Cutlery Trade on a Knife Edge: The Week That Was August 23-19, 1991.

A stark warning was issued this week that the cutlery industry, upon which Sheffield had built a worldwide reputation, was in danger of collapse. John Price, president of the Association of British Cutlers and Allied Trades, said the industry was in the midst of its darkest hour: 'Times have never been harder', he said.

He claimed that it was only a matter of time before more of the dwindling band of cutlery manufacturers were forced to close. “There is no immediate hope,” he said, adding: “The message to the trade at the moment is to hang on.”

At its post-war peak, the cutlery industry had employed 30,000 people. Now there were barely 3,000 workers involved in manufacturing cutlery in Britain – the vast majority of them in Sheffield.

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Mr Price, who was also chairman of Sheffield’s largest cutlery company, Arthur Price of England, blamed the parlous state of affairs on a combination of cheap imports and the recession. He predicted a further blow to business when European trade barriers were removed in 1992.

The Home Office was counting the cost to the taxpayer of damage caused by a riot at Britain’s newest prison near Doncaster. The estimated cost of repairs to Moorlands Young Offenders’ Institution was £100,000 after the disturbance.

The prison had only taken its first inmates three months previously.

The suspected ringleaders had been transferred to other prisons, and police were considering criminal proceedings.

In other news, British Rail announced a ‘buy one, get one free’ offer, in an attempt to fill a growing number of empty train seats. The promotion in conjunction with Boots the Chemist was aimed at finding new customers and addressing BR’s increasing cash shortage.

Meanwhile, according to a survey of head teachers in North Yorkshire, government tests for seven-year-olds were harming children’s education. Nearly all of the heads said the benefits of the SATs were far outweighed by the harm done to children not taking the tests because so much teaching time was lost.

On the foreign pages, The Yorkshire Post reported that Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev had begun his purge of cabinet members and officials involved in the failed coup attempt of the previous week. Defence minister Dmitri Yazov and KGB chief Vladimir Kryuchkov were arrested. Interior minister Boris Pugo had committed suicide to avoid arrest.

Mr Gorbachev also sacked his prime minister Valentin Pavlov and foreign minister Aleksandre Bessmertnykh. The angry, fist-shaking President Gorbachev addressed a stormy session of the Supreme Soviet Parliament, threatening to quit if the Soviet Union was allowed to tear itself apart.

But it was becoming clear that the president’s days were numbered. Not only was he facing a political challenge for authority from reformer Boris Yeltsin, but by the end of the week several regions of the Soviet republic had declared independence, including the Ukraine, Byelorussia, Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia.

Dr Thorley Sweetman, a 35-year-old geologist from Sheffield, was killed by a stampede of elephants during a field trip in Zimbabwe, the University of Zimbabwe confirmed.

Dr Sweetman was the latest casualty in a series of stampedes by the growing elephant population in the remote Mana Pools nature reserve. Government officials said the animals were also damage to farmland. Wildlife officials ordered the slaughter of 48,000 animals as an environmental measure.