ;- Won the ' Eight Hour Day Agreement '. This was achieved after Henry, who in the absence of Crossgates man, Richard Penman, the Union President, chaired a meeting in Crossgates at which the Motion to propose the vote to begin working an 8 hour day was taken.
In 1871, the Fife miners celebrated this historical event at a Gala held in Kirkcaldy, at which Henry Cook was one of the principle speakers and was reported to have spoken very eloquently, the crowd within the Corn Exchange was reported to be at least two thousand with at least another thousand outside. Henry was also present, and when appearing at a mass meeting at Dunfermline in 1872, was reported to have spoken at length.
1873 saw Henry become Secretary of the Fife and Clackmannan Association of Miners, a position he held until his death in 1880. This position saw Henry continue to support MacDonald in the fight for a National Union, and he was now travelling around the Country. Henry was now being mentioned in newspaper reports at meetings ;- eg, at a National Union meeting in Leeds in September of 1873, and again appearing at a conference in Leeds in November.
Henry Cook was now regularly being reported in the Press and in April, 1877 he was to appear at the House of Commons. Henry returned to the House of Commons for two days in June 1880, where he met with the Attorney General discussing alterations to the Government's Bill for injured miners.
A few weeks later -- Henry Cook passed away. Still a young man, only 50 years old. The Scottish miner's had lost a great champion. Who knows what else he may have achieved in life.
HENRY AND FREEMASONRY
The 1860's would become a busy time for Henry. Apart from his involvement with the Union, he would also embark on another career, one which would retain his interest -- literally, until his dying day. In 1866, Henry Cook became a member of a different Brotherhood, when he joined his local Masonic Lodge, Minto 385. This was a young Lodge, having been formed only 8 years earlier, in 1858.
Although Henry may have known some of the Brethren through their Union activities, he would also come to know some of the Crossgates men who joined Lodge Minto around the same time.
These men included ; - Alexander Williamson and Thomas Campbell, who joined in 1866 - John Johnstone and Andrew Crichton - 1867, David Wilson, of Donibristle also 1867, and Thomas Muirlong in 1872. Like Henry, two of these men would also go on to become RWM of Lodge St.John 540.
It is possible that Henry's association with Crossgates, Unions and freemasonry, may have come together from yet another organisation with which he may have been a member, although this has not been verified.
In 1864 the Lodge of Free Colliers was mentioned in the Dundee Courier and the following report appeared, under the Heading -- 'Crossgates, Fife Free Miners }
One of the above Lodges was formed here some time ago, and now numbers many hundred members. As membership is not confined to those employed in that branch of trade, but extended to all, no matter what their position or trade, or profession in life may be. It is calculated in a short time greatly to ameliorate the present condition, both with the Public and the Coal masters than that which he at present occupies. Those extremes, ( the strikes, etc.. ) so destructive to the interests of both Masters and men will, there is every appearance, shortly be numbered among the things that were; and the men, by guarding against designing rogues, will soon be enabled to put themselves alongside society, and demand that Justice to which they are well entitled '. .
The lodge of Free Colliers was a Quasie Masonic Friendly Society This Lodge was also reported to have held meetings in 1865, in McLean's Hall in Crossgates. In effect it was probably a forerunner of the Miners Unions and it seems highly likely that Henry would have been a member of this organisation and as such, no doubt would have known Crossgates miners and Freemasons.
There was one other means of meeting Crossgates Brethren, when according to the report in the Dundee Courier of 26th June, 1873, only a few months before Lodge St John officially came into being. The report reads as follows } Masonic Demonstration --
" The members of the Minto Lodge of Freemasons left here for Crossgates on Tuesday afternoon, for the purpose of initiating three new members into the mysteries of Freemasonry. On their arrival there the Fordell Brass Band was in attendance, and accompanied them to Mrs. Crawford's Inn. After the ceremony had been gone through, the Brethren left Crossgates about seven o'clock, and on their arrival at the station here were met by Lochgelly Brass Band. The Brethren who were adorned with all the paraphernalia of their Order, after marching through the principal streets of the town, adjourned to the commodious hall, belonging to Mr. Hugh, of the Crown Inn, where they sat down to a sumptuous supper, which it is but right to mention was purveyed by Brother Hugh in excellent style. After ample justice had been done to the good things provided, the usual Masonic and Patriotic toasts were given and responded to. Songs and recitations were afterwards rendered in a very able manner, by Brothers School braid, Stewart ,Smith, Greig and Hunter. Brother Henry Cook also sung several songs of his own composition very creditably, all of which were highly appreciated. The Company broke up about eleven o'clock, after having spent a most agreeable and enjoyable evening ".
