Professor Jeffrey Hill - A scholar and a Gentleman
This month LHL would like to present a modern Lancastrian who is a gentleman, a sports fan and a unique scholar. Born in Nelson, Jeffrey Hill spent his early years living in Barrowford. His dad was a teacher and the family moved around the country a good deal. Jeff eventually ended up at King George V School, Southport, whence he made his way to Oxford University.
Whilst developing his historical acumen Jeff was influenced by the great labour historian Henry Pelling’s book The Origins of the Labour Party, which shaped Jeff’s PhD work in the 1960s. Later, whilst Jeff was working on the Open University’s Popular Culture course in the 1980’s, he began to explore the significance of ideology in cultural life, borrowing from the thinking of the Italian Marxist philosopher Antonio Gramsci. Jeff applied Gramscian ideas to the subject of sport, and formulated interpretations of how workers are identified by many more variants than just class. Jeff’s position was succinctly encapsulated in a brief sentence during our interview. He quoted the opening line from Tony Mason’s Association Football and English Society 1863-1915: ‘One thing that mattered to most working men in late Victorian England was how they spent the time when they were not at work’.
Jeffrey worked for many years at Nottingham Trent University, and more recently was the Director of the International Centre for Sport, History and Culture at De Montfort University in Leicester. He has published a number of books and articles, the best-known, perhaps, being Sport, Leisure and Culture in Twentieth Century Britain, published in 2002 and Popular Politics and Popular Culture in the Age of the Masses, published in 2014, which is essentially a study of workers’ culture in Lancashire and the North West. Jeff’s recurring emphasis on the importance of leisure and workers’ cultural development is exemplified by a comment in his review of Martin Crick’s The History of the Social Democratic Federation (SDF) in Labour History Review (1996) - ‘To ask why the SDF failed is … perhaps less important than examining the processes that produced Manchester United and Coronation Street …this should now be demanding our attention more than the SDF’. Though only a part of Jeffrey Hill’s contribution to historical research, his investigation into workers’ popular culture was a significant contribution to twentieth century modern history that has yet, perhaps, to be fully extrapolated or appreciated. Like other labour history ‘Titans’ such as Ross McKibbin and Andrew Thorpe, Jeffrey Hill, the little lad from Barrowford, has certainly made us all here at LHL proud!
When not being an historian Jeff likes watching cricket and going to the cinema and walking. He and his wife Mary have two boys and a girl to keep their eye on (or do the kids now keep an eye on their parents?): they are Katharine, a semiotician working in London; Tim, on the editorial staff at the Guardian’s New York office; and Richard, busy teaching English at a secondary school in Liverpool.
Professor Jeff answered our quick fire preference questions at the end of the LHL interview thus:
Favourite sportsperson? Tom Finney. Favourite place? Hampstead Heath. Favourite contemporary historian? Richard Holt. Arctic or desert? Neither. Glass of wine or glass of beer? Wine nowadays. Fish and chips or curry? Fish and chips any day. Dogs or cats? Cats. Lancashire or Yorkshire. Oh that’s easy, Lancashire!
Following the publication of his recent Learie Constantine and Race Relations in Britain and the Empire (Bloomsbury Academic, 2019) Jeff is at present working on aspects of race and popular culture in Britain over the past fifty years.
Thank you Jeff and let’s talk again soon!
Peter John Fyles
This month LHL is most grateful to John Halstead who has been kind enough to write a brief account of the origins of the Working Class Movement Library (WCML) in Salford and to outline just one or two areas of historical usage that the WCML provides. Like all who have been in and out of the WCML, all of us here at LHL would just like to say, long may she exist and prosper! Thank you John and mine's a Guiness next time! Peter.
