THEIR treatment defending the rights of the working man has gone down in the nation’s history.
And in era where hard-working families again face the consequences of the greed of a privileged elite, the stand taken by six Dorset men nearly two centuries ago still strikes a chord. For one Bournemouth woman, celebrations planned to mark the 175th anniversary of the transportation of the Tolpuddle Martyrs will have an added significance.
Hazel Werner began researching her family tree about five years ago after the death of her mother, and soon discovered that her great, great, great uncle was martyr James Hammett.
“Three of my mother’s cousins are still alive and aged in their nineties. I also have two aunts living in Christchurch.
“One aunt is 77 and the other is 82. They still remember visiting their great aunt, Polly Hammett, who was a niece of James Hammett,” Hazel told the Daily Echo.
A chance discovery of descendants of martyred brothers, George and James Loveless, in the visitors’ book of the Martyrs Museum in Tolpuddle, proved pivotal to Hazel’s research.
“Sally McMahon and Dawn Stewart have provided me with lots of information as they have both been researching their family history for many years.
“Through them, I've met relatives from Dorchester, London, Manchester, Ringwood, Yorkshire and Yeovil. I've also been in contact with several relatives in Australia,” said Hazel.
And while her burgeoning contacts book has helped Hazel to fit together the pieces of her own family jigsaw, she remains certain that others across Dorset and the world are aware of their connection to their brave ancestors.
“I'm sure there are lots of other martyr relatives still alive, and possibly some direct descendants, but quite a lot of them prefer to keep silent.
“The martyrs were modest, hardworking men who certainly didn't expect to be sent to Australia on a trumped up charge.
“And they certainly wouldn’t have expected 200,000 people to sign a petition and 100,000 people to demonstrate in London on their behalf,” said Hazel.
The cost of Hazel’s banner has been met mostly from a legacy left by a “dear friend” who died some years ago on February 24.
“I've been searching for something special in her memory and it seemed appropriate that as the martyrs were arrested on February 24, this would be a fitting tribute to her and to them,” said Hazel.
Donations from relatives have helped Hazel to meet most of the costs of her banner, but more are needed to save the retired local government worker from being out of pocket on her tribute.
And Hazel is also making a call for “strong male relatives” to help her carry the banner through the streets of London on April 25.
Descendants of James Hammett wishing to donate, or to help Hazel carry the banner, can contact her through the Daily Echo on 01202 411289.