We record with great regret the death of Mr. Elijah Holt, J.P of Ingledene, Ramsgreave which occurred suddenly on Thursday whilst he was on a visit to his sister-in-law at Clitheroe. Mr. Holt was 80 years of age, and, though he had been under the care of Dr. Moffatt, he took an active part in the work of the many organizations in which he was interested up to the last. The attack, which proved fatal was the third seizure of the kind. Mr. Holt is survived by his third wife and eight children – three by his first wife, two by his second, and three by his third.
The name of “Lijah” Holt was one to conjure with. He was a remarkable man, and a typical example of the truth of the assertion that a strenuous life and longevity are not incompatible. Eighty years of age on April 7th last, he was in harness up to the last. Born in Walmsley Street, Brookhouse on Easter Sunday 1853, he was the youngest of seven children. At nine years of age he was working in a Drapers shop in Northgate; at 13 he started as a “tenter” at Brookhouse Mills; at 15 he had two looms, then four; later he was made a tackler, and finally weaving manager, which position he held for 12 years. From 19 years of age he had been a keen politician, and, it is not surprising that being reared in a district where the Hornby influence was, and still is, very great, he should be a Tory of Tories.
His first experience of a parliamentary contest was at the general election of 1852. That was in the days of open voting and corrupt practices when picking-sticks, pokers, bludgeons, and paving stones were common weapons of the party warfare. Mr. Holt was in the thick of many a fight, and his reminisces and personal experience of 50 to 60 years ago would have made an interesting volume of reading. But he was really a very modest man and could never be persuaded to publish a book and was not often even cajoled in to talking about the “good old times”. His enthusiasm for the Conservative cause attracted the attention of Sir Henry (then Mr. Hornby) when he was leader of the local Tory party and led to a change which had important results for Mr. Holt. It was in 1880 when he accepted the post of Conservative registration agent; and on his retirement 23 years later, the record he left behind him was one of which any man would be proud. Under Mr. Holts guidance the electioneering machinery of the Conservative party was brought to a high state of efficiency. Not only did the Tories capture both parliamentary seats and continue to hold them whilst Mr. Holt was at the helm, but they made their position secure on the Town Council, the Board of Guardians, and the School Board. How devotedly he worked for the party those 25 years may be gathered from a remark he once made to the writer, that he had only once in the period taken a whole weeks holiday at one time, and that was an occasion when he went to London. At the time of his death he was, and had been for 40 years, chairman of St. Johns and Trinity Conservative Club; and the chairman of St. Michaels Ward Committee since that ward was formed on the redistribution of seats in 1892.
But, apart from politics, Mr. Holt was a very well-known man because of his connection with the Blackburn Philanthropic Friendly Collection Society which extends over 60 years. He had been the president for over 60 ears. He saw it grow from small beginnings into one of the largest societies of its kind in the country, and there is no doubt the society owes a great deal of its success to the way in which the business has been shrewdly and wisely directed by the president. He had great capacity for controlling aa meeting even when such gatherings contained all the elements of a “row”. The two great meetings held in the Free Trade Hall, Manchester this year are only instances of his ability as a leader of men. He always took great care that the letter of the law was strictly observed, and, being a ready speaker and keen debater, the opposition at any meeting, political or otherwise, invariably found themselves check mated when “Lijah” was in the chair. His great services to the Tory party and the Philanthropic were many times recognized by the presentation to him of testimonials of a valuable character. When he retired from active life in 1905, he was particularly pleased that his name was enrolled on the Commission for Peace for the Borough on the 14th December that year.
At the Blackburn Police Court yesterday reference was made to his death.
The chairman (Mr. A.H Cottam) expressed regret that such a painstaking magistrate should have been removed from their midst. He was well known in the town and had been a hard worker all his life. He was appointed to the bench eight years ago, and as far as his health would permit, he diligently followed his duties. He moved that a letter of condolence be sent to the family of the deceased.This was supported by Mr. Harry Backhouse on behalf of the bar (and carried in silence)
At a meeting at the Board of Management of the Philanthropic Friendly Collecting Society held yesterday morning Mr. Robert Walmsley, the vice-chairman, referred in appreciative terms to the services rendered by the deceased gentleman, and a vote of condolence was passed to the widow and family.
The funeral takes place on Tuesday morning, at Salesbury Church, and will be of a public character. The cortege leaves Ingledene at 11.15.
