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Adamson, William [Willie] (1863–1936), politician and trade unionist, was born at Halbeath, near Dunfermline in Fife, on 2 April 1863, the son of James Armstrong Adamson, a coalminer, and Flora Cunningham. He attended a dame-school run by the wife of a mining engineer, and left at the age of eleven to work in the mining industry, where he was employed for the next twenty-seven years. He married, on 25 February 1887, ...

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William Adamson (1863–1936) by Bassano, 1920 © National Portrait Gallery, London

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Bevin, Ernest (1881–1951), trade unionist and politician, was born at Winsford, Somerset, on 7 March 1881, the seventh child of Diana (known as Mercy) Bevin (1841–1889). His mother, the daughter of Thomas and Mary Tidbould, married William Bevin, an agricultural labourer, in 1864. In 1876 or 1877 ...

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Sir Cyril Wilson Black (1902–1991) by Walter Bird, 1959 © National Portrait Gallery, London

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Black, Sir Cyril Wilson (1902–1991), property developer and politician, was born on 8 April 1902 at 11 Langham Mansions, Kensington, London, one of four sons (three surviving) and two daughters of Robert Wilson Black (1871–1951), property developer, of 11 Langham Mansions, and his wife, ...

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Brace, William (1865–1947), trade unionist, was born at Risca, Wales, on 23 September 1865, one of six children of Thomas and Ann Brace. At the age of twelve he went straight from the local board school to work underground at the coal pit. He later worked at ...

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Candlish, John (1816–1874), glass bottle manufacturer and politician, was born at Tarset, near Bellingham in Northumberland, and baptized on 28 April 1816, the eldest son of John Candlish (b. 1793), farmer, and his wife, Mary, née Robson. Following the death of his wife about 1820, the elder ...

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Edwards, Onesimus [Ness] (1897–1968), trade unionist and politician, was born in a terraced house, 53 Castle Street, Abertillery, Monmouthshire, on 6 April 1897, the second son of Onesimus Edwards, coalminer, and his wife, Ellen, née Thomas. The Baptist faith of his mother was one of the main influences on him during his formative years. Aged thirteen, he started work at the ...

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Illingworth, Alfred (1827–1907), worsted spinner and politician, was born on 25 September 1827 at Kent Street, Bradford, Yorkshire, the elder son of Daniel Illingworth (1792–1854), worsted spinner, and his wife, Elizabeth, daughter of Michael Hill of Bradford. He was educated at a private academy in ...

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Mainwaring, William Henry (1884–1971), trade unionist, was born on 14 January 1884 at Fforest-fach, Penderry, Swansea, the third of the ten children of William Mainwaring, a miner, and his wife, Mary Thomas. His first language was Welsh, and he knew no English until he attended ...

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Sitch, Charles Henry (1887–1960), trade unionist and politician, was born at Saltney, Chester, on 4 May 1887, the third son of Thomas Sitch (1852–1923), chain maker and trade unionist, and his wife, Elizabeth (née Young). Thomas Sitch was born at ...

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Thomas, James Henry [Jim, Jimmy] (1874–1949), trade unionist and politician, was born on 3 October 1874 at Newport, Monmouthshire, the illegitimate son of Elizabeth Thomas, a domestic servant, and was brought up in poverty by his grandmother, Ann Thomas, a widowed washerwoman. He attended St Paul's elementary school, working part-time as a shop errand boy from the age of nine, and, after leaving school at the age of twelve, had various jobs in shops and as a decorator....

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James Henry Thomas (1874–1949) by Walter Stoneman, 1924 © National Portrait Gallery, London

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Samuel Woods (1846–1915) by unknown engraver, pubd 1897 © National Portrait Gallery, London

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Woods, Samuel (1846–1915), trade unionist and politician, was born on 10 May 1846, at Peasley Cross, St Helens, the son of Thomas Woods, a miner, and his wife, Margaret (née Rothwell), until 1840 also a mine worker. Woods's first introduction to mining was at the age of seven. He returned to school from the age of nine to thirteen, but then went back to the pits. He was an assiduous attender at night school, and this education was reinforced by his durable and strong commitment to the ...