You might think a good natured group of Christian folk celebrating harvest festival might be looked on quite favourably by local townsfolk – or tolerated in the least.
Not so in Shrewbury in October 1887 as one columnist described in a local newspaper.
One regiment parading through the town got more than they bargained for when the mob turned on them. The police refused to help – but when God’s on your side you’ve just got to keep going!
THE SALVATION ARMY IN SHREWSBURY. [BY JUSTITIA].
A contingent of the Salvation Army has for some time been in Shrewsbury, and nothing had lately transpired to lead one to suppose that their presence was particularly obnoxious to anyone. At least the dislike, if it did exist, was not exhibited in any offensive form. There were many to whom this singular manner of promulgating Christianity was by no means palatable, and who looked upon it as they would the crazy antics of the prophets of Baal, but who carried their contempt hidden in their bosoms.
But there is always a section of the people whose opposition and dislike anything can be demonstrated in a brutal fashion only. Even these have for a long time tolerated the army with commendable civility. It was not because their savage feelings had become defunct; they were simply lying dormant, ready to be awakened at the first approach of a Salvation Army drum.
A forcible illustration of this has been presented during the last 10 days. In common with other denominations, the Shrewsbury contingent of the Salvation Army decided to holda harvest festival on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday last. To give additional attraction to this ceremony, it was arranged to import a band from Oswestry. The musicians duly arrived onSaturday.
In their appearance and demeanour they were very much like other men. There was nothing about them to indicate that they in the least deserved the kicks and blows of an infuriated mob. However, being wanted by reminiscences of former combats, it was thought necessary to ask for police protection during the three days—Saturday, Sunday, and, Monday—but for some reason this was not vouchsafed [provided]. In spite of this, the vigilant force, with colours flying, and band playing, sallied forth in the evening. German bands and itinerant musicians stand before one’s shop door and play discordant ditties with delightful immunity from opposition. A recollection of this might have encouraged the Salvationists to adopt the course they did. But a different reward awaited their labours. When on Pride Hill, the mob seemed unable torestrain themselves. Knives were drawn to cut the drum, and many the “soldiers” were furiously kicked. This treatment was continued down Wyle Cop, until the army gained the friendly shelter of their hall. Several policemen witnessed the attack, but failed see sufficient ground to interfere. At any rate, they took no steps in the matter. The services in the hall were far more orderly, and may be considered highly successful. OnSunday afternoon the army again marched out, and the attack upon them was resumed with greater intensity. The mob howled and kicked. Knives were again drawn, and thrusts to the offending drum made in rapid succession. One bandsman was kicked into almost insensible condition, and the drummer met with a similar fate. A gentleman remonstrated with a policeman for allowing such conduct to proceed, but he was told to “mind his own business.”
During the evening’s march-out the mob were again on the alert. The drummer, who was still suffering from the afternoon’s treatment, was again knocked down by blow under the ear. One drum had already been destroyed, and thesecond one was now likely to be considerably damaged, but was got to the hall “safe and sound.”
There was another march-out on Monday night, and the usually accompanying attack. The “soldiers” were kicked and bustled. Blows were struck in all directions. Three of the men lost their caps, one end of the drum was kicked in, and the divisional officer was knocked down and jumped upon. The members of the army complain of the conduct of the police, but in justice the latter most be asserted that it was difficult for them to identify the offenders. Some of the police declare that the proceedings of the mob were disgraceful, and their attacks unprovoked and cowardly. It is true that by remaining in the barracks the army might have evaded these attacks. But in the days when herds of swine and cattle can be driven through the streets without being kicked and jumped upon, it may not be unreasonable to imagine that the same indulgence may be extended to a body of men and women, who, despite their extravagant views, are pursuing legal course.
Despite the opposition in the streets, the harvest festival was a very successful one. The chapel was nicely adorned, a small mountain of fruit and vegetables standing front of the rostrum. The services were of a very hearty character and associated with all the characteristics of the army. The hall was crowded each evening, and though there was on one or two occasions a disposition amongst some youths to create a disturbance they were effectually checked. One of the most pleasing features of the festival was the singing of a youthful “soldier,” whose melody charmed the audience that even the obstructivesvociferously applauded and rapturously encored his performances. On Monday evening the “colours” were presented to the Shrewsbury Corps, and the “captain” declared her intention carrying them into the thick of the fight.
Wellington Journal – Saturday 08 October 1887