Source – "The Blackburn Times", 7th June 1913 transcribed by Philip Crompton who also provided the photograph of Elijah's memorial gravestone (left_ in St Peter's Church Yard, Blackburn, June 2020
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Member of Parliament For The Borough of Bolton Parliamentary Constituency, (1929-1931)
(C) Blackburn Times, 6th June 1952
Michael Brothers was born on 23 March 1870 in Blackburn; for most of his life he lived in the town at 33 Markham Street. After he left school he attended Blackburn Technical College where he achieved top marks in the City and Guilds of London Institute Examination in cotton spinning. He worked from the age of ten in a paper mill and a shuttle works before beginning work at the age of 12 in a weaving shed, where he graduated from bobbin carrier to an under-carder, tending to three looms. He left for Canada three years later with his father, when he was 15, and worked first with a blacksmith on construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway, then on a farm in Ontario for 12 months.
Michael Brothers returned to Blackburn, where he got a job at Hollins Bank Mill, initially in the blowing-room then in the card-room as an under-carder. Still restless, at the age of 21 he returned to Canada to work as a labourer in a copper mine. After six months he realised that this was not a suitable job for a married man with a family, so he returned home again to Blackburn, travelling via Montreal, where he visited several mills to see if conditions were better than back home.
Michael Brothers then settled down, initially as a cotton mixer at Dugdale’s Griffin Mill in Blackburn, where he also worked as an assistant carder and an overlooker, working in this mill for 18 years before moving to the new Imperial Mill, a ring spinning mill.
In December 1904, while working at Imperial Mill, he was appointed after a competitive examination as secretary of the Blackburn and District Card and Blowing Room Operatives’ and Ring Spinners’ Association (it became the Blackburn Card-room Workers’ Association), and served in this position for 39 years [see Blackburn Times (BT), 18 June 1943]. In 1904 the Association had a membership of 394 members; three years later its membership had grown to 1,708. Under his stewardship the Association began to agitate about the ‘dust devil’ (card-room dust), which caused a respiratory disease (later named byssinosis), which the Home Department agreed to investigate in Blackburn.
Michael Brothers became an Executive Member of the Card-room Workers’ Amalgamation and, in this capacity, attended many Trades Union Congress (TUC) meetings. He was also sent as a delegate to an International Textile Workers’ Conference in Vienna by the Card-room Workers' Amalgamation and was selected in 1921 as a delegate to study the textile industries in India and the Far East by the Lancashire United Textile Factory Workers' Association (BT, 13 March 1921).
In July 1920 the Lancashire United Textile Factory Workers’ Association nominated Michael Brothers for the Ashton-under-Lyne Parliamentary seat (BT, 3 July 1920) but he was not selected. He was also considered as a prospective candidate in Nelson and Blackburn.
On 13 January 1922 the Lancashire United Textile Factory Workers’ Association nominated Michael Brothers to fight the Duddeston (Birmingham) Parliamentary seat (BT, 14 January 1922) but he was unsuccessful at the General Election held on 15 November 1922.
Michael Brothers was elected to Blackburn Town Council at a by-election in St. Peter’s Ward in December 1928, and was a member of the Blackburn Board of Guardians (1910-1918). He was a delegate to the Blackburn Trades and Labour Council, serving on its Executive Committee. He also received a medal from St John Ambulance. His wife, Julia Ann Brothers, served on several public bodies in Blackburn, including the Women's Guild of the Co-operative Society and the War Relief, War Pensions, Food Control, Profiteering, and Housing Committees, as well as the Juvenile Advisory Committee.
On Friday 4 January, 1929 [see Bolton Evening News (BEN) of that date] Bolton Labour Party delegates were informed that their Prospective Parliamentary Candidate (PPC) W H Hutchinson had resigned because of financial difficulties in his union, the Associated Engineering Union (AEU), which was unable to sponsor him further (at that time MPs did not receive a Parliamentary salary). Cllr. Michael Brothers, who was nominated by the Lancashire United Textile Factory Workers’ Association, was the only nominated candidate to meet the financial requirements of the Labour Party. Local Alderman, Samuel Lomax JP, who had fought the Bolton seat in 1922 along with W J Abrahams (both were defeated), was also nominated, but his union - the Bolton branch of the Railway Clerks’ Association - could only make a small donation towards his election expenses. An Independent Labour Party (ILP) amendment to defer consideration of candidates was defeated and Cllr Michael Brothers went forward to be selected as the Bolton Labour Party PPC at a meeting of its delegates, which was held in the Spinners Hall on St George's Road, Bolton on Saturday 12 January 1929.
In his acceptance speech (BEN, 14 January 1929) Michael Brothers regretted withdrawal of the Factory Bill because it would have dealt with the problems caused by card-room dust, advocated nationalisation of the mines and land, and urged all trade unions to involve themselves in politics.
A picture of Cllr. Michael Brothers and his daughter, along with Albert Law (Bolton’s other Labour Party PPC) and his wife and Cllr Herbert Eastwood (chairman of Bolton Labour Party) attending a Labour Party carnival at the Palais de Danse was published in the Bolton Evening News (BEN) on Friday 11 January 1929.
