Burston Strike School rally this Sunday

CELIA WIGG Trade unionists will be marking the 90th anniversary of the opening of the Burston Strike School at their annual rally on Sunday.

CELIA WIGG

Trade unionists will be marking the 90th anniversary of the opening of the Burston Strike School at their annual rally on Sunday.

The rural community in south Norfolk earned its claim to fame when children walked out of the village school in 1914 in protest at the sacking of Christian socialist teachers, Tom and Kitty Higdon, on trumped-up charges, after the couple encouraged farmworkers to vote for their own representative on the parish council. It became the longest strike in history, lasting 25 years, with trade unions launching a national appeal to fund a permanent strike school that opened in May 1917 on the village green. This year's rally has special significance, as the committee is tracking down the descendants of those who built the school.

The keynote speakers include Bob Crow - general secretary of the RMT Union. Its predecessor, the National Union of Railwaymen, raised £288 and 11 shillings - representing nearly 20pc of the total cost - and Labour stalwart Tony Benn, a regular supporter of the rally.

Progressive musician Billy Bragg will top the bill during the entertainment on the green.

Revived in 1984 to mark the 70th anniversary of the strike, the rallies have attracted many renowned Labour and union leaders over the years such as Arthur Scargill, John Prescott, Ken Livingstone, Jack Boddy, Jimmy Knapp and Tam Dalyell.

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Unionist Tony Gould said: "The strike school stands as a tribute to the terrible oppression of the ruling class, which was particularly noticeable in rural areas, and the indomitable spirit of the people of Burston who, together with the Higdons, fought the tyranny of landowners, farmers and the clergy. The message is valid 90 years later."

The rally runs from 11am to 4.30pm and includes a parade of union banners following in the footsteps of the children who marched in 1914 in protest at the sackings. The school closed in 1949, after Mr Higdon's death, and is now managed by trustees as a museum and educational archive.

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