Tom Maguire (socialist)

Last updated

Tom Maguire (29 December 1865 – 8 March 1895) was a British socialist, trade union organiser and poet from Leeds.


Early life

Maguire was born to an Irish immigrant family in the poverty-stricken Bank area of Leeds. [1] As a young boy he sang in the choir at St Anne's Church where he was noted for his 'musical voice and poetic tongue'. [1] He received part of his education at Sunday school. Growing up he showed appreciation of his Irish heritage and immersed himself in the music and literature. He was drawn to Romantic poets, such as Shelley and Keats, and began writing his own poetry around this time. [1]

After leaving school, he took a job as a photographer's assistant.

Introduction to socialism

In 1883 Maguire came across a copy of The Christian Socialist in the local secular hall and was converted, helping to establish a branch of the Social Democratic Federation in September 1884.

In 1885, the Leeds branch of the Social Democratic Federation dissolved and declared themselves as members of the breakaway Socialist League headed by William Morris. Maguire's name appears under the Socialist League's manifesto published February 1885. It was here he met other leading Socialist figures in the area, including Isabella Ford, Edward Carpenter, Ben Turner and Alf Mattison.


The League organised open-air meetings at Vicar's Croft which Maguire and others spoke at, and it was from these that they made contact with building workers whom Maguire helped organise a successful strike in 1889 for a wage increase. [2] This was the backdrop to the Leeds Gasworkers strike in June–July 1890 where Maguire helped organise the workers and other trade unionists to try to stop scabs (strikebreakers) entering the gasworks, which ultimately led to the strike's victory. [3] After the Socialist League split, Maguire joined the Independent Labour Party and attended its founding conference at Bradford in 1893. [4]


Maguire had poetry published in numerous journals including The Commonweal (1887), To Day (1887), Labour Leader , Yorkshire Factory Times, The Leeds Labour Chronicle (1893) and Labour Champion (1893), the last of which he also edited. His poems published under the pseudonym Bardolph were primarily humorous commentaries on current events, which are discussed by Elizabeth Carolyn Miller alongside Maguire's poems highlighting the plight of the working classes and his popular socialist songs that were included by Edward Carpenter in his collection Chants of Labour (1888). [5] Many of Maguire's poems from the Labour Leader about the lives of working-class women were gathered together for the collection Machine-Room Chants, which was published posthumously in 1895 and included a foreword written by Keir Hardie. [6]


Maguire died on 8 March 1895 after collapsing of pneumonia earlier in the month. [7] A week later, more than 1000 people turned out for his funeral. [1] He is buried at Beckett Street Cemetery with the epitaph: 'socialist, bold, cautious, true and a loving comrade'.

His obituary in the Leeds Mercury read:

"He had long given thought to matters affecting capital and labour, and as a public speaker was logical and lucid, holding his own debate... His name as a Labour leader was known all over the North of England, and by his death the Labour movement has lost a keen sympathiser and an earnest champion."

He is commemorated by a red plaque in Leeds bus station, a site very close to his principal areas of activity, and in the Tom Maguire Memorial Lecture, a series to be given annually or bi-annually, organised by Richard Burgon, MP for East Leeds, and inaugurated in 2019. [8]

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Chartism</span> British working-class movement (1838–1857)

Chartism was a working-class movement for political reform in the United Kingdom that erupted from 1838 to 1857 and was strongest in 1839, 1842 and 1848. It took its name from the People's Charter of 1838 and was a national protest movement, with particular strongholds of support in Northern England, the East Midlands, the Staffordshire Potteries, the Black Country, and the South Wales Valleys. The movement was fiercely opposed by government authorities who finally suppressed it.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Francis Thompson</span> English poet (1859–1907)

Francis Joseph Thompson was an English poet and Catholic mystic. At the behest of his father, a doctor, he entered medical school at the age of 18, but at 26 left home to pursue his talent as a writer and poet. He spent three years on the streets of London, supporting himself with menial labour, becoming addicted to opium which he took to relieve a nervous problem.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Independent Labour Party</span> British political party

The Independent Labour Party (ILP) was a British political party of the left, established in 1893 at a conference in Bradford, after local and national dissatisfaction with the Liberals' apparent reluctance to endorse working-class candidates, representing the interests of the majority. A sitting independent MP and prominent union organiser, Keir Hardie, became its first chairman.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Tom Mann</span> British trade unionist, activist (1856-1941)

Thomas Mann, was an English trade unionist and is widely recognised as a leading, pioneering figure for the early labour movement in Britain.He was largely self-educated, Mann became a successful organiser and a popular public speaker in the British labour movement.

