1st April 1914:
If you don't know this one you'll never guess it. Who was involved in the longest strike in British history - miners? Railwaymen? Health workers? Nope: it was schoolchildren, and it lasted 25 years.
Annie Higdon (also known as Kitty) and her husband Tom were teachers in the early days of state education, who in 1911 were appointed to run the Church of England village school in Burston, Norfolk. The children and the parents thought highly of them, but the Higdons were trade unionists and socialists and it wasn't long before they got on the wrong side of the local squirearchy, especially the all-powerful, and extremely worldly, rector. They openly supported farm labourers in their disputes with the landowners, and even had the cheek to complain abut the school itself, which was damp, cold, insanitary and ill-equipped.
It can't have helped matters when Tom (himself a farm worker's son) was elected to the parish council in 1913, defeating the rector. Trumped-up charges were brought against Kitty by the school governors, chiefly that she had lit a fire without permission - to dry the clothes of children who, of course, walked to school in all weathers. Furthermore, it was alleged that she had failed to curtsy to the rector's wife, which I think we're all agreed is taking Bolshevism just that bit too far.
The Higdons were sacked on 1st April 1914, but the pupils and the local community weren't having it. Led by an accordion-wielding 13-year-old named Violet Potter (surely a character from Richmal Crompton?), the children went on strike. Sixty-six of the 72 pupils joined the rebellion, refusing to enter the old school, now under the rector's management, and instead taking part in a march around the village. Their placards read "We are out for justice" and "We want our teachers back."
Annie and Tom set up a strike school on the village green, which most local pupils attended. Later they were able to occupy some unused workshops, and in 1918 a massive national collection, with donations from trade unions, co-ops and left-wing parties (and Leo Tolstoy, author of War and peace), allowed the school to move into its own premises.
The two village teachers, and generations of their students, remained on strike against tyranny and for proper education until Tom's death in 1939. Kitty moved into a nursing home, and their final pupils transferred to what was by then a very different local authority system. As far as Kitty's union is concerned, the dispute is still listed as officially unresolved.
The strike school itself has been owned since 1949 by a charitable trust, and is maintained today as a museum. Every year, on the first Sunday in September, trade unionists from around the world gather at Burston for one of the most important rallies in the labour calendar.
School strikes are not as rare in British history as we might expect. In autumn 1889 a series of pupil walk-outs began in the south of Scotland and quickly spread throughout Britain. Thousands of children struck, protest marches complete with red flags were held in many towns and cities, scabs were assaulted and school property attacked. The rebellion had several demands, particularly concerning school fees and corporal punishment. Strikers also opposed homework and wanted shorter working hours and better teachers.
There was another national wave of school strikes in 1911 - starting in South Wales in protest against a pupil being assaulted by a teacher - and then there was the Stepney schools walkout in 1971, to support a teacher who'd been sacked for publishing an anthology of his pupils' poems. But we'll return to that one another time; the bell's just gone for lunch.