TUC Library stand at TUC Young Workers Conference


TUC Library stand

Thanks to Kathryn Mackridge, Policy and Campaigns Support Officer at the TUC for inviting us to have a stall at this year’s TUC Young Workers Conference. Delegates discussed themes such as “Employment, Economy and Equality”  and we tried to reflect this in our choice of display.


Workers’ Educational Association featured in new book about Citizenship


Co-editor John Griffiths writes about the publication, having spent time researching in the TUC Library.

The new book titled The Citizen: Past and Present has been published by Massey University Press, New Zealand. (2017), and contains 11 chapters, the last of which focuses on the history of the WEA as an association for the promotion of citizenship in the 20th/21st century.

Cover of new book

Quite how citizenship has been defined at points across time and whose agenda lies behind the notion of citizenship is discussed in chapter 11 by co-editor John Griffiths, Senior Lecturer in History at Massey University. For his chapter titled From Citizens to Dilettantes and Back Again? The Workers’ Educational Association and its Students Since 1945 John explored the archive of the WEA, held within the TUC archive. He used annual reports (1945-) of the Association’s districts, the Association’s journal The Highway, various pamphlets written by WEA administrators which contemplated the Association’s objectives and purpose and the many volumes written about the WEA since its inception, also held in the TUC archives.

WEA publication

The Plan for Education, published by the Workers’ Educational Association in 1942, outlines their proposals for the restructuring of educational policy after the war and includes a special appendix on agriculture and rural education.

The Association had prided itself in the years before World War II in preparing students for active citizenship in areas such as local government, parish council, school and hospital governance. Several members of the post 1945-Attlee government (1945-51) had connections with the WEA. After 1945, if not before however, it was noted by several observers that the Association was becoming more dilettante, in that those taking WEA classes were more middle-class than working-class and ‘education for social purpose’ was being diluted. This concerned the Association for at least the next three decades.

A change in direction was noted in the 1970s as the WEA also began to offer education for the socially disadvantaged – known as ‘Russell type work’ – taking its name from the report into adult education of 1973, headed by Lionel Russell. This work was seen as more socially relevant and by the later 20th century placed the WEA in a position as a significant organisation for offering citizenship and social inclusion which chimed with New Labour’s objectives (1997-2010), particularly the introduction of citizenship instruction in schools. This chapter sits alongside other contributions which examine what citizenship has meant at points across history, from the very early civilizations to the modern day.


The Clarion Van – Margaret Powell remembers her grandfather


Joe Tarrant, Margaret Powell’s grandfather, stands to the right of the Clarion Van (marked with a cross. Thank you to Margaret Powell for her permission. Copyright Margaret Powell )

We have a guest blog post this week from Margaret Powell who very kindly sent this fantastic photo in to us of her grandfather, Joe Tarrant. I asked her for more information and what the banner says. She wrote -

The banner says Clarion Van London Tour – May, but I can’t make out the year. My granddad, Joe Tarrant, 1885-1980 was a keen cyclist all his life. He looks very young on here, so I imagine it’s about 1900. He lived at Barnardo’s homes from the age of 19 months, but went back home(to London) when he was about 14, presumably because he was of working age, so I don’t think we can date it before then. I have been reading about the Clarion movement online and it makes interesting reading. Granddad moved to Bristol for his work as a tinsmith and later to Liverpool. He was always involved in the tobacco industry as far as I know. (Wills and the British American Tobacco Company).

We have a few more photos and publications about the Clarion in the TUC Library (see below).

Later period Clarion Van, 1914 (Copyright TUC Library Collections.

Robert Blatchford founded ‘The Clarion’ as a weekly Socialist newspaper. Clarion readers organised various activities e.g. cycling clubs, choral societies, rambling clubs, often meeting in Clarion club-houses. The Clarion Vans were mobile propaganda vehicles, carrying Socialist leaflets, newspapers and speakers to rural areas, often accompanied at weekends by “Clarionettes” on bicycles. This photo shows the dedication of a new National Clarion Van designed by Walter Crane, at Shrewsbury on 12 April, 1914. Fred Bramley (TUC General Secretary 1923-1925) is seated, holding hat, at centre of the photograph. Clarion Vans continued touring until 1929.


Unveiling of Blue Plaque in honour of Mary Macarthur


TUC Women’s Committee at the unveiling ceremony

The TUC Library attended the unveiling of an English Heritage Blue Plaque in commemoration of suffragist and trade unionist Mary Macarthur at her former home in Golders Green (42 Woodstock Road) last night. The day was chosen because it preceded International Women’s Day and the start of the annual TUC Women’s Conference.

