Bearskins, Strikers and Turkish Delight
In October 1909, the expedition faced a new obstacle, a strike by some of their workers. There were three gangs each of 60 men. They worked 8 hours every 24 hours, broken into two four-hour parts. For example, a shift would work from 12 noon to 4 pm and then resume at 12 midnight until 4 am. The men were paid by piecework and had one day off a week. As Englishmen led the expedition, this was naturally Sunday. The gang that had set the record for shifting 150 buckets the quickest consistently earned double what the other teams did. Men from the other two gangs went on strike for more money. The expedition took the matter to arbitration at court to be resolved.
On the day that the issue was due to be heard in court, the expedition members were scheduled to meet the mayor, who had been in hospital. The Turkish commissioners advised the expedition members they would be dressed in uniform to meet the mayor. They said that if possible, so should the expedition members. Parker and Duff had brought their Grenadier Guards and Life Guards officers’ uniforms with them for just such an occasion. These included a red tunic and bearskin for Parker and a metal cuirass, gauntlets, boots and helmet for Duff. At the courthouse Turkish soldiers guarded twenty of the leading strikers. The strikers had elected a spokesman and he made his plea to the court. This speech, together with a good deal of shouting from the others, failed. The commandant ordered the men to be jailed. Parker stood up resplendent in his Guards officer’s uniform, and pleaded for the strikers. He asked that the men be set free and the commandant agreed to do so. This outcome naturally went down well with the strikers, who left the court very happy. The commandant said he would like to come down to the excavations to talk to the workers and the mayor said he would come as well.
So a procession set off for the excavations. The boys had brought the donkeys to the court building, so the expedition members rode on those. Duff looked an unusual sight on his animal. He was over six feet tall and dressed in uniform. Usually, dressed like this, Duff would be on a magnificent cavalry mount. Instead, he was on a white donkey, with its mane and tail painted yellow. A troop of Turkish lancers led the procession. The commandant and mayor came next. The expedition members and the Ottoman Commissioners followed them. Finally, a mass of Turkish gendarmerie brought up the rear. The shortest route to the excavations was through the Jewish quarter. They took this option, but it was a mistake, as the streets were very narrow. The procession had to go single file and locals were forced to retreat into their shops and houses. The column was a bizarre sight. Foley describes one individual’s reaction to the sight of the tall, uniformed Duff on the small, painted donkey. The elderly Jewish man thought the end of the world had come and called out in Yiddish. Halfway through their slow progress through the Jewish quarter, Kiasam Iaas, Duff’s donkey-boy, decided he wanted to speed things up. He gave the mayor’s Arabian horse two resounding thwacks with his stick. The mayor’s horse shot forward in the confines of the narrow alley. This unnerved Duff’s donkey. It swerved, slipped on the cobbles and dumped Duff into the nearest shop, which sold Turkish delight and peanuts.
The produce was laid out on display on tables and Duff tumbled into them, knocking them over. He demolished dozens of boxes of Turkish delight and a large dish of peanuts. His helmet fell off, and peanuts poured into it, his long boots and gauntlets. He ended up sitting on a box of Turkish delight covered in the sticky sweet. After extricating himself he was able to remount his donkey and rejoin the procession. The aggrieved shop owner chased after the parade and caused Makasdar’s donkey to fall into a boot shop, causing another commotion. Eventually the procession reached the excavations. There they prised a sticky Duff out of his saddle and collected peanuts from his uniform. The expedition rounded up the workers and the mayor and commandant made speeches to the group. Afterwards, the commandant told the Englishmen that the workers were so grateful to Parker that they wanted to show them a new tunnel. Foley and Wilson followed the workers up the Kidron Valley to an arch in the side of a hill. Foley quickly realised what it was and refused to go in. However, Wilson, who had no sense of smell, went in but rapidly came out. It was Jerusalem’s main drain.