Cllr. Michael Brothers met all Bolton Labour Party members at a reception held on Thursday 17 January (BEN, 18 January 1929) when he told them that in the General Election to come they could not take the ‘flapper vote’ of young people too lightly despite the fact that they were not tied to the political thinking of their parents. The Representation of the People Act 1928 gave universal suffrage to all the adult population over the age of 21. In Bolton, the electorate increased from 90,167 in 1928 to 120,463 in 1929, and the number of women voters outnumbered the number of men by 10,000. Nobody knew how this would affect the outcome of the ‘Flapper Election’, which was to come later in 1929.
One of the largest political rallies ever held in Bolton was on Saturday, 23 February 1929, when former Prime Minister James Ramsay MacDonald addressed a crowd of over 3,000 Labour supporters in the Olympia Picture House, presided over by Cllr. J H Hampson, president of the Bolton Labour Party (BEN, 23 February 1929). Three accounts of this meeting were given in the Bolton Evening News (BEN, 25 January 1929).
Albert Law and Cllr. Michael Brothers spoke at many meetings together across Bolton; the latter was given a warm welcome wherever he went (see BEN, 26, 28 and 29 May 1929). Cllr. Michael Brothers spoke in the Spinners Hall on the eve of the 1929 General Election, just after Stanley Baldwin had visited Bolton, and told his audience that Stanley Baldwin’s speech was adequately summed up by his son, who said ‘He spoke for 15 minutes and said nothing’ (BEN, 30 May 1929).
Cllr. Michael Brothers was elected to Parliament at the General Election held on 30 May, 1929 as the Senior M.P., with 37,888 votes (20.9% of the total votes cast; the turnout was 75.1%), along with his colleague Albert Law as the Junior M.P. for Bolton, with 43,520 votes (24.0%), two Labour gains from the two Unionists elected in 1924. Major Cyril Fullard Entwistle received 36,667 votes (a 20.3% share of the total votes cast) while his Unionist colleague Cecil Hilton received 35,850 votes (19.8%). Patrick Redmund Barry, who received 27,074 votes (15.0%), was the only Liberal candidate.
The count of votes was held the following day and was over by 2.45 p.m. when both Albert Law and Cllr. Michael Brothers visited every ward in the constituency. Afterwards they made their way to the Spinners Hall, where they were met by a crowd of supporters ‘whose enthusiasm knew no bounds’ (BEN, 31 May 1929). This was the first time that two Labour Members of Parliament represented the Borough of Bolton, still a two-Member Parliamentary constituency (BEN, 1 June 1929). Both Bolton MPs met their sponsors, the United Textile Factory Workers’ Association, on 7 June along with four other sponsored candidates (BEN, 7 June 1929).
P.M. James Ramsay MacDonald announced his Cabinet on 8 June 1929 and Albert Law and Cllr. Michael Brothers left from Bolton Trinity Street Station together on the 3.43 p.m. train bound for Manchester, seen off by an enthusiastic crowd of supporters (BEN, 24 June 1929) and were sworn in as MPs the following day (BEN, 26 June 1929). President of the Bolton Labour Party Cllr. J H Hampson travelled with them as far as Manchester and Mr M Tierney of the Irish Labour Party sent a message to their electors (see picture in the BEN, 25 June 1929).
The First Session of the 35th Parliament opened for the election of the Speaker and swearing in of Members on 25 June 1929, with the Kings Speech on 2 July 1929.
When the Secretary of State for India William Wedgwood Benn (the father of Tony Benn, who served in this position from 7 June 1929 until 24 August 1931) tried to raise Indian Cotton duties at the Viceroy’s request, from 11% to 15%, there was huge opposition from the Lancashire cotton industry. Cllr. Michael Brothers, secretary of the Blackburn Card-room Workers’ Association, who had visited India and the Far East in the autumn of 1921 [Blackburn Times (BT), 13 March 1921], argued that Britain would benefit at the expense of Japan because tariffs against that country were higher. ‘We may look forward to improved trade with India in the future’, he said (see the Wikipedia entry on Michael Brothers). He was wrong. The situation was quite the reverse by November 1930, with Congress leading the Civil Disobedience Movement and the boycott of British goods in India.
Cllr. Michael Brothers made his maiden speech on 18 December 1929 during a debate on the Political Situation in India led by Fenner Brockway (MP for East Layton) who moved ‘That this House welcomes the co-operation of Indian representatives in the settlement of the Constitutional Question and relies on the Government of India to encourage goodwill by the sympathetic conduct of its administrative and executive functions, particularly relating to the expression of political opinion’. The political unrest in India had been detrimental to the Lancashire cotton trade, Cllr Michael Brothers told the House of Commons (HoC). He was in the Indian Legislative Assembly in Delhi on 2 February 1927 when it voted by 63 votes to 50 in favour of the release of political prisoners who were being held under the Bengal Criminal Ordnance (Amendment) Act 1925, no longer in operation in 1929. Cllr. Michael Brothers urged the Secretary of State for India (SoS) to support Fenner Brockway’s motion, which was agreed by the HoC without a vote.