The Working Class Movement Library Prior to the Second World War and for several years thereafter, museums, libraries and archives wholly dedicated to radical, working-class and labour history, or showing much interest in materials their movements generated, were rare. The women's' movement had its Fawcett Library and materials on Robert Owen and co-operation were housed at the Co-operative Union in Manchester, but interest in adding to the rich collection of trade union records, which Sydney and Beatrice Webb had placed in the library at the London School of Economics, had long lapsed. The material in county and other record offices was generally generated by landowners and prominent members of society, rather than by labour movement activity. The situation started to change after the war and especially from 1960, when the Society for the Study of Labour History was formed. Its object was and is, "to educate the public in the field of Labour History and to safeguard the preservation of labour archives". It formed an archives committee, which included the Labour Party and TUC librarians, for the discussion of archives preservation, but the most notable development was to rectify the neglect of trade union records by the formation of the Modern Records Centre at the University of Warwick. The funds for the MRC were secured from the Leverhulme Trust by Royden Harrison, formerly of the university of Sheffield and now Professor and head of Centre for the Study of Social History at Warwick, with Professor George Bain, formerly of UMIST. Ian MacDougal, a Scottish school teacher [for whom see https://sslh.org.uk/2020/08/10/ianmacdougal-1993-2020/], had already provided a magnificent example of what could and should be done in preserving labour records. Ian was not the only person outside of university staff making contributions to labour history through writing and collecting materials. Eddie and Ruth Frow, who met at a Communist Party school in 1953, started touring by car with a tent to scour bookshops for suitable material. They created a treasure trove in their house at Old Trafford that attracted many from outside Lancashire: John Saville from Hull, myself from Edale in Derbyshire, and many others.
Eddie, born in Lincolnshire in 1906, had joined the Communist Party in 1924 as a young engineer and was active in the General Strike. He became a leading workplace militant in the North West and became full time district secretary of the Amalgamated Engineering Union in Manchester from 1961 to 1971. He became an active member of the SSLH during 1964. His great collection with Ruth of labour history materials, such as relatively obscure factory workshop and pit papers, was helpful in compilation of the invaluable Warwick Guide to British Labour Periodicals  and he was the Society's Treasurer between 1971 and 1981. Their labour history writing career, where - as they put it - Eddie did the reading and schoolteacher Ruth did the writing, commenced with
Michael Katanka in 1968: 1868 Year of the Unions. They produced a succession of pamphlets and books thereafter, culminating in their Political Women 1800-1950  and Radical and Red Poets and Poetry . A notable collaboration with Ernie Roberts was Democracy in he Engineering Union . 2 In the midst of all this activity, the house at Old Trafford ran out of walls for bookshelves or room the for archives that working-class activists wished to place with them. A charitable trust had been created for he collection in 1971, but the real solution was the move to a larger house in 1987, with the assistance of the Council to the Crescent in Salford This had generous room for collections and a flat for Eddie and Ruth, as well as an annexe for meetings on labour history. The numerous riches in the collections at the WCML can be explored by going to the online catalogue, but I will just provide two examples from my own experience. In the days when university libraries did not possess copies of Kelley reprints of Richard Carlile's Republican or Lion of the 1820s and they were not available digitally, it was to Eddie and Ruth's house that we went. Nowadays the Crescent at Salford is the place to go for much material from the English Jacobin period of the French Revolution that isn't easily available in the north.. One example is material on William Frend [1757-1841], which interests me because of research into Godfrey Higgins [1773-1833], his close friend and associate. The library contains Eddie and Ruth's copy of the Frida Knight biography, University Rebel , but also eight other less available publications from
dated 1788 to 1832. The first item among these is Frend's opening shot directed at the Reverend Henry William Coulthurst in a controversy about religious tests at the university of Cambridge. As it happens, Coulthurst married in Huddersfield, went on to be Vicar of Halifax, and is of separate interest in connection with work I am doing on manufacturers opposed to or supporting working-class movements around the turn of the century. But more relevant from the Higgins' point of view, is the WCML's Frend material that goes on to deal with his epic trial at the university in 1793 and his expulsion from St John's College. The crime was publication of his pamphlet Peace and Union recommended to the Associated Bodies of Republicans and Anti-republicans. Frend's politics were clearly expressed by
