Anne Cochrane, a member of the volunteer Radical Research Team, shares some fascinating connections discovered during her work as a volunteer researcher and archivist…
I now have three volunteering hats, one is for Burnley Library and the Lancashire Archive, one is for the Pendle Radicals project, and the third is as unofficial keeper of the archive for Lowerhouse Cricket Club, (1862 – and counting). I can prove that all three projects are actually connected, albeit the cricket club link is a bit tenuous, so I can wear all three hats at once, I am thinking flat caps here rather than top hats.
For the Lancashire Archive, I scan photos from the Burnley Library collection, add relevant information and they end up here. Of course, I only pick images/subjects I am interested in, so I did a series covering all the Members of Parliament for the parliamentary constituency of Burnley up to 1945, plus some unsuccessful candidates. They all proved at the very least interesting, some were absolutely fascinating, at least, one, Jabez Balfour, was an unmitigated scoundrel.
The first and main link in my chain therefore is David Daniel Irving, Burnley’s first socialist/Labour M.P., from 1918 to 1923.
A very brief outline of Irving’s life is that he was born in Birmingham in 1854, went to sea from age 13 to 20, settled in Bristol, married Clara Beadsman and in his twenties lost a leg in an accident whilst working as a railway shunter. He became involved in trade unionism and socialism which eventually led to a job as branch secretary of the Socialist Democratic Federation in Burnley, and from 1894 to his death in 1924, he dedicated himself to the working people of Burnley, culminating in his election as M.P. in 1918. After being re-elected for the third time in December 1923, he was made a Freeman of the Borough in January 1924, (see link to photo) went back to Westminster, became ill with pneumonia and died of a heart attack.
Want to learn more about this remarkable man, use this link!
The Pendle Radicals project provides the next links in my chain – Ethel Carnie Holdsworth and Katharine Bruce Glasier.
One of the first things we learnt about Ethel was that her father was involved with the SDF, and she attended meetings at a young age. She must have come into contact with Dan who was the driving force behind the SDF in this area, standing for parliament in Accrington in 1906 for the SDF, and surely had him in mind when she made her character of Bill Cherry in The Taming of Nan (1919) a double leg amputee, as a result of an accident working as a railway porter. The next link is a bit more substantial…
Katharine Conway, later Bruce Glasier, daughter of a Congregationalist minister and committed Christian, was working as a High School teacher in Bristol when she became a socialist, and took a job teaching poor children. Upon research I have also found that she moved into the Irving family home to help look after Clara who is described as an invalid. Certainly the 1891 census records her at the Irving’s’ but describes her as a visitor, and a High School Classical Mistress. The household also comprised Irving’s two young daughters and his slightly older brother William. Irving is described as a weighbridge clerk and his brother as a Grocer’s warehouseman.
In 1892 a group of Bristol socialists, including the Irving’s, Katharine Conway, and Edith Stacey gave up everything and moved to the Lake District to help run the Reverend Mills’ Starnthwaite Colony, a socialist Utopian experiment in land settlement for the urban unemployed. They didn’t last long and were soon expelled, being unable to work with the autocratic Mills. In 1893, Katharine Conway married John Bruce Glasier and together they helped to found the Independent Labour Party.
Irving, now “entirely adrift ” scraped a living as an SDF speaker, until in 1894 he was made the first full time secretary for the SDF in Burnley.
Irving’s unexpected death in 1924 caused an outpouring of sorrow from friend and political foe alike and the town held a massive public funeral.
Amongst the hundreds following the coffin was Selina Cooper. There is no evidence that Katharine or Ethel were there, but with poetic licence, I am placing them behind Clara side by side with Selina. Clara Beadsman Irving, J.P., subsequently erected a monument at the grave, and his socialist and Labour friends added stones with tributes to his life as Member of the School Board, Board of Guardians, Town Council and House of Commons. Clara died in 1944 and is also commemorated on the stone which still stands proud, if slightly wonky in Burnley Cemetery.
Clara wrote to Katharine in 1943, wishing her a happy 80th birthday, the letter is part of the Bruce Glasier archive at Liverpool University. Katharine died in Earby in 1950.
And the Lowerhouse CC link… Dan Irving was one of the first socialists elected to the Town Council in 1902, for Gannow Ward. He probably knew my Grandad who was a union organiser. I was brought up on Gannow Lane. I’m the link. (Told you it was tenuous.)