Mary Macarthur (13 August 1880 – 1 January 1921) was the general secretary of the Women’s Trade Union League and was involved in the formation of the National Federation of Women Workers and National Anti-Sweating League. In 1909 Mary led the women chain makers of Cradley Heath to victory in their fight for a minimum wage and led a strike to force employers to implement the rise. Speeches were made by, Mary Bousted TUC President, Vicky Knight, Chair of the Women’s Committee and James Deane, Mary’s grandson.

The TUC Library has a number of collections relating to Mary Macarthur.

Mary Macarthur speaking at a rally in Trafalgar Square about the box makers strike Aug 1908, Corruganza, Tooting London



Mary Quaile, the TUC and Easton Lodge, 1926

  Margaret Bondfield, Countess of Warwick and Mary Quaile in grounds of Easton Lodge

Margaret Bondfield, Countess of Warwick and Mary Quaile in grounds of Easton Lodge

Guest post from the Mary Quaile Club https://maryquaileclub.wordpress.com/
History, activism and discussion in the Greater Manchester area @MaryQuaileClub

In 1924 Mary Quaile was elected onto the General Council of the TUC, and with Julia Varley attended the National Conference of Labour Women, a conference of International Women Trade Unionists in Vienna and the Third International Trade Union Congress.

At home she now took part in delegations to lobby government ministers on issues including the Labour Government’s unemployment policy. In 1925 Mary was again elected onto the General Council. In 1926 Mary did not stand again for the General Council, but she continued to attend Congress as a delegate from the TGWU until 1931.

Recently we have come across pictures of Mary at the official handover of Easton Lodge to the trade union movement as a working class college. Ironically, a house maybe not that different from where she got her first job as a domestic.

Easton Lodge was owned by Countess Warwick (1861-1938) who, by 1926, had been a member of the socialist movement for over 25 years. It was an era in which a Countess standing as a prospective Labour candidate was not seen as bizarre!

TUC General Council with Mary Quaile on the right  on the right

TUC General Council with Mary Quaile on the right on the right

In 1926 Countess Warwick handed over the historic building and sumptuous park and grounds to the General Council of the TUC who paid a visit. It was dubbed “Labour’s Chequers.”

(Photos from the TUC Library Collections)


Turn of the century union banner saved


Southampton Boilermakers and Shipbuilders Union Banner

Guest blogger Michael Walker, Unison regional Officer tells us the story of how he saved a rare turn of the Century union banner from being sold into private hands.

Soon after visiting the Labour History Museum in the early 1980′s then at the old Limehouse town hall, I secured a copy of the late John Gorman’s “Banner Bright”. The rich history and illustrated pictures of banners through the ages left a major impression upon me and so many others. The most beautiful and striking banners illustrated in Banner bright were those executed by George Tutill of 83 City Road, London.

Tutill banners are of such rarity they are talked about in almost hushed tones and people come from around the world to see them at the Peoples History Museum in Manchester. Tutills banner are exhibited as works of art in their own right.

The odd Tutill banner would turn up from time to time.

However, little did I imagine that I would play a part in uncover another Tutill trade union banner

In August I began to hear rumours of what looked like a freemasons lodge banner recently retrieved from under the stage of a workingmen’s club in Woolston, close to the old shipyards in Southampton

I soon established that this was infact a Boilermakers Lodge (Union) banner, but before I could investigate further, I heard alarming news that the owner was thinking of auctioning the banner. Thus entering the murky world of a friend of a friend a message was communicated to the owner, and despite what seemed to be long periods of email silences, when I feared for the worse that the banner would be snapped up by a private collector or the owner had decided not to sell, I was relieved to get a message that he agreed to sell the banner to us (thank you Bromley Hospitals UNISON branch) for an undisclosed “finders fee” which was significantly less that the true value of the banner, on the condition that it went to an appropriate “good home”.

We were warned that the banner was in a fragile state but on the up side it was in a 15 foot wooden banner box.

Getting a 15ft banner into a vehicle is difficult and we had to hire a van especially to collect the box,

We left destined for Southampton in a truck not really sure if the owner had had second thoughts regarding the banner, but when we arrived the banner was ready for collection and in its box. After opening the four metal catches we discovered inside a tightly bound brightly coloured blue and red banner and visible immediately in-between the fringe of tassels the trade mark hand painted stamp of G.Tutill 83 City Road, London, clearly visible, also in the box was one set of Tutill banner holders and ceremonial toppers for the top of the banner poles.