In his capacity as secretary to the Blackburn Card-room Workers' Association Cllr Michael Brothers told a BEN journalist during an interview (BEN, 3 March 1930) that a preferential clause in Indian import duties gave the Lancashire cotton trade a 5% advantage over its competitors, which should be of benefit to the country and help to revive the cotton trade, but Ernest Hamer, who was chairman of the Blackburn and District Cotton Employers’ Association, disagreed.
In a debate about the Cotton Industry on 27 March, 1930, Cllr. Michael Brothers made a very hesitant short speech. Britain had been hit by the world’s economic downturn. He appealed to the Government to rationalise the industry by taking out some of the smaller and weaker producers of cotton goods. Michael Brothers explained the impact of underemployment and short-time working on Lancashire cotton operatives. When a mill was running at below its capacity it was more costly to produce its cotton goods, he said. While he realised that the larger and more efficient mill owners would make more profit he made the radical proposal that their extra profits should be used to rationalise the rest of the industry.
During a debate on the Board of Trade Estimates, held on 24 July 1930, Cllr. Michael Brothers reiterated the point about closing some cotton mills down, while compensating both the owners and the employees, to avoid ‘the artificial inflation’ imposed on spun cotton by short-term working. Unemployment had reached 42.2% in Lancashire. Bolton, a fine spinning centre, was a little better off than Oldham, a medium and course spinning centre, where unemployment had reached 55-60%. Cllr. Michael Brothers proposed that the Government should use the money left over after the Cotton Control Board was shut down to open a training mill.
The First Session of the 35th Parliament was prorogued on 1 August 1930 and the Second Session opened with the King's Speech on 28 October 1930.
At a Special Meeting of the Bolton Labour Party its delegate to the annual Labour Party conference, Cllr. Herbert Eastwood, was mandated to support a motion that would lead to the independence of India (BEN, 19 September 1930). Cllr Michael Brothers explained why he could not support independence for India.
At a Labour Party rally held in the Miners Hall in Bolton Cllr. Michael Brothers said he was hopeful of success for the Indian Round Table Conference, which was discussing the relationship between the cotton trades of Britain and India (BEN, 15 December 1930).
At a public meeting held in the Spinners Hall on St George's Road in Bolton (BEN, 16 January 1931) Cllr. Michael Brothers told his audience that he thought the Tories, who had bankrupted the country when Labour last came to power, did not want another General Election for fear of being blamed for the unemployment caused by the world slump that Britain was experiencing. When the Tories were in power peers in the House of Lords (HoL) fell asleep, he said, but when Labour was in power they woke up to oppose progressive legislation, such as The Trades Disputes Bill, which the Upper House blocked. The Labour Government had converted an era of the Poor Law into an era of the Welfare State, he said. Cllr. Michael Brothers also explained why he was in favour of free trade and opposed the demands of protectionism. He also regretted that Britain and India had not reached an agreement at the Indian Round Table Conference, which discussed the relationship between the cotton trades of both countries.
Cllr. Michael Brothers was one of 40 Labour MPs [mainly Roman Catholics (RCs)] who voted against the Education (School Leaving Age) Bill, which was intended to increase the school leaving age from 14 to 15 (BEN, 22 January 1931. At a meeting of the Bolton Labour Party held in the Spinners Hall on 4 February, 1931 (BEN, 5 February 1931) he explained why he had taken that action. He voted for the Second Reading and Report Stage of the Bill, but did not vote for its Third Reading which, he explained, should have been taken after PM Ramsey MacDonald had held further discussions with representatives of the RC faith, as well as with the Church of England (CofE) and Non-Conformist faiths, Local Education Authorities (LEAs) and the teachers' unions, to see whether a way round the Catholics’ objections to the Bill could be found before a vote on the Third Reading of the Bill was taken.
A BEN report (BEN, 21 March 1931) refers to a Parliamentary Question (PQ) that Cllr. Michael Brothers tabled for the SoS for Overseas Development to request how many representatives of the cotton industry would attend an exhibition in Buenos Aires, in which the Prince of Wales was taking a keen interest, and how many of those would represent Lancashire cotton interests, but there is no reference to this PQ in the online Hansard.
