Ned Ludd’s Invisible Army

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.

Friday Fictioneers



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.


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  1. pennygadd51

    You used a clever device when you had James paint Ned Ludd’s name on the wall. It makes your point strongly that the name was more important than the incident.

  2. 4963andypop

    The leader seems to have a lot of restraint for a fifteen year old, which makes him very likable.

    What an interesting bit of history. I was not aware that the newer (1990s–>) version of it, Neo-Luddism, which rejects technology, was a major motivator of the infamous Unabomber, Ted Kaczinski.).

    Not so much restraint there.

Don't just stand there.