History

British Cotton Growing Association Workpeoples’ Collection Fund – The “Day’s Wage” Scheme.

The British Cotton Growing Association was founded in 1902 in order to promote the growth and cultivation of cotton within the British Empire. The background to its formation was the difficult position of the Lancashire Cotton industry and its over-dependence on the United States for raw cotton. The BCGA was inaugurated (in February 1902) with a guarantee fund of 50,000 pounds, and consignments of seed, machinery and cotton experts were dispatched to different countries to undertake pioneering work and conduct experiments. In 1904 the Association was granted a Royal Charter and was reconstituted with a capital of 500,000 pounds so as to ensure adequate funding for the extension and success of its operations” (Bassett 2000)

In order to fulfil its mission the BCGA had to raise additional capital, primarily from the textile industrialists but it also sought capital from the workers and the Co-operative Movement. Jonathan Robins (2005) has documented the history of the BGCA and the following is taken from his paper: “Unlike their employers, Lancashire mill workers participated in fund-raising campaigns with enthusiasm. … Organised labour raised more than £3,200 by August 1904, with another £4,500 invested by Lancashire cooperative societies. … When Hutton and Macara announced the 1905 levy on spinning and weaving mills, they asked mill workers to join the empire cotton movement through a “Day’s Wage” scheme which collected one day’s pay annually for five years. Workers raised more than £24.000 during the first campaign; this was 27 percent short of Hutton’s goal, but it was much better than the 39 percent shortfall in levies paid by FMCSA mills. The second “Day’s Wage” appeal in 1910 raised another £21,500, falling 35 percent short of the goal. … All told, Lancashire’s workers raised about 10 percent of BCGA’s total capital.”

In 1972 the BCGA was wound up, and according to Bassett (2000) “In 1973 its ginning facilities were acquired by Ralli International, a firm of Liverpool cotton traders…. In 1980 Ralli was taken over by Cargill and the Association subsequently incorporated into Cargill Technical Services Ltd.”

1972 was about the time that the trusteeship of the BGCA Workpeoples’ Collection Fund was passed to someone (?) at The University of Manchester, where it remains but not as a Trust of the University. The shares allocated to the workers collectively had value (although no details are to hand) and that now represents the capital of the Trust. The Charity is able to fund a broad range of work/research that the Trustees consider beneficial to workers in the textile industry, taking account of the Fund’s origins as contributions by Lancashire cotton workers. Funding in the past has included such things as research on respiratory conditions, archiving mill records, textile industry history,  innovative technical work, and of course the recent project by Julie Froud and colleagues (2017) which we celebrate today. It is currently funding projects on nanofibres and another on workers pay and employment.

The BGCAWCF’s most recent project is being managed by North West Textiles Network Ltd., offering “innovation” grants to textile industry companies to research new elements to grow their Business. The grants will be assessed by industry experts. Depending on the quality of the first tranche of applications the scheme may be extended to a second phase.

References:

Phil Bassett (2000), The University of Birmingham Research Libraries Bulletin (Number ,7, Spring 2000)

Julie Froud, Stephen Hayes, Hua Wei and Karel Williaams (2017), “Coming Back; Capability and Precarity in Textiles and Apparel”  Alliance Manchester Business School & School of Materials, University of Manchester

Jonathan Robins (2015). Lancashire and the “Undeveloped Estates”: The British Cotton Growing Association Fund-Raising Campaign, 1902–1914. Journal of British Studies, 54, pp 869-897doi:10.1017/jbr.2015.115

 

David Colman (Chairman of Trustees of the BCGAWCF). 10/07/2018

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