In a debate on Estimates for the India Office on 13 May, 1931, Cllr. Michael Brothers told of his meeting with Mahatma Gandhi during his visit to India in 1927. He was more optimistic about prospects for the cotton industry than previously (BEN, 14 May 1931; see also BEN, 5 December 1930 and 3 August 1931). Cllr. Michael Brothers told the HoC that the number of calls on his union’s funds by those who were unemployed was less, and that more people were in employment in the industry than two months ago. The number of people unemployed in the industry in Blackburn, ‘an Indian trade town’ (the Indian Dhoti trade), was going down, despite the political problems in India. He told the HoC that investors were driven away from the industry by talk about ‘a depression in trade’ and that this debate was not helpful to the cotton trade.
On 21 May, 1931, Cllr. Michael Brothers was appointed secretary to the newly formed Lancashire Group of Labour MPs.
When he opened the new Labour Party office in the Borough Hall (Corporation Chambers) on Saturday 23 May 1931 (BEN, 25 May 1931), jointly with his colleague Albert Law, he told those who attended that Tory politicians such as Winston Churchill and Douglas Hacking (MP for Chorley) were trying to paint the economic position as black as possible so that workers would agree to a reduction in their wages. He repeated his optimistic views about the future of the cotton industry and gave some figures for trade with India and Japan to support his views. The Tory P.P.C., Sir John Haslam, attacked him for making this statement (BEN, 26 May 1931), which resulted in an exchange of correspondence on the issue (BEN, 3 and 5 June 1931).
When Cllr. Michael Brothers opened a garden fete at St Edmund’s RC School on Saturday, 1 August, 1931 he told his audience that he looked forward to the day when an agreement could be reached with the State over financial support for voluntary schools (BEN, 3 August 1931).
The Second Session of the 35th Parliament was prorogued by P.M. Ramsay MacDonald on 7 October. 1931 for a General Election, which was held on 27 October 1931.
During his short Parliamentary career (1929-1931) Cllr. Michael Brothers received answers to 4 Written PQs on the estimated revenue from employers and employees towards the National Health Insurance Fund for 1930-1931 [6 February 1930 (2PQs, one directed at the Chancellor of the Exchequer and one directed at the Minister for Labour)] (BEN, 12 February 1930), exports of cotton goods to Russia (17 March 1930) and a letter from Blackburn’s Town Clerk proposing legislation to deal with unsanitary conditions in houses for let (6 November 1930) and received answers to 8 Oral PQs on the preparation of schemes for the reduction of unemployment in the cotton trade (4 March 1930), a Government trade mission to the Far East (2 and 30 June 1930) (BEN, 5 June 1930), disqualification of women from receiving Unemployment Benefit because they refused to work as domestic servants (27 November 1930) (BEN, 13 December 1930), an extension of the Workmen’s Compensation Act to cover card-room respiratory diseases (27 November 1930), reduction of unemployment in the Lancashire cotton industry (19 February 1931), Anglo-Indian trade relations (14 April 1931) and rationalisation of the woollen and worsted trade in Yorkshire (23 July 1931).
Cllr. Michael Brothers sent a statement to the secretary of Bolton Labour Party, Cllr. Herbert Eastwood, in which he agreed with the position taken by the National Executive Committee (NEC) (he was elected to serve on Labour’s NEC as a representative of the United Textile Factory Workers’ Association in 1930, and served until 1939), the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP; and its Consultative Committee) and the TUC Council. All had decided to oppose the National Coalition Government proposed by P.M. James Ramsey MacDonald (BEN, 27 August 1931). At a meeting of the delegates of the Bolton Labour Party both Albert Law and Cllr. Michael Brothers, who were in agreement, made their positions clear and the delegates took the same position over formation of the Coalition Government.
The P.L.P. elected Arthur Henderson (then MP for Burnley) as its leader on 28 August 1931 (BEN, 28 August 1931) and the majority of Labour MPs sat with him on the Opposition benches.
At the 27 October 1931 General Election two Conservatives were returned to Parliament to represent the Borough of Bolton. Cyril Fullard Entwistle received 66,385 votes (a 33.94% share of the total votes cast; the turnout was 79.56%) and Sir John Haslam received 63,402 votes (32.42%) while Labour candidates Albert Law and Cllr. Michael Brothers received 33,736 (17.25%) and 32,049 votes (16.39%), respectively.
Cllr. Michael Brothers was appointed as a Blackburn magistrate in March 1935 (Blackburn Times, 16 March 1935) and served on the bench until 1946. During WWII he had Air-raid Protection (ARP) duties. He was a founder member of the Blackburn Labour Party and its first vice-chairman.
Michael Brothers was described as a forceful speaker, with his words carrying weight and conviction, and as a social reformer (Blackburn Times, 16 March 1935). Michael Brothers became one of the best-known trade union leaders in Lancashire in his time. After 39 years serving as the secretary to the Blackburn Card-room Workers' Association he retired from that position in June 1943 (Blackburn Times, 18 June 1943).