his membership of the London Corresponding Society on departure from Cambridge. This placed him beside prominent members, such as Horne Tooke and Thomas Hardy, who were put on treason trial, but famously acquitted, in 1794. The WCML contains Frend's application of 1795 to the Court of King's Bench for a review of similar cases to his own dealt with at the University of Cambridge. It ends with his reflections on the impolicy of religious persecution and the importance of free speech, thus uniting questions of political disagreement and those of religious controversy. Frend, as a Fellow of St John's had to be an Anglican communicant and a priest, of course, but he had become a Unitarian. His trial at the university was in the Vice-Chancellor's Court. The VC, who presided, was Isaac Milner, a Methodist, just as the Anglican Coulthurst was of an evangelical stamp! The final item in this collection is Frend's one hundred and twenty four page, A plan of universal education. This plan would have united Frend and Higgins. They were both against religious tests, joined the British Association at its formation in 1831 and may have attended together one or other of its first three meetings. But that is to note just one illustration of the riches at the WCML. Another comes from a visit of early 2014 to see material deposited by Bob Clark from Liverpool, a machine gunner in the British Battalion of the International Brigades during the Spanish Civil War. This is of interest because of his 3 recollection of a fellow gunner, Maurice Ryan - 'the best', according to Clark and Eugene Downing - who was shot and executed by Sam Wild, the battalion commander, at the Ebro on 6 August 1938. This material was helpful to Barry McLoughlin for his chapter on 'The Killing of Maurice Emmet Ryan', in Fighting for Republican Spain 1936-38: Frank Ryan and he Volunteers from Limerick in the International Brigades . On of the many strengths of the WCML is its library of Irish material. As to the Spanish Civil War more generally, the archive contains 1103 items, including a file on Sam Wild, which includes biographical information, photographs, a tape transcript, election leaflets, correspondence, press cuttings, obituaries and appreciations. There is a great amount of Lancashire material, apart from that of Bob Clark. One example is circulars and financial documents of the Manchester and Salford [Spanish Civil War] Dependants' and Wounded Aid Committee. The WCML's entire collection is a not insignificant complement to the 5993 items on the International Brigades available in the Marx Memorial Library and Workers' School archive at Clerkenwell Green. The SSLH had a serious financial problem in 1981, but this was successfully navigated. The Society is now in a strong position and is able to provide some financial help to the WCML.
Johnnie Duxbury was born in Blackburn on December 9th, 1907 and died there on October 28th, 1993. He left school at the age of 14, worked in local cotton mills and became a skilled shuttlemaker. The decline of the textile industry force him to seek more secure employment, first with Blackburn Transport Department, then as a caretaker, and finally as a porter at Blackburn Royal Infirmary.
Throughout these changes Johnnie remained committed to the cause of socialism and became a member of the Independent Labour Party (ILP). He was involved in many of the protests of the day, most notably, perhaps, the Kinder Scout Trespass, the peace movement, and resistance to Oswald Mosley who had established a branch of the British Union of Fascists in Blackburn during his Lancashire recruiting campaign in 1934-35.
Johnnie was a lifelong student in the autodidact tradition. He read the classics, the progressive writers of the 30’s 40’s and 50’s, and learned Esparanto in the hope that the common peoples of the world would be better able to become effective advocates of equality, social justice and peace. His intelligence and strength allowed him to transcend his circumstances andhelp those who could not, through good fellowship and song, and because ofhis dignified commitment to decency. These were values thatmade him a pillar of his community, and for that he should be celebrated.
Dr Roger Smalley
New book sheds light on the history of co-ops in Chorley and its 19th century working class
John E. Harrison offers a comprehensive look at ‘Co-operation in Chorley 1830-1880’
CHORLEY, Lancashire, England – A fascination with the local history of Chorley, and the desire to address the knowledge gaps relating to the foundation of co-operatives within the district, led John E. Harrison to research and publish “Co-operation in Chorley 1830-1880” (published by Lulu).
The co-op business was the cornerstone of communities in 19th and 20th century Britain, with services impacting on members’ lives from the cradle to the grave. Much is known and has been written about successful retail co-operatives — particularly in Rochdale — but less is known about co-operatives that failed, producer co-operatives, and retail co-operatives and co-operative communities in Chorley. This, according to Harrison, is the reason for writing the reference book.
“Co-operation in Chorley 1830-1880” describes the foundation, operation and collapse of three different societies against the wider context of co-operative history in Lancashire and nationally. Here, the author examines how co-operation began in Chorley, who was involved, what happened and why it eventually failed while other co-operative societies in Lancashire and elsewhere thrived and prospered. The book tells the story of these societies in the context of the general development of co-operation and in the context of Chorley’s social, political and industrial development.
Harrison says, “In the 21st century for many people shopping at their local co-op convenience store, the original idealism of co-operation has been forgotten. My book will hopefully remind readers that that there have been, and still can be, alternatives to traditional capitalist ways of running businesses.”