Whatever connection he had with Crossgates ;- Henry Cook was installed as the first RWM of Lodge St. John , Crossgates No.540 in 1873, and remained so until January 1880. Henry still retained a strong bond with his Mother Lodge, Minto 385, as the two Lodges met and marched together on many occasions through the years, with both lodges having members in the ever growing village of Cowdenbeath.
The first mention of the two Lodges meeting, coming from our minutes of 1st April 1874, and on another occasion which was reported in the Dunfermline Journal of November 28th, gives an insight into Henry's main interests. This was the laying of the foundation stone of the new school being built in Ballingry.
Having joined with Lodge Minto in their New Hall on 26th November 1874 , at about 11 O'clock, along with other deputations from Dunfermline and Leslie ;- the Lodges were then Marshalled in order and left Lochgelly about Noon, headed by the Lochgelly Brass Band and proceeded northward to where the new building was in the course of being erected, arriving between one and two O'clock.
The morning had been very wet, which made it very dirty walking on the country road, but luckily it had stopped raining and it remained dry during the ceremony.
After the stone had been laid with Masonic Honours, the company returned to Lochgelly. A dinner was served to the Lodges and the School Board during the afternoon, at which upwards of 60 gentlemen attended.
Among the Toasts proposed, that afternoon, three were given by Henry Cook ;-
1 )- ' The Educational Interests of the District.' " those interests were in keeping with the School Board, and they all felt that the well being of the Ballingry Parish was in good hands. Their Craft took a great interest in that district, as there was a vast amount of mineral wealth there to be got at, and it was desirable that the intelligence of the people should keep pace with their industry.
2)- ' To Minto Lodge ' in this toast he informed the Brethren that he had been a member of Lodge Minto before joining St. John 540. In fact he had been Lodge Secretary in 1872.
3)- ' The Mining Interests of the Country ' This toast in particular must have been very dear to his heart.
Henry remained in the office of RWM, until Saturday 27th December 1879, when, along with Bro, William Bethune of Lodge 385 and Bro Wylie of Lodge 26, they officiated as Installing Masters at the Installation of Bro. Archie Hodge as R.W.M. and the Office Bearers of Lodge St.John 540.
Only two days later, on Monday 29th December 1879, at the Installation of Bro. James Tullis of Lodge Minto 385, the two Lodges were again co-operating, when P.M. William Bethune of lodge Minto was assisted by - the now I.P.M. of Lodge St. John 540 - Bro. Henry Cook, and the newly installed R.W.M. of Lodge St. John, Bro Archie Hodge.
Five months later, on 24th June, the two Lodges met again, when according to our Lodge minutes )- - The Brethren assembled in the Lodge Room at 5 p.m., and thence proceeded to Cowdenbeath to meet the Brethren of Lodge 385 in Bro. Crawford's (this was the Crown Hotel ) and had refreshments. They then returned to Crossgates and presented P.M. Henry Cook with a gold Jewel for his past services, also Mrs. Cook with a gold brooch and silver tea pot. The Presentation was celebrated in Bro. Addison's. The Lodge closed at 10 p.m.
The Dunfermline Press of Sat. 28th June reported the Presentation, which had to take place on the Thursday previous, as Henry had been in London on the Tuesday and Wednesday appearing at the Houses of Parliament on Union business. This was quite a detailed report of the occasion and, was as follows )--
MASONIC GATHERING AND PRESENTATION AT CROSSGATES.