Trade mark hand painted stamp of G.Tutill 83 City Road, London

Interestingly the newspapers surrounding the banner were Daily Herald’s from 1928 suggesting that possibly the banners last outing had been in that year,

Getting the banner into the truck still proved difficult and had to be carefully positioned at an angle to fit in the van. But thanks to the patience of my colleague Allen Reilly the banner was strapped into the van and brought back into the arms of the Labour Movement.

When opportunity allowed we unraveled the banner revealing the beautiful silk golden swirl designs and brass tags so distinctive of Tutill banners, Prominent on one side is the ship the Tynemouth Castle and on the other side the ceremonial emblems of the Boilermakers, Steel, Iron & Shipbuilders Society with the legend Southampton Branch. This organisation became the Boilermakers union and would end up merging into what is now the GMB in 1982.

A major strike took place in the Southampton shipyards in 1890 and I suspect the banner dates from around 1900.

The banner is presently in a very fragile (please note I have digitally enhanced the border which is damaged in places) We are obviously very keen for it to be assessed by the textile conservation at the Peoples History museum.

Hopefully, funding will be forthcoming for its proper preservation , especially as this is the only Tutill banner from Southampton’s proud trade union history, I am aware of that has survived to-date.

The moral of this story should be never give up searching for those trade union banners, not all will be Tutill’s but they remain an important part of our Movements history

Michael Walker
Unison regional Officer
September 2016


Updated poster list and highlight of New York World’s Fair 1939-40


To highlight the latest version of the TUC Library Post Guide guest blogger Jenni Rockliff describes our World’s Fair posters.

Within the TUC’s poster collection are three colourful posters from the World’s Fair, which was held in New York from 1939 to 1940.

One of these has artwork which is credited to Stanley (Stan) Ekman (1913-1998). The poster portrays ‘Elmer’ and his family, characters created to promote the World’s Fair. Stan Ekman, the creator of this artwork, studied at the Art Institute of Chicago. Amongst other artwork, he produced the American Airline logo, art for US Air Army recruitment posters and illustrations for various newspapers and magazines in the USA. He was a member of the Society of Illustrators in New York, Artist Guild in Chicago and the Society of Typographic Arts.

The TUC’s General Council Report for 1939 outlines how the TUC could not afford to have its own exhibit at the World’s Fair, but was able to include an exhibit in the ‘Ministry of Labour Section of the Fair.’

The Modern Records Centre at Warwick University also hold a file of TUC correspondence on the negotiations to get this exhibit.

From the Guide to the pavilion of the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and the British colonial empire, the Ministry of Labour Section of the British Pavilion was called the ‘Public Welfare Hall’ and that the section contributed to by the TUC was called ‘Britain at Work.’ The British pavilion also had a section displaying the Lincoln Cathedral copy of the Magna Carta, which left the UK for the first time. This copy was thought to be safer in the USA once Britain joined the war and wasn’t returned to the UK until 1947.

The Fair opened on 11th May 1939, with the theme ‘Building the World of Tomorrow’, and was intended to run for a year. When it opened Czechoslovakia had already been occupied by Germany; The situation soon escalated, with Germany occupying Poland, and on 3 September 1939 Britain declared war on Germany.

The Fair had failed to make enough money so it was reopened in 1940 and had a new theme ‘For Peace and Freedom’, rather than its original theme, in order to capture the spirit of the times. It was at this point that ‘Elmer’ was introduced as a character designed to appeal to everyday people and the entrance fee was reduced to 50 cents. The pavilions of Poland, Czechoslovakia and the USSR did not reopen for the 1940 season.

On July 4, 1940, a canvas bag or satchel was found ‘ticking’ in the British Pavilion at the Fair. The bag was removed to a safe area. Detectives Joseph Lynch, 33, and Ferdinand “Fred” Socha, of New York Police Department’s Bomb and Forgery Squad examined the bag and established that it contained sticks of dynamite. The bomb exploded while they were examining it, killing both men and injuring four other police officers, Emil Vyskocil, William Federer, Joseph Gallagher and Detective Martin Schuchman.  It was never established who had planted the bomb although there were theories that it might have been Nazi sympathisers.

The New York World Fair closed 27th October 1940 and there is a park called Flushing Meadows–Corona Park on the site.


