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Mill Dam 1930

Reference number T95/ 152

In 1930 on the banks of South Shields , tension was rising against a new rota system of registration for Arab and Somali seamen. This system was put in force to regulate the employment of the seamen. It was introduced in the ports of Cardiff, South Shields and Hull.

The  South Shields Minority Seamens Movement organised a series of peaceful demonstrations against registration, outside the office of the Shipping Federation in Mill Dam. They viewed registration as a form of control over the employment of Arab and Somali seamen, which could lead to potential conflict with fellow white seamen. Members of the movement included international seamen from Holland, Belgium and Aden and local men from Gateshead and North Shields.

The situation over registration grew increasingly tense and violence broke out on 2nd August in Mill Dam, South Shields. The bloody event saw many seamen and policemen injured.

In response, the South Shields Committee of Action published pamphlets to affirm support the resistance movement.

South Shields Seamen Committee of Action

On 11th August 1930, the Daily Worker also reported on the situation...

The Arab and Somali seamen are resisting the new registration regulation. The registration would mean that not a single man could be taken on any ship without becoming a member of the National Seamens Union and signing a P.C.5. Once it was established for Arab seamen it would be extended to other coloured seamen and finally to white seamen. It would mean tightening the hold of the ship owners and the NUS over the lives and conditions of the seamen...

Many men were arrested and twenty-three stood trial at the Durham Assizes. Ali Said, a licensed seamans lodging housekeeper, was accused as the prime protagonist. On 24th November 1930, recommendations for deportation, hard labour and imprisonment were made. Three men were discharged.

Tyne and Wear Archives Service cares for the prosecution papers of the trial of Rex verses Ali Said and Others, which includes pamphlets from the South Shields Seamen Committee of Action, an edition of the Daily Worker newspaper and articles from the Shield's Gazette.

Read this ...

Richard Lawless, From Ta'izz to Tyneside - an Arab community in the north-east of england in the twentieth century (University of Exeter Press, 1995)

Available from Kenton Library and Tyne and Wear Archives Service (Reference only)

Peter Mortimer, Cool for Qat (Mainstream, 2005)

Available from South Tyneside Library