A Hornsey Engineer’s Speech

Hornsey Journal, 14 March 1919

William Foster Watson, 37, a turner’s engineer, of Inderwick Road, Hornsey, and Featherstone Buildings, Holborn, was charged at Bow Street on Saturday with seditious utterances in a speech at the Albert Hall, at a “Hand Off Russia” meeting, convened by the British Socialist Party.

Sir Archibald Bodkin, for the Director of Public Prosecutions, said the charge was preferred under Regulation 42 of the Defence of the Realm Regulations. The speech was made at a meeting under the auspices of the “British Socialist Party”, and that there were a great many people present, including numerous soldiers, the alleged offence became all the more important. The speech would be placed in full before the Court, and he would point out two or three passages which obviously came within the prohibitions laid down in the regulations.

The defendant said he was sick and tired of those revolutionaries who were so often talking about fighting when there was nothing to be done, but who, when the time for action arrived, put forward excuses and ran away. Then he told his hearers to seize upon every little bit of industrial unrest in any part of the country, to endeavour to extend it to other industries, so that when they got the people in every workshop, discontented demands might be made on the employing class which could not be complied with, and which would make it impossible for that class to carry on.

Then when the country had been worked into that condition of discontent, the soldiers and sailors were to be brought in, in the shape of soldiers’ and sailors’ councils, who would organise an army and, if necessary, be prepared to make the supreme sacrifice for their principles. Counsel submitted that speeches of this kind could not be tolerated in a time of unrest like the present.

PC Charles Buckle read extracts from shorthand notes which he took of the speech in which the defendant referred to the “unrest” on the Clyde and at Belfast, and accused members of the A.S.E*. in London of acting like “jelly fish” when they were told by their executives to go back to work. Referring to the Government, he said it was a pity Guy Fawkes was not returned at the election. There were about 8,000 people at the meeting, and interrupters were ejected.

Defendant was remanded, and Sir John Dickinson said he would accept bail in two sureties of £100 each, on condition that the defendant undertook not to speak at public meetings or engage in propaganda work in the interval. Defendant said he was prepared to give the required undertaking. He suggested that it would have had a good effect on the public mind if the magistrate had accepted his own recognisances instead of requiring sureties.

*Amalgamated Society of Engineers

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