Quite a crowd of us had gathered by the massive front door when it was swung open by a grinning James Mulroy. Though just fifteen, he had a mind as spry and quick as a young fox and thus was our leader
“Remember, only the stocking frames,” he said. “It’s symbolic, like.”
We jumbled into the mill, crowbars and hammers ready. Within a few minutes, all the stocking frames were wrecked, their spools smashed on the floor.
I glanced back as we hurried ourselves out. James had a paint-pot and brush. On the wall, he’d written NED LUDD WAS HERE.
Ned Ludd was a fiction concocted from an incident that supposedly had taken place in the city of Leicester. A young apprentice named Ludd was working at a stocking frame when a superior admonished him for knitting too loosely. Ordered to “square his needles,” the enraged apprentice instead grabbed a hammer and flattened the entire mechanism. The story eventually made its way to Nottingham, where protesters turned Ned Ludd into their symbolic leader.
The idea of smashing machines as a form of industrial protest did not begin or end with them. The secret of their enduring reputation depends less on what they did than on the name under which they did it.
You could say they were good at branding.