John Beard (trade unionist)
Beard in 1922
John Cecil Beard
9 December 1871
Ellerdine, Shropshire, England
|Died||25 September 1950 (aged 78)|
Ellerdine, Shropshire, England
|Occupation||Trade unionist, politician|
Beard was born in Ellerdine Heath in Shropshire in 1871, son of a farm labourer. His family were Primitive Methodists, whose local chapel ran an elementary day school at Ellerdine where Beard had his full-time education until leaving at the age of ten years.
After leaving school he helped his father when then working in a brickyard carrying bricks for the building of an extension to Peplow Hall, then as labourer on a farm at Muckleton, Shawbury and at age fourteen for a builder at nearby Wytheford who was then working on the Apley Castle estate at Wellington. He briefly left Shropshire when he worked down a mine in north Staffordshire where he joined the Miners' Association union before he took up work as an insurance agent, becoming a founder of the Planet Insurance Company.
He was a founder member of the Workers' Union in 1898, and it appointed him as its Shropshire organiser. In this role, after a failed attempt to organise in the Ironbridge coalfields he recruited large numbers of farm labourers to the union, and successfully campaigned for an increase in their wages. By 1900, the union in Shropshire grew to 20 branches, although most had an ephemeral existence. He moved to Birmingham in 1904 to become the union's national agricultural organiser, and there became involved in the Labour Party.
Beard, who had been one of ten self-described Labour members elected at the founding of High Ercall Parish Council in Shropshire in 1894, was elected as a member of Birmingham City Council in 1910, representing Saltley, in which post he was leading figure in the creation of the Birmingham Municipal Bank. He left Birmingham in 1920 when he became more involved in union affairs in London
In 1913, Beard was elected as national president of the Workers' Union. He led a major, successful, strike in the chain-making industry that year, further increasing his prestige in the union, and was elected to the general council of the Trades Union Congress (TUC) in 1920. However, by 1927, the Workers' Union's finances were a major problem, and Beard led negotiations with Ernest Bevin which led to it merging into the Transport and General Workers' Union (TGWU) two years later. In 1929/30, Beard served as President of the TUC. He retired in 1936, and was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 1938 Birthday Honours. In 1915, Beard founded initially for the W.U.'s Midlands region a monthly magazine called The Record, which went national in 1916 and was later adopted by the TGWU.
In retirement, Beard served on the Wheat Commission and the Agricultural Wages Board until his death. He settled in Kingsbury, London, but revisited Shropshire. He published in 1949 a book of reminiscences of his early life in the county, My Shropshire Days on Common Ways.
He died in his sleep while staying at the home of a boyhood friend at Rose Cottage in Ellerdine, aged 79. His funeral service took place on 29 September 1950 at Bethel (ex-PM) Chapel at Ellerdine Heath, followed by cremation at Perry Barr, Birmingham, after which his ashes were scattered on the graves of relatives at All Hallows churchyard, Rowton.
- "BEARD, John", Who Was Who
- "John Beard, Shropshire-born founder member of the Workers' Union, died 25 years ago". Shropshire Magazine. October 1975. p. 20.Article by Jean Beard.
- "Obituary: John Beard, CBE", The History of the Birmingham Municipal Bank
- "A trade union leader: Mr John Beard's record forty years' service", Manchester Guardian, 13 December 1936, p.11
- Spokesman, Nos.13–20, p.67
- "No. 34518". The London Gazette (Supplement). 7 June 1938. p. 3697.
- "Sudden Death of Mr J. Beard". Shrewsbury Chronicle. 29 September 1950. p. 4.
|Trade union offices|
| President of the Workers' Union
| President of the Trades Union Congress
Allan Findlay and Arthur Shaw
| Trades Union Congress representative to the American Federation of Labour
With: Frank Wolstencroft
Charles Dukes and Bill Holmes