On Thursday evening (24th June ) the brethren of Lodge St. John's Crossgates 540 mustered at their Lodge Room, whence they walked to Cowdenbeath where they were joined by Lodge Minto, Lochgelly 385.They returned in company to Brother Addison's, Crossgates, where the R.W.M., Brother A. Hodge, at once proceeded to present Br. H. Cook P.M. with a handsome jewel, the gift of the united Lodges. In doing so he spoke eloquently of the great services rendered to the Craft,
especially to 540, of which Lodge, Brother Cook had been Master for nearly 7 years.
Brother D. Kilgour was then called on, and in a very able address, presented Mrs .Cook, through her husband with an elegant silver teapot and gold brooch.
Brother Cook, in acknowledging the gifts, My feelings properly for the great honour you have done me in presenting me with this handsome and costly jewel. It is an honour that falls to the lot of comparatively few Masons, and seldom to so humble an individual as myself. If there is a moment in any man's life when he ought to feel proud, and I confess there are but few, still if there is one, it must be when he hears his actions spoken of with respect by those with whom he has been associated. Right Worshipful Sir, you have spoken of me tonight in terms far transcending any little merits I possess, but you have shown us what a good Mason might do, and have thus given us an incentive to endeavour to aim at your ideal. If I had had the opportunity, or the power of doing some great or generous act for the Craft, such as some who are with us tonight have had, I could have better understood this act of kindness, but me who have neither wealth, influence, nor ability, nothing to recommend me except a desire for the prosperity, of the Craft, I have no reason to expect such a favour. But R.W. Sir, Wardens and Brethren, - I have more than one reason to be proud of it ; you have vindicated the honour and dignity of the Craft. When a certain Royal Brother, that I need not name, was presented with a similar jewel, envious persons said ' Oh, the Masons always pander to wealth and influence ' but you have tonight placed me, as a mason, on a level with the greatest of England's sons, and have shown to the world that it is not social position that Masonry regards, but within the charmed circle, men in every grade of life meet on the level and part on the square. Brethren, this jewel is valuable as a work of art, but the feelings that have dictated its presentation renders it a thousand times more. I shall wear it with pride where ever it is my lot to meet with Masons where such emblems are worn, and ever remember this night as a pleasant spot in life's dreary wilderness.
I see that the Brethren of 385, along with others have co-operated with you on doing me this honour. This adds largely to its value, and I can only thank you all kindly, and promise to do my best to retain your respect. On behalf of Mrs. Cook I have to thank you kindly for these beautiful presents, and to assure you that at heart she is a very good Mason, and the reason she is not a member of 540 is simply the want of some place to hang the bell.
No Lodge represented here to-night will ever disgrace the Scottish Registry. Of them I have no fear, because I know ; -
Their 'Prentices are taught to use their tools
their gavels, chisels and two foot rules
And study well the virtues in their charge;
Mix prudent pluck with justice tempered large
That earnest Craftsmen they may quickly be
And Craftsmen's duties they may clearly see;
To square their actions by Masonic line
Within the compasses uprightly still to shine.
As Masons, so with Kings they level stand,
And shed Her beauties over all the land;
Ye Masters who have passed through fire and flood
And on the five points still hath firmly stood.
While by the grave your trembling Brothers stand,
Deal out the mercies wi' a willing hand,
And thus shall Lodges prosper, live and thrive,
Whose initials are 540 and 385. "
The usual Loyal and Masonic Toasts were then given, after ample justice had been done to a substantial repast. With song and sentiment a happy evening was spent ;- The Brethren separating at eleven p.m.
The Jewel has the following inscription on a gold bar, ' Presented to Bro. H. Cook, P.M., by the Brethren of Lodge 540, along with the Brethren of 385. ' The following inscription is on the teapot, ' Presented to Mrs. Cook, along with a jewel to her husband, 24th June, 1880.' The proceedings were enlivened by the strains of the Crossgates Instrumental Band.
THE PASSING OF Bro. HENRY COOK, P.M.
After assisting at the Installation of Bro. Archie Hodge, and then two days later at the Installation of Bro. Tullis of Lodge Minto, at the close of 1879, Henry must have been looking forward to a lessening of his commitments. No doubt he would have been a proud man and Mason when he was presented with his P.M.'s Jewel on 24th June 1880.
