James Keir Hardie
Hardie was born on 15th August 1856 the illegitimate son of Mary Keir.
was an extremely poor working-class family. After working for several years
as a delivery boy he obtained employment at the age of 11 as a coalminer.
Having never attended school he was completely illiterate but with the help
of his mother he taught himself to read and write. This harsh upbringing was
to influence his whole life enabling him to have a true understanding of
working class problems.
start a union in 1880 at the colliery where he was employed. Later he led
the first ever strike of Lanarkshire miners. This resulted in his dismissal
and being blacklisted from other Scottish mines. In 1886 he was made
secretary of the Scottish Miners' Federation. later he publishes a left wing
newspaper. He had been a Liberal Party supporter but became disillusioned by
In 1892 he
stood as the Independent Labour candidate in West Ham an Essex constituency. Hardie won
and became the country's first socialist member of parliament. Hardie
however lost his seat in the 1895 General Election and for the next few
years spent his time organizing the Labour Party. The Labour Party won 29
seats in the 1906 General Election and Hardie was elected leader of the
party. His vision of what the Labour party should be won him a great deal
of support from working people.
In 1908, Hardie resigned as leader of the
Labour Party and was replaced by Arthur Henderson. Hardie spent the
rest of his life campaigning for votes for women and developing a
closer relationship with Sylvia Pankhurst. He also campaigned for
self-rule for India and an end to segregation in South Africa.
During a visit to the United States in 1909, his criticism of
sectarianism among American radicals caused intensified debate
regarding the American Socialist Party possibly joining with the
unions in a labor party.
pacifist, Hardie was appalled by the First World War and along with
socialists in other countries he tried to organise an international
general strike to stop the war
and was denounced as a traitor.. His stance was not
popular, even within the Labour Party, but he continued to address
anti-war demonstrations across the country and to support
James Keir Hardie died of a stroke on 25th
September, 1915 some say the slaughter and waste of life caused by the war
had broken him. His friend and fellow pacifist Thomas Evan
Nicholas (Niclas y Glais) delivered the funeral service.