Studying Working Life in Jamaica


Yvonne Brown

Yvonne Brown, a visiting researcher/author from Canada, has spent the last four weeks in the TUC Library and The National Archives researching the history of her grand-father in Jamaica and the wider social, political and economic history for a biography.

I am very pleased to sing the praises of the Trade Union Congress Library Collection at the London Metropolitan University.  I came upon this rich source of colonial labour and economic history during a course on archival research that I took at the Institute of Historical Research at the University of London.

For the period of my study in which I am writing a biography of Charles Archibald Reid an Afro-Jamaican who went from being a shoemaker to being thrice elected to the Legislative Council of the Crown Colony Government of Jamaica. This was a time during which labour conditions, unemployment and poverty stalked the land. The customary sources for studying this period are the National Archives and the Local Archives.

The TUC Library provides a rich complement to these two main archives with an emphasis, of course, on both the organization of labour unions and giving voice to the poor labourer. It was profound to read their actual words in the local patois. In stock are numerous reports, studies, cutting, position papers, posters, books, and pamphlets of the TUC, local colonial governments as well as the British parliamentary records of major decisions and their effects on people.

I was impressed by the scope and detail of the collection. My biography will have a much richer context for having explored some this collect. Thanks and appreciation to Jeff Howarth, TUC Librarian and James Goddard, Research Assistant for their guidance through this vast collection. One visit is of course not enough (I spent an unplanned four days there). I will be back! 


James MacDonald, trade unionist

Paula Bodington, great-granddaughter of James Ramsey

Paula Bodington, great-granddaughter of James MacDonald

Paula Bodington came in to investigate her great-grandfather’s role in the history of the labour movement and Labour Party. James MacDonald was born in Edinburgh in 1857, he moved to London and trained as a tailor. He was was an exceptional activist, secretary of the London sector of the Amalgamated Society of Tailors and secretary of the London Society of Tailors and Tailoresses. He was also secretary of the London Trades Council for 11 years, and active in the Social Democratic Federation (former members included William Morris, George Lansbury and Eleanor Marx) and the Independent Labour Party.

There were a number of references to James, a particularly exciting one of which Paula discovered in the 1900 Labour Representation Committee Conference Report where James, representing the SDF,  proposes the establishment of a Labour Party in Parliament -

That the representatives of the working class movement in the House of Commons shall form there a distinct party, with a party organisation separate from the capitalist parties based upon a recognition of the class war, and having for its ultimate object the socialisation of the means of production, distribution, and exchange.

James MacDonald, trade unionist (not James Ramsey MacDonald)

She also confirmed a family suspicion that James Ramsey MacDonald’s success was certainly initially to do with the existing popularity of Paula’s great grandfather and his sharing an almost identical name.


Students from Syracuse University help with Worker Writer Collection


Lorissa, Cindy, Alex, Victor, Destiny, Danielle, and instructor Jess (apologies to Bodeline)

For the past three weeks, 7 students from Syracuse University, as well as the University of Rochester and Carnegie Mellon University have been visiting the TUC library to work with the Federation of Worker Writers and Community Publishers (FWWCP) Collection. The TUC acquired this collection from long-time FWWCP member and lecturer Nick Pollard just under a year ago. The FWWCP began in 1976, after 8 groups from across England gathered for a reading of their creative work and formed this network of writing and publishing groups, focused on providing a space that was accessible for working-class people to share their writing.

Students working on the collection, sorting and indexing.

The Syracuse students were taking a Civic Writing course, taught by Jess Pauszek, through Syracuse’s London Campus, Faraday House. During this course, the students have visited the FWWCP collection and have indexed over 1,000 FWWCP publications into regions throughout the United Kingdom, as well as international locations. In addition to this work, the students had the opportunity to meet former FWWCP members, attend writing workshops with ongoing community writing groups (such as the Newham Writers Workshop and Stevenage Survivors who are now part of an offshoot organization called TheFED), and meet previous FWWCP members to learn about the organization’s history from multiple perspectives. While many students had not visited London before, they stated that they now have a new sense of history from these community writers and the stories they shared. They were also able to have a hands-on experience with being part of documenting, preserving, and even participating in this rich history of working-class writing.

Consultation meeting

Students meet former members of FWWCP

Last week we held two meetings with former members of the FWWCP to discuss a possible digitisation and oral history project. We’d like to thank all those that attended and hope to meet with those that couldn’t make it. The students also had a chance to meet them.