Sadly, tragedy struck only two weeks later. Early on the morning of Thursday 8th July, Henry Cook passed away. An account of henry's passing was published locally by the Dunfermline Journal of 10th July, and at various dates, by the newspapers through-out the U.K.
The following is the Journal's account ; --
SUDDEN DEATH of Mr HENRY COOK, SECRETARY of FIFE MINER'S ASSOCIATION
On Thursday morning Mr. Henry Cook, Secretary of the Fife and Clackmannan Miner's Association died in a rather sudden manner at Crossgates, near Dunfermline.On the previous night he had been attending a meeting at Crossgates and shortly after eleven o'clock, he left for Dunfermline, where he resided, accompanied by two friends. He had not gone far from the village however, when he became so ill that he was compelled to sit down by the road-side, though it was raining heavily at the time. One of his friends waited with him till one o'clock, when he proceeded to Dunfermline, and on his return, it was found that Mr. Cook was in an unconscious state. Assistance being procured, Mr. Cook was carried to a house in Crossgates, where he expired about five o'clock. Mr. Cook was a gentleman of superior natural abilities, possessed a great amount of information, and could take an intelligent grasp of the leading questions of the day. Many years ago he was recognised as a worthy leader among his own class, and in 1873, he was unanimously elected, Secretary of the Fife and Clackmannan Miner's Association, which had been formed shortly before. His fitness for that office was displayed in a variety of ways, but chiefly by his tact in all matters of business, his energy, and his ready faculty of expressing himself on all public occasions, or at colliery meetings. Speaking generally, his views were of a rather moderate character, and in all cases of dispute between the coal masters and the men he did his utmost to prevent strikes and extreme measures. His argumentative powers were considerable, and as an advisor on trade matters generally, his services were invaluable. Apart from his official work, Mr. Cook took a great amount of interest in the Co-operative Movement, and his counsels as a member of the Managing Committee of the Dunfermline Society were always received with much respect. To the Masonic cause he was warmly devoted, and in recognition of his services, he held unchangingly the position of R.W.M. of the Crossgates Lodge. In politics, Mr Cook was thoroughly Liberal.
One week later, the Dunfermline Press of the 17th July published an open letter to Henry Cook's widow from his friend of many years - Alexander Macdonald, who by now had become one of the first members of the working class to enter Westminster as a Member of Parliament. The report read as follows ;-
THE MINERS - Mr MACDONALD, M.P. and the LATE FIFE MINERS' SECRETARY
Only the other day we announced the death in untoward circumstances, of Mr. Henry Cook, the long and valued and tried Secretary of the Fife and Clackmannan Miners. One outcome of such sudden news, is the following letter from Mr. Macdonald, M.P. "House of Commons Library, London, 9th July , 1880 "
" Dear Madam, I was greatly pained to read in the newspapers of today here that your husband had died yesterday. Allow me to express in the strongest possible manner my deep sympathy in your distress. It was only a day or two since I saw him in full health. Now he is no more. It is fully more than twenty years since I first met your husband, and for the whole time I have had increasing confidence in him. I do trust that He who has promised to be the aid of the widow may hear you in your trial. I long to learn the particulars of his death. The papers to hand say he was found on the road. Get some one to write to me, and again let me add my sympathies are with you. " Yours sincerely. Alex MacDonald. "
In the same edition of the Dunfermline Press the following poetry appeared.
LINES ON THE DEATH OF HENRY COOK
That sudden change, and sad event Which happened a few days ago; Our trusty friend, while homeward bent Was by the hand of death laid low. To fellow men throughout the land, The melancholy news soon spread, For heralds after morning dawned, Proclaimed that Henry Cook was dead. We mourn his untimely end, As well's the loss we have sustained; He bravely did our rights defend, And fearlessly our cause maintained. Beloved among the sons of toil, For the wise counsels that he gave; A man in whom there was no guile, Nor any false ambitions crave. He was an honest man and true, Well qualified to lead the van; greatest aim he had in view, Was justice to his fellow-man.But now alas ! he is no more, Relentless fate has sealed his doom;His cares and troubles all are o'er,Another soon must fill his room. With raptures we will sound the praise, Of him who was upright and just; His friends will a memorial raise, To mark where lies his honoured dust.The widowed mother left behind, In sadness weeping sorrows tears; May God relieve her troubled mind, And solace her declining years. A Miner.