“Co-operation in Chorley 1830-1880”
By John E. Harrison
Softcover | 6 x 9in | 174 pages | ISBN 9781684718597
E-Book | 174 pages | ISBN 9781684718580
Available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble
About the Author
John E. Harrison has lived in Lancashire for over 50 years and, for most of that time, he has lived in Chorley. For more than a decade, he worked as a lecturer in further education before spending the rest of his career managing educational provision in local government. While in mid-career, he was fortunate to be able to study for a master’s degree and produced a thesis, “The Development of Medical Care and Public Health in Nineteenth Century Chorley.” Subsequently, local history research and writing had to be put on hold while the focus was on family and career. Since retiring, Harrison has been better able to pursue his passions of research/writing, as well as travelling, rambling, family history and music, and until finishing this book, the retirement highlight had been walking Wainwright’s coast to coast from St. Bees to Robin Hoods Bay
This book by John E. Harrison is just the sort of local study that is making local history prominent again in historical research. It is a short concise and well-presented little book which deals with three different cooperative ventures in Chorley in the nineteenth century. The text and layout are easy on the eye, the narrative runs smooth and the different cooperative undertakings are factual and well-supported with evidence. More work of this calibre and style no doubt enhances Lancastrian history. Well done John!
Like Two Peas in a Pod
It's probably because they're so alike that they make so much of their differences. Yorkshire and Lancashire – two sides of the same coin; mirror images. Who does bleak moorland vistas better? Who does scruffy little mill towns better? Who has the best chippies? Where can you get the best curries? Where can you get the best pint of mild? Who's got the brashest, most vulgar seaside town? Actually I think Lancashire wins that one, but who's got the best brass band?
As far as the Lancs. Labour History website goes, I was born on the wrong side of the Pennines. I don't recollect being consulted about it, and I live in Bolton now, so that must say something. I grew up in Queensbury near Bradford, home of Black Dyke Mills and that famous best brass band. The Lancashire border wasn't much above fifteen miles away, just over Soil Hill, whence all the rain and bad weather. I didn't realise Yorkshire's evil twin lay thither.
When did I first venture over there? On a trip to the 'lights' when I was five. Not the Northern lights and not even the Blackpool lights. There was a coach company in Queensbury called Westercrofts. They did excursions to Scarborough, Bridlington, Filey, New Brighton, Blackpool, etc. They also did mystery tours. The destination board would proclaim 'Mystery Tour.' Everybody in the village knew it always went to Temple Newsham near Leeds. The only mystery about it was why they didn't just put that up on the board.
My first foray into Lancashire was to the 'lights' at Morecambe. Morecamble had its own illuminations in Happy Mount Park. Yorkshire folk in droves wandered round, open-mouthed at the incandescent extravaganza. Why Morecambe? Was it because at Blackpool they'd have had to pay the tram fare to see the lights properly? Was it because they knew Blackpool would be full of Lancashire folk?
Bradfordians have had a love affair with Morecambe that goes back to the days when it was known as Poulton-le-Sands. In 1850 a railway line was opened from there to Lancaster and Skipton, with connections through to Bradford and Leeds. Folk began flocking to the resort on day trips. In 1887 Bradford's mayor Angus Holden took 1,200 Bradfordians there on the train. Poulton-le-Sands changed its name to Morecambe in 1889. At Whitsuntide in 1894 5,500 Bradford folk visited Morecambe by train, almost half the total number of visitors.
The Midland Railway introduced a special daily train service from Morecambe to Bradford, allowing wealthy business men to commute. They could leave Morecambe at 7.40 and be in Bradford by 9.15. Coming back, the train left at 5.10 and got into Morecambe at 6.50, in good time to get to their villa residences in Bare for dinner.
Apart from trips to Morecambe and New Brighton, which was another popular destination, I didn't get to know Lancashite till I moved there when I got a job at Blackburn library in 1971. Did it seem like a foreign country? Did people do things differently there? Being in a library one difference I noticed straight away: everybody said book with a long sound, 'oo', as opposed to in Yorkshire where it's a short 'o' sound.
Otherwise everything was much the same. The chip shops tended to offer pies and sausages and curry sauces, which you didn't get so much over the border. The pubs though were much the same. The steep, cobbled streets were much the same. The terraced houses were much the same, though there was more red brick than in Bradford. There were mill chimneys everywhere much the same, and much the same as in Yorkshire, not many of them were smoking.
