Joseph Mairs (1892-1914)

Joseph Mairs (4 February 1892-20 January 1914) was a native of Airdrie, Scotland who came to Ladysmith from Scotland circa 1908-1912. He worked in Ladysmith as a coal miner at the Canadian Collieries (Dunsmuir) Limited mines at Union and Extension.

The United Mine Workers of America, which represented miners at the Canadian Collieries (Dunsmuir) Limited mines, went on strike in September 1912 after the mining company fired two active nion members. The strike lasted until 10 August 1914, when it was called off by the union.

Here is the Dictionary of Canadian Biography account of what subsequently happened to Joseph Mairs:

“By May 1913 the strike had spread to the other mines on the island. When Canadian Collieries evicted miners and their families from company homes and imported strikebreakers, union miners organized strong picket lines. The province sent in constables, and by August scuffles were breaking out. On 13 August, two days after a major riot at Nanaimo, miners in Ladysmith, alarmed by rumours of armed police, protested in the streets and at the pits, smashing windows, setting fires, and attacking the strikebreakers. The government called in the militia; more than 200 strikers from Ladysmith and elsewhere were charged with rioting and related offences, and were held without bail.

One of those arrested was 21-year-old Joseph Mairs. He chose a speedy trial by judge and pleaded guilty in the hope of receiving a short sentence. However, on 23 October provincial judge Frederic William Howay sentenced him to 16 months. Mairs was taken to Oakalla Prison Farm, where he was put to work clearing land. Described by the warden as a “good, quiet prisoner,” he was transferred to the prison’s kitchen on 12 Jan. 1914.

Two days later Mairs complained of severe stomach cramps. He was given hot-mustard pills, cod-liver oil, and salts by an inmate who served as a medical attendant, but his condition worsened. On the 18th the prison’s doctor diagnosed acute indigestion, despite having been told that Mairs had had surgery in Glasgow in 1907 or 1908 for a bowel obstruction. He prescribed a “stomach medicine” and the following day administered an enema. On the 20th Mairs died. An autopsy revealed that he had tuberculosis of the intestine. Obstructed by adhesions and undoubtedly weakened by the mistreatment, his bowels had ruptured, and Mairs died of peritonitis. Ironically he had pleaded guilty in order to avoid a long sentence, which he feared he would not survive. His father, who had also been arrested, pleaded not guilty and was acquitted by a jury.”

Here are links to pages with more information on Joseph Mairs:

Joseph Mairs is buried in Ladysmith Cemetery. Each January the Joseph Mairs Memorial Committee holds a memorial ceremony on the Sunday closest to the anniversary of his death on 20 January 1914.

The grave of Joseph Mairs (1892-1914) in Ladysmith Cemetery.
The grave of Joseph Mairs (1892-1914) in Ladysmith Cemetery.
Inscription on the grave of Joseph Mairs (1892-1914) in Ladysmith Cemetery.
United Mine Workers of America inscription on the grave of Joseph Mairs (1892-1914) in Ladysmith Cemetery.
Inscription on the grave of Joseph Mairs (1892-1914) in Ladysmith Cemetery.
Inscription on the grave of Joseph Mairs (1892-1914) in Ladysmith Cemetery.


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