Henry's friends did indeed raise a memorial to him. That Memorial can still be seen today in Dunfermline cemetery. Although his gravestone records that it was erected by the Fife and Kinross Miners Union, letters were read out in both Lodge St.John and Lodge Minto, ( who agreed to contribute), asking for donations towards this Memorial stone. From the minutes of lodge St John 540, we learn the extent of the influence of the area covered by the Lodge, when a committee was formed to subscribe money to erect a Memorial stone for P.M. Cook. Several Brethren were appointed for several districts -- Crossgates, Cowdenbeath, Kingseat and Kelty. Henry Cook was interred in Dunfermline cemetery on Saturday, 6th July 1880. The following inscription appears on the Memorial stone ) --
THE MEMBERS OF
FIFE AND CLACKMANNAN MINERS ASSOCIATION
TO THE MEMORY OF
WHO FOR 7 YEARS ACTED AS THEIR
SECRETARY WITH MUCH ACCEPTANCE
DIED 8TH JULY 1880
AGED 50 YEARS
This was not to be the only Memorial to Henry Cook. 30 years later, on 25th June 1910, the following report appeared in the Dundee Courier }-
At the last monthly meeting of the Fife and Kinross Miners Board the delegates approved of a proposal to place four stained glass windows in the new offices, and the vote of a large number of the Districts has endorsed the idea. The four windows are to be dedicated to the memory of Alex Macdonald M.P., Richard Penman, Henry Cook and John Weir. Mr. Macdonald was a leader of British miners in the '60's and '70's and was the first President of the National Miners Union, while he was associated with the 8 hours day movement in Fife. Mr. Penman was a native of Crossgates, and the first President of the Fife Miners Association. Mr. Cook was the first Secretary, and Mr. John Weir of Dunfermline who succeeded him as Secretary for the long period of 28 years. Also in June, Richard Penman was described in the following manner ;-
Richard Penman was first President of the Fife Miners Union. A man of little education ( although it was reported in the Dunfermline press in 1861, that he had given a reading from Burns ) but gifted with great natural ability, he never tired of working for the cause of his Union. In his spare hours after toiling at the face the whole of the day, he went from colliery to colliery, advocating the claims of the miners and building up the Organisation. Before his labours had begun to bear fruit, he was cut off, a comparatively young man, by one of the last epidemics of small pox which visited Fifeshire. There is no doubt that if he had lived, Penman who was born in the village of Crossgates, would have been the first paid Secretary of the Association.
Henry Cook became Secretary of the Fife Miners Union at the time when Richard Penman was the Chairman. At the Mass meeting to celebrate the 8 Hours Day in Kirkcaldy in 1871, David was to take the Chair so there is no doubt that Henry and this son of Crossgates would have known each other so well, - another example of Henry's association with Crossgates.
The handsome new building was officially opened on the 8th.Oct. 1910, in Victoria Street, Dunfermline. This report made no mention of the stained glass windows
Of the four men who were to be commemorated in the windows ; -
Alex Macdonald, although originally from Lanarkshire, had been heavily involved with the Fife miners and Henry Cook in particular. Henry Cook of course had also been RWM of Lodge St.John 540. Our Lodge records show that a Richard Penman, a miner of Crossgates had been a founder member in 1873. The census records for 1871 show only one gentleman of that name living in Crossgates, so this may have been the same person. Sadly, he did indeed die of small pox on 3rd. March 1873, so he would not survive to enjoy a Masonic career. I think this also shows that those men who were keen to found a Masonic Lodge in Crossgates were coming together before the Lodge Minutes were officially started. At this time it is not known if John Weir was a member of the Craft, but it was John who at the age of 14, started a lodge of Free Colliers. These stained glass windows were, in later years, taken into the custody of Dunfermline Museum, where they remain . Sadly they are now in a very poor condition and Henry is unrecognisable.
Henry Cook was clearly an intelligent, talented and caring man who was a great loss to his mining and masonic fraternities, not to mention the communities in which he lived and worked.