Cllr. Michael Brothers, who was a prominent R.C. layman, died at home at 33 Markham Street, Blackburn on 5 June 1952, aged 82. He was buried at Pleasington Priory and was succeeded by four daughters and son John, who lived in Ontario, Canada.
This article appears on Cotton Town by the kind permission of Dr. Brian Iddon, September 2020.
The work above, published on Cotton Town appears as Chapter 4 in Dr Iddon's "Bolton's Labour Members of Parliament, Volume 1: Bolton Borough and Farnworth County Parliamentary Constituencies"
The moral right of Dr Brian Iddon to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by him in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval systems, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise without the prior permission of the author.
Matthew Arnold, born in 1822, was the son of the famous Thomas Arnold, Headmaster of Rugby School. He studied at his father's school and went on to Oxford. He became a poet, critic and social commentator. In 1880, Blackburn was in the news as a result of industrial disturbances. Arnold published a review in which he referred to Blackburn as a 'Hell Hole.'
In its issue of July 7th, 1880 "The Pall Mall Gazette" published a lengthy article refuting the claim and giving a description of the town and its people. The following extract describes Blackburn mill girls:
This quick intelligence and gaiety of heart, now and then capable of breaking into violence, make Lancashire audiences beloved of actors, and the same qualities make them the least gloomy of insular holiday-makers. Whether summer breezes play among the grand old trees at Whalley or the Blackburn hollies glitter with icicles, the Sunday stroll is dear to lads and lasses alike. The latter may not always display Parisian taste in their costume, which, truth to tell, is apt to be voyant, but they are cheery damsels, endued with a sense of independence by the knowledge that they earn their own living by sheer hard work. As the Lancashire Lass walks in the park on Sunday, arrayed like Solomon in his glory, it is less worth while to complain of the superabundance of feathers in her jaunty hat to meditate on the quick and sustained attention she gives during five days and a half of the week to her work. She is a "four-loomer", and is therefore very "like to be wed" before she is much older. She can earn quite as much money as her father; and intending husbands who look to a "four loomer" as a desirable wife are plentiful. Meanwhilee she airs her bravery on Sunday in Blackburn Park, content on the morrow to go back to her daily work amid the rattle of the weaving shed; to clatter homeward on her clogs to her indigestble meal of ham and eggs and to lay her smart hat for the shawl in which Lancashire lasses wrap up their comely faces - on working days only.
Why would a journal
published in London for a sophisticated, metropolitan audience concern itself
with the reputation of far off Lancashire folk?
Well, the editor of the Pall Mall Gazette between the years 1880 and 1883
was John Morley, later, Viscount Morley.
John Morley was born in Blackburn in 1838, the son of surgeon Jonathan
Morley and Priscilla Mary (nee Donkin).
He was educated at Queen Elizabith's Grammar School and went on to
After a career in
journalism Morley entered politics. He
stood for election in Blackburn but failed later winning the seat of Newcastle
upon Tyne. He was a Liberal but opposed
state intervention in economic affairs.
He opposed attempts to limit the working day to eight hours. He became Chief Secretary for Ireland and
later Secretary of State for India. In
1908, he was elevated to the House of Lords.
He died in 1923 leaving no heir so the viscountcy became extinct.
Alan Duckworth, September 2020
Alderman Arthur Townsend
Awarded the Civic Medal in 1954 by Blackburn Town Council for Outstanding and Meritorious Service to the Town
(c) Blackburn Times, Saturday 4th April, 1936
Arthur Townsend was my great, great uncle. He was born at 36, Randal Street, Blackburn on 10th July, 1874 and he was the sixth of a family of seven children. At the time of Arthur’s birth his father was a Book Keeper whose later occupation was a Coal Dealer.
On 1st April, 1899, Arthur, a weaver, aged twenty-four and then residing at the family home at 80, Altom Street, Blackburn, married Mary Annis Boothman, aged twenty-three, also a weaver who lived on Cedar Street, Blackburn. They married at St. James’ Church, Blackburn.
It is reported that Arthur commenced work at one of the cotton mills in Blackburn at the age of ten and at the age of thirteen he commenced work at Swallow Street Mill, Brookhouse. He subsequently worked at a number of other mills in Blackburn up until 1929.
Swallow Street Mill, Illustrated London News, January 28th, 1860, p.77
Swallow Street Mill 010, demolished 1976 approx. (c) Blackburn with Darwen Library & Information Service
Swallow Street Mill was established as a weaving shed in 1850 by Henry Ward and was commonly known as the 'Lather Box', a reference to Ward’s early occupation as an apprentice barber. This four storey spinning mill was destroyed by fire in 1860 and rebuilt between 1863-64. In 1851, there were 150 employees and by 1884 the mill’s workforce had increased to 640. The mill accommodated 65,372 spindles and 938 looms. Ward retired in 1889 and the mill was divided into separate parts for purchase and lease. The mill no longer exists and the site was redeveloped for housing.