There were the same chain shops: Woolworths, Marks and Spencers, British Home Stores, Littlewoods. Both Bradford and Blackburn had demolished much loved arcades to make way for new development - the Swan Arcade in Bradford; the Thwaites Arcade in Blackburn. Both towns had substantial, bustling Asian communities.
Is there nothing to the Yorkshire v Lancashire malarkey then? Is there no such thing as a typical Lanky or a typical Yorkie? Is the stereotypical Yorkshireman a myth - that blunt, bluff, hard-headed, tight-fisted lump of Pennine gritstone, who calls a spade a bloody shovel when he does speak at all.- is that just a myth? And is there even a stereotypical Lancastrian? Is it a droll innocent like George Formby who always seems headed for disaster, but slyly comes out on top and gets the girl? It seems easier to think of a stereotypical Lancashire woman, an amalgam of Gracie Fields and Hilda Ogden, someone feisty, sharp-tongued, who has to knock her gormless menfolk into shape, but has a heart of gold.
Not surprising that in Lancashire the feminine example comes to the fore. In Lancashire women were a significant part of the workforce. Women outnumbered men in the mills. Not that there weren't women working in Yorkshire mills but some industries – mining steel-making, fishing were all male. Is that why Yorkshire can seem more challenging, more forbidding? Walking into a works' canteen full of Lancashire women would be daunting and you would be fairly effectively dismantled, but it would be done with wit and a wink, a canteen full of Yorkshiremen would be more bloody-minded and confrontational and if you didn't give as good as you got, you'd not be accepted.
Is that all there is to it then? Is there nothing else to distinguish the two counties? Well, if you accept that Liverpool is still Lancashire, there does seem to be an awful lot of Lancashire comedians - Ken Dodd, Arthur Askey, George Formby, Les Dawson, Eric Sykes, Hilda Baker, Victoria Wood, Peter Kay. The list goes on and on. Of course a cruel Yorkie would say you need a sense of humour to live in Lancashire. But how do you account for it and who have Yorkshire got – Alan Bennett? He's not going to have them rolling in the aisles at the Glasgow Empire, till they've missed the last tram.
Is it the way they tell it? Is it all in the accent? A Yorkshire accent is 'thud, thud, thud', like a succession of doors slamming; a Lancashire accent is more beguiling, more guileful. Doesn't the Lancashire accent lend itself to telling a funny tale? Go back to the way they say book. Doesn't the long 'ooo' have echoes of 'ooer' as in a Ken Dodd's 'ooer Missus,' or a George Formby's 'oo Mother', as he contemplates an unfolding calamity? The Yorkshire short 'o' is a full stop, saying 'shut up', before you say something stupid.
Of course it's all nonsense. What is a county boundary after all? In the long unfurling of the world's history it's as enduring as a flicker of lightning. Once the Danish vikings ruled on one side of the Pennines and the Norwegians on the other. Once the whole shooting match was Brigantia. A wise old lady from Todmorden summed it all up back in 1974 when asked what she thought of the boundary changes that meant she was now living in Yorkshire.
“I don't mind really, only they have awful winters in Yorkshire.”
You can be a Lanky one minute, then a Whitehall wunderkind has a wizard wheeze and you're suddenly a Greater Mancunian or a Cumbrian, or worse still a Yorkie.
And yet stereotypes persist. Few more enduring than that of the mean obdurate Scotsman. They say copper wire was invented by two Scots arguing over a penny. And you can see them at it – shaggy eyebrows bristling, knobbly knees all a quiver, kilts flying, nostrils flaring. If you said copper wire was invented by a Yorkie and a Lanky arguing over a penny, it wouldn't ring true. Everybody knows the penny would drop; the Lanky would rush off to his workshop to invent a copper extruding machine and the Yorkie would be off to his broker, telling him to sell wool and buy copper.
But surely there's some basis for the stereotypes. Could you have a more typical Yorkie than Emily Bronte's Heathcliffe – a bloody minded tyrant, wuthering hither and thither over the Yorkshire moors, laying down the law? Only trouble is he's a scouser, an orphan found wandering on Liverpool docks.
What about Henry Tudor then, the first great Lanky, champion of the Red Rose, who hit White Rose Yorkie, Richard, for six. Lancashire 1 Yorkshire 0. Fact. Except Henry was Welsh and Richard born in Northants.