It is understandable why Charles Dickens referred to these places as 'the dark satanic mills'. Industrialists were known to generally exploit the workers. Hours were long and the conditions within the mills would have been grim. The mills needed a large workforce which included children. The working environment would have been dusty, exceedingly hot, noisy and ill health and accidents were commonplace. The treatment of children in the mills was often cruel and their safety was generally neglected. The child workforce was grossly underpaid and even if cheated out of money they would often be reluctant to speak up for fear of punishment. They were particularly at risk as they had to negotiate their way between tightly packed machinery in order to fix broken machines. They were exposed to significant danger and mortality was quite high. Due to excessive heat and the physically demanding work, exhaustion was commonly experienced which created a more hazardous working environment. Some children would lose their lives if they fell into a machine or they would lose their limbs as a result of getting caught in the machinery. The air in the mill was thick with cotton dust which often led to respiratory disorders such as chronic bronchitis, wheezing, coughing and shortness of breath. Other health conditions would include byssinosis, tuberculosis, pneumonia, asthma, eye inflammation, skin disorders, repetitive stress injuries, deafness, mule-spinners' cancer, to name just a few.
It is uncertain as to when Arthur commenced his education. The Education Act (1876) made school attendance compulsory for those up to the age of ten. Over ten years old a child could leave on attaining the school leaving certificate, also known as the Labour Certificate. It is possible that Arthur worked in the mills and attended school on a part-time basis in order to receive instruction in reading, writing and arithmetic.
In later years, Arthur studied the classics and economics. One account describes him as being 'one of the best read men in Blackburn'. It is also mentioned that his interest in learning came from his great grandfather, the Rev. Henry Townsend. He was the first nonconformist minister at the Independent Chapel which was located on Pole Lane in Darwen.
Arthur first stood as a Labour candidate in January, 1919 for St. John’s ward. He was unsuccessful at this attempt but secured election the following November. He lost the seat three years later. Undaunted, he contested St. Michael’s ward without success but subsequently won Trinity. He continued until 1930 to represent the ward when he became an alderman.
In 1932, the Labour Party lost control of the Council and Arthur was deposed as an alderman; however, he returned to the Council two years later for St. Peter’s ward. He represented the ward until 1945. He was again elected as an alderman and he retained this title until he retired from the Council in 1950.
Arthur joined the Blackburn Weavers' Association when he was thirteen years old. He became vice-president in 1902 and took over the presidency in 1918, a position he held until his resignation in 1952. He was also secretary of Blackburn Textile Trades Federation. He held this post from 1919 until his resignation in 1952. He was a past president of Blackburn Textile Society and was the last president of the old Trades Council and vice-president of the old Labour Party before the two organisations amalgamated.
Not only was Arthur very much involved in the industrial field but in a very much wider sphere. He played a significant role in educational affairs in which he was keenly interested. He was a governor of local secondary schools which included the Convent Secondary School. He was also a governor of the Blackburn Grammar School and a manager of several Church and Roman Catholic schools. He was a member of the Education Committee, Chairman of the Health Committee and also the Parliamentary Committee. He was a member of the Workers’ Educational Association and was prominently identified with the Adult School. He took a keen interest in the East Lancashire Workpeoples’ Hospital Fund and was very involved with what was Blackburn Royal Infirmary. He was a member of the Infirmary Board of Management and the Nursing Association. He had membership of the Free Library and was a member of the Art Gallery Committee.
Arthur was dedicated to the improvement of conditions for his fellow weavers in the great textile industry. During the slump in the cotton trade he suffered years of unemployment alongside 30,000 unemployed in the town, the majority being cotton operatives. It is reported that Arthur spent most of his time, over a period of five years, taking up the cases of fellow weavers with the Labour Exchange authorities, 'acting as their lawyer'.
The bitter struggle and self-sacrifice of the great reformers like Arthur is immeasurable, as is the role of the great trade union organisations that improved working conditions for cotton textile operatives. The Blackburn Weavers’ Association fought hard to improve conditions within the industry. Like all reformers, Arthur’s determination and quest to improve the life of his fellow weavers was incredibly challenging. He had been sacked and victimised for his activities and his family were also victimised. However, this did not prevent him fighting the battle to improve conditions for a multitude of men, women and children in the great textile industry.
Arthur was well known for his wit and humour and he always managed to introduce his own brand of dry humour into his speeches. Apparently, one of his favourite stories was of a man in St. John’s ward who refused to vote for him at a municipal election because, “he was only a weaver and if he had 'owt about him he’d be a tackler!" Arthur loved the political arena and fought without bitterness. As well as the Labour Party, the Conservatives and the Liberals had great respect for him.
An event in 1942 was arranged to mark the appreciation of Arthur’s great service to the Labour Party. A presentation was made to him at the monthly meeting of the Blackburn Trades Council and the Labour Party. Performing the ceremony, Councillor R. Sugden, J.P. and Chairman said Councillor Townsend was one of the most loyal men he had ever met. Perhaps the best tribute was that when they saw him in the street they could say, “There goes a man” – the word 'man' meant a lot! A non-Labour person stated that, “whilst not agreeing with his politics I have to believe in him, to pay due regard to his selflessness and his life of devotion”. Many other delegates who had known Arthur for many years paid their own tributes to his great work. They emphasised that not only had he striven for improved conditions for the present but also the future. Arthur, in his speech spoke of his early days in the Party when there was no Labour member in any authoritative position in local government circles. He thought that Socialism was the greatest movement for the people there had ever been on earth, and so as a Christian he had to support it.
Arthur resigned the presidency of Blackburn Weavers’ Association in 1952, at the age of seventy-seven. He had held this position continuously since 1918. Two years prior to this he relinquished his seat on Blackburn Town Council. However, he was to continue attending Blackburn Town Council meetings as a 'distinguished visitor' and was allowed the privilege of a seat on the floor of the Council Chamber to the right of the Mayor.
In May, 1954, at the age of eighty, Arthur was one of the first two 'Blackburnians' to receive a Civic Medal. Civic Medals were presented to those who had rendered outstanding and meritorious service to the town. The presentation was made at the annual meeting of the Council following the election of the new mayor. The Council Chamber was filled to capacity with representatives from every sphere of religious, political, professional and business activity in the town.
Alderman G.B. Eddie in his speech stated, “I know of no man who has given so much to his day and generation and who himself has had so little in return. Not only his great service but his stirling honesty, his high integrity and his noble mind make him a worthy recipient of this honour”. The new Mayor presented Arthur with the Civic Medal on 27th May, 1954. Miss Emily Ord was the other recipient.
The Northern Daily Telegraph, 28th May, 1954
Arthur, Labour pioneer, former alderman and weavers’ stalwart died on 13th December, 1957 at his home in Pringle Street, Blackburn, aged eighty-three.
He was associated with James Street Congregational Church where a service was held before interment at St. Peter's churchyard, Salesbury. His wife had died in 1952 and as reported in the Evening Telegraph he left two sons and two daughters.
The Blackburn Times
The Evening Telegraph
The Northern Daily Telegraph
Rothwell, Mike, Industrial Heritage: A Guide to the Industrial Archaeology of Blackburn, Part One: The Textile Industry, Hyndburn Local History Society, 1985
Compiled by Andrea Townsend
Published January 2022
In February, 2022 Andrea Townsend provided Blackburn with Darwen Council with her research portfolio in relation to Arthur’s great works. She requested that he be given public recognition for the significant roles he had held, for many years, in his home town of Blackburn.
Some months later, it was agreed that a most fitting tribute to commemorate Arthur’s many achievements would be a street sign on the site of a former cotton mill.
On 25th July, 2022 Arthur, public servant and Labour pioneer, who had devoted his life to serving Blackburn, had a street named after him. The unveiling of ‘Alderman Arthur Townsend Way’, which is on the site of a former cotton mill at Roe Lee, was attended by his great-great niece, Andrea Townsend, borough council leader Cllr. Phil Riley and Blackburn with Darwen Mayor Cllr. Suleman Khonat.
At the event, Cllr. Riley said: ‘I am delighted to be celebrating the significant achievements of Arthur and the great contributions he made to this town. It is incredibly important to remember our past community heroes and, of course, the history of our borough’s weaving heritage, which lay the foundations of what we are able to build on today.’
Cllr. Phil Riley, Andrea Townsend, Mayor Cllr. Suleman Khonat, Thursday 28th July, 2022.
A graveside service of remembrance and blessing for the life of Arthur was conducted by
Reverend Elizabeth McLean and was held at St Peter’s churchyard, Salesbury on 31st July, 2022.
The service was well attended and the Mayor, Cllr. Suleman Khonat paid tribute, as did Arthur’s great-great niece, Andrea Townsend. Mr Sid Calderbank, President of The Lancashire Authors’ Association recited a poem entitled ‘Cotton Mills’ and sang a song – ‘The Market House Clock’. This special occasion was most certainly a fitting tribute for the outstanding and meritorious service that Alderman Arthur Townsend gave to the town of Blackburn and its people.
Compiled by Andrea Townsend
Published October 2022
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