Sport then. Take Manchester United and Leeds United, rivals from the biggest commercial cities of the two counties.. Who represents Yorksire grit and never-say-die more than Jack Charlton and who Lancashire guile and skill more than Bobby Charlton? You can't argue with that - only to point out that they're brothers and both born in Northumberland.
The fact of the matter is the only difference between Yorkshire folk and Lancashire folk is personal circumstances. Hugh Grosvenor, Duke of Westminster, who owns Bowland Forest in Lancashire and much else, has more in common with David Lascelles Earl of Harewood who owns Harewood House in Yorkshire than either have with gamekeepers on their own estates.
The guy behind the counter in a fast food shop in Manchester's curry mile has more in common with a guy in a fast food shop in Bradford's Lumb Lane than either has with fellow county men living in a Ribble Valley or Dales cottages.
Alas it's bred into us to think of others as different. Friendly banter between Lankys and Yorkies does no harm, but it's the thin end of a wedge that leads to the less amusing - 'they're coming over here getting our jobs.' or 'they go straight on benefits,' or 'they get council house given.' Folk are just folk, no matter which side of the Pennines they come from. We're all the same under the skin, though they are notoriously thick skinned in Yorkshire. Enough! Let it lie.
I'll end with another magical mystery tour. An elderly Bradford couple, too poor to go on holiday, spent their week off every year in the city's Manningham Park. One year though they saved up enough money to go to Morecambe. They didn't have good weather, so when they saw a local coach company advertsing mystery tours, they decide to give it a whirl. No prizes for guessing the mystery destination – Bradford's Manningham Park!
Author: Allan D Born
‘Little Moscow’ – Nelson Lancashire.
In the remote corner of north east Lancashire lies the little town of Nelson. At the turn of the 20th century, like so many other Lancastrian towns, Nelson was a hive of nonconformist religion, namely Methodism, and a town in great flux. Immigrants wandered into the district from Cornwall, Ireland and the West Riding of Yorkshire looking for work in the rapidly growing weaving industry. Nelson was also a hub for workers’ representation and both the Independent Labour Party (ILP) and the Social Democratic federation (SDF) were socialist parties that established branches in the town. Selina Cooper was one such Cornish immigrant who initially joined the SDF, and then over time, enacted her socialist principles by taking numerous individual initiatives across a broad range of local organisations inclusive of the Womens’ Institute Guild, the National Union of Womens’ Suffrage Societies and the Cooperative Society.
In a joint undertaking that includes, Project Leaders Kevin and Gary Webb, Nelson Town Council and the University of Central Lancashire, the old venerated ILP building on Vernon Street is this year staging a history renovation project funded by the Lottery Heritage Fund. The group are implementing an exhibition to celebrate the town’s labour history. The project is to entail stained glass window renovation and will celebrate aspects of the town’s memorable people and institutions. Displays depicting some of the prominent local labour personalities and memorabilia make a powerful and exciting display worth any educational visit. Needless to say, Selina Cooper figures prominently as does the Clarion movement which was Robert Blatchford’s socialist off-shoot to the said newspaper of same name.
Though Nelson is not normally associated with radical rebellion, the town hides a well documented ‘labour’ history past. It was one of the first towns to elect a Labour led council in 1905 and Cooper and that other starlet of labour, Katherine Conway, were the two ladies who laid the opening stones at the ILP building on Vernon Street in 1907. After the industrial weavers disputes of 1911/12 and 1928 a local newspaper tabbed the town as ‘little Moscow’. The motivation behind the epithet is unknown but in reality Nelson would be more renown for Labour Party representation rather than socialist upheaval. The first Labour MP of the town, ‘Giant’ David Shackleton, abhorred socialism and guided the town’s politics along the straight and parliamentary narrow.
However, Nelson certainly possessed its fair share of socialist heroes. SDF leader Bryan Chapman was the embodiment of socialist resistance and served time behind bars on several occasions for his commitment to the workers’ cause. Another famous socialist woman who lived at separate times in Barrowford, Heptonstall and Brierfield, was Ethel Carnie Holdsworth. Holdsworth, who began working as a weaver in Great Harwood in 1897 when she was eleven, wrote for Blatchford’s Clarion, several of her own novels and fought belligerently against conscription prior to the First World War. Ironically and tradgically, she was informed that her husband had been killed in action in 1918 only for him to turn up alive again after the War one year later. The rebellious clergyman Reverend T. A. Leonard, who had his initial posting at the Dockray Street Congregational Church in Colne, was yet another socialist firebrand who developed the Christian Holiday Association (CHA) in an attempt to lure workers away from alcohol and cheap thrill holidays. Leonard set up holiday ‘communes’ in the West Riding and actually married Cooper and her husband Robert in 1896. Local lad Seth Sagar was present at the founding of the Nelson Communist Party at Herbert Thorup’s house on Victoria Street in 1920/21, and in 1928 the town bore witness to the last weavers lock-out in the county when union representative, John Husband was sacked from Mather Bros mill for producing faulty cloth. The event remembered in town not for any political break through but more because of the junior manager’s frustration at a belligerent Husband which compelled the manager to bluster out in desperation, ‘well come and see dad then!’
‘Little Moscow’ is perhaps somewhat of an over-exaggeration and not really appropriate to the little mill town on the West Riding border. However, there can be no denying that Nelson certainly accommodated and reared a fair selection of activists who, like Selina Cooper, were committed to improving ordinary workers and weavers’ lives and without whom social progress may have been much curtailed. The ILP building on Vernon Street is a living memory to these men and women who dedicated themselves to social improvement and well worth a visit to any student of labour history.
A Short Interview with Ross McKibbin
Ross McKibbin is a Fellow of St John’s College Oxford and a Fellow of the British Academy. In a long and reputable career McKibbin has written much including, The Ideologies of Class and The Evolution of The Labour Party 1910-1924. A well-known labour history historian who has contributed much to the study of the labour movement in the country one historian said of McKibbin’s work that it ‘embraced an unprecedented range of life of the ordinary man’. A legend of labour history LHL was delighted to engage Ross in dialogue and ask him a few fun questions.
Knowing that Ross had done a great deal of work in the north west we began by asking Ross to name his most influential Lancastrians. Back came the answers, not necessarily in any order of favouritism; Jimmy Anderson, the England fast bowler (aka. the Burnley Express), George Formby and Frederich Engels. Why these choices we asked?
Ross replied. ‘Jimmy Anderson is a remarkably fast bowler, a loyal team-mate and a thoroughly decent man, which cannot be said for all fellow cricketers. George Formby deserves attention because he was probably the best known Lancastrian in the 1930s and 1940s’. McKibbin’s added in that his grandmother liked him a lot too and this may well have swayed his choice! The final choice was Frederich Engels. Though most questionably a Lancastrian, McKibbin thought the German political economist come sociologist ought to have been adopted anyway by the county and that he was undoubtedly of world importance for his Condition of the Working-Class, which he wrote in Weastle Salford/Manchester. As Ross pointed out, ‘it did not establish Manchester as a tourist hot spot, but it certainly contributed historiographically to the labour movements thinking to a significant degree’.
One of McKibbin’s great pieces of written history was his article, ‘Why was There No Marxism in England’? We asked Ross if he still held to the hypothesis many years on. Ross answered: ‘Why No Marxism? Yes, on the whole I do still hold to it – as long as we remember it is an historical article. Some things would probably no longer be true: parliamentarism, for example, as a popular and agreed idea. That seems now much weaker. The other obvious part of the argument that would no longer be true is the standing of manufacturing and mining and with it, the standing of the industrial male working class. That has undermined the kind of labourism I was talking about even though much of its cultural narrowness and implicit xenophobia has survived. Which I regret’.
Finally, we put Ross through the mangle with a few of those psychological one-liners that reveal ALL about you as a person:
Desert or Artic? ‘I think I prefer the desert to the Arctic. I have, however, been to a desert but not to the Arctic so that is not a very well-informed judgement’.
Football or Cricket? ‘I prefer football to cricket but not by a wide margin.
Fish and chips or Indian? I prefer Indian but occasionally the need for fish and chips (with lots of salt) is overwhelming. Unfortunately I think all the fish and chip shops in Oxford closed pre-virus. If you want it you have to go to M&S. Australian fish and chips are superior’.
Hmm? There you go. All you ever needed to know about the legend of labour history himself. He obviously has not compared his Aussie fish and chips to our Baxendale’s pride. Holland’s pie chips peas and gravy. Maybe a 4-pack in the post from Asda would help influence that opinion?
Peter John Fyles
Moorlands, Memories and Reflections
By Paul Salveson
“Hill walking, cycling, literature, philosophy, protest and The North…. ‘These are a few of my
favourite things’. Paul Salveson’s new book on Allen Clarke is irresistible” – Maxine Peake in her
foreword to Moorlands, Memories and Reflections.
A hundred years ago, Allen Clarke brought out his Lancashire classic, Moorlands and Memories. This
book is a celebration of an unjustly neglected work which extolled the beauties, history and people
of the West Pennine moors. Clarke’s book was conversational, philosophical, entertaining and lyrical.
Paul Salveson’s celebration covers some of the ground that Allen Clarke wrote about –handloom
weavers, dialect writers, the Winter Hill ‘mass trespass’, links to Walt Whitman and that fearsome
Lancashire creature, the boggart. He discusses Clarke’s links with Tolstoy and his attempts to ‘get
back to the land’ and the great Barrow Bridge picnic in support of the locked-out Bethesda
quarrymen in 1901.
Clarke was both a keen cyclist and walker. His original book includes rides and rambles through
Rossendale and Pendle as well as around Rivington, Belmont and Edgworth, with associated tales.
Paul adds in some stories from the last hundred years including ‘summer evenings with old
railwaymen’ at Entwistle and Gandhi’s visit to Lancashire. And there’s lots more. If you love the
Lancashire moors, its history and culture, you’ll probably enjoy this.
The book will be priced at £21 (plus £3 postage) and will be on sale from November 15th. There is a
special pre-publication offer of £20 with free delivery if you order before November 15 th . If you
want to order three (Christmas is coming!) I can do a ‘3 for the price of 2’ deal, i.e. £40 for three.
Please send a cheque – or pay by bank transfer to P.Salveson, a/c 23448954 sort code 53-61-07 and email me to say you have paid, with your address details (firstname.lastname@example.org).
See also www.lancashireloominary.co.uk for other ways to buy! Send cheque made to ‘Paul Salveson’ to 109 Harpers Lane, Bolton BL1 6HU or email
Dan Irving Burnley’s First Socialist MP
When Social Democracy in Britain was published in 1935 the editor apologised for the absence of any mention in it of Dan Irving, and other accounts of the development of socialism in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries were similarly careless. Dan has remained a peripheral figure despite a long career as trade unionist, party organiser, town councillor and member of parliament, however a new assessment has restored him to his true position as a major force on the political Left during its formative years. He worked with Eleanor Marx, Robert Blatchford, James Keir Hardie, Annie Beasant, Katherine Conway, Enid Stacey, Selina Cooper, James Ramsay MacDonal and others, influencing and being influenced by them, attracting controversy because of his maverick style.
Ethel Carnie Holdsworth, a friend and fellow dissident, thought Dan Irving’s success was driven by commitment, preseverence and fortitude in the face of callous employers, underhand tactics by his opponents and an indifferent electorate. These were circumstances that earned Dan a reputation as a professed firebrand and, after he became Burnley’s MP in 1918, regular reprimands from the Speaker for his failure to observe the rules of parliamentary etiquette. But brandishing his wooden leg gained attention for the cause of socialism just as smashing shop windows did for the cause of votes for women. However, these were tactics deployed for effect and had no corollary outside politics, indeed Dan was warm hearted and considerate in his personal relationships, with a keen sense of humour. These were qualities that gained the respect of legislators across the political spectrum and led Lloyd George to compliment him on his advocacy of socialism as the ultimate panacea: ‘There is no man in this House who is better entitled to speak socialism than he. For 40 years he has put up a very consistent, gallant and courageous fight for his principles’.
Dan’s restless search for socialist success took him from the Social Democratic Federation to the British Socialist Party and finally to the Labour Party, but he always considered himself a Marxist. It was obvious to him that capitalism was in its death throes, for during his own lifetime one capitalist party had been eclipsed and another replaced in government by Labour. It had happened within a generation and its continuation must have seemed inevitable. Had he lived Dan Irving would have had a part to play in its implementation, but he died soon after his re-election in 1923. The citizens of Burnley who had endorsed him time and again at the ballot box turned out in their thousands for his funeral. He was thought of in the town as ‘Honest Dan’ and admired for his efforts to improve the lives of the working class. In his own estimation the best thing he did was to promote better education, especially for the disabled. It does not stand alone, but it was a great achievement, and apt for one whose career embodied the old SDF campaigning slogan: ‘Agitate! Educate! Organise!’