Thomas Maguire may refer to:

<span class="mw-page-title-main">John Saville</span> Greek-British Marxist historian, long associated with Hull University

Orestis Stamatopoulos, also known as John Saville, was a Greek-British Marxist historian, long associated with Hull University. He was an influential writer on British Labour History in the second half of the twentieth century, and also known for his multi-volume work, the Dictionary of Labour Biography, edited in collaboration with others.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">John Bruce Glasier</span> Scottish socialist politician, 1859–1920

John Bruce Glasier was a Scottish socialist politician, associated mainly with the Independent Labour Party. He was opposed to the First World War.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">James Thompson Bain</span>

James Thomson "JT" Bain was a socialist and syndicalist in colonial South Africa.

Thomas Hargrave Bell was a Scottish socialist politician and trade unionist. He is best remembered as a founding member of both the Socialist Labour Party and the Communist Party of Great Britain and as the editor of Communist Review, the official monthly magazine of the latter.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Isabella Ford</span> English social reformer (1855–1924)

Isabella Ormston Ford was an English social reformer, suffragist and writer. She became a public speaker and wrote pamphlets on issues related to socialism, feminism and worker's rights. After becoming concerned with the rights of female mill workers at an early age, Ford became involved with trade union organisation in the 1880s. A member of the National Administrative Council of the Independent Labour Party, she was the first woman to speak at a Labour Representation Committee conference.

James Frederick Henderson was an English socialist writer and journalist, and a Labour Party politician.

John Lincoln Mahon was a Scottish trade unionist and politician, best known as a prominent socialist activist.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">British Socialist Party</span> Political party in the United Kingdom

The British Socialist Party (BSP) was a Marxist political organisation established in Great Britain in 1911. Following a protracted period of factional struggle, in 1916 the party's anti-war forces gained decisive control of the party and saw the defection of its pro-war right wing. After the victory of the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia at the end of 1917 and the termination of the First World War the following year, the BSP emerged as an explicitly revolutionary socialist organisation. It negotiated with other radical groups in an effort to establish a unified communist organisation, an effort which culminated in August 1920 with the establishment of the Communist Party of Great Britain. The youth organisation the Young Socialist League was affiliated with the party.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Communist Party of Great Britain</span> Communist party in the United Kingdom that existed from 1920 to 1991

The Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB) was the largest communist organisation in Britain and was founded in 1920 through a merger of several smaller Marxist groups. Many miners joined the CPGB in the 1926 general strike. In 1930, the CPGB founded the Daily Worker. In 1936, members of the party were present at the Battle of Cable Street, helping organise resistance against the British Union of Fascists. In the Spanish Civil War the CPGB worked with the USSR to create the British Battalion of the International Brigades, which party activist Bill Alexander commanded.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Fred Hammill</span>

Frederick Parkin Hammill was a British trade union activist, and a co-founder of the Independent Labour Party.

The Labour Union was a small socialist political party based in London.

Henry Alfred Barker was a British socialist activist.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Enid Stacy</span>

Enid Stacy was an English socialist activist. Stacy was born on 10 June 1868 in Westbury, Gloucestershire, the eldest of the Irish painter Henry Stacy and his wife Rose Deeley's four children. The family moved to Bristol in 1881. She was raised in a Christian socialist household; her brother helped found the Bristol and Clifton Christian Socialist Society and her father later became involved with the Bristol Socialist Society. She studied at the University of Bristol, where she won the Whitworth Scholarship, and she then became a tutor at the Redland High School for Girls. There, she met Katharine St John Conway, with whom she shared an interest in John Ruskin and Anglo-Catholicism.

Henry Benjamin Samuels, known as Henry Benjamin and Harry Samuels, was a British anarchist who came under suspicion of being a police spy. Samuels was known for his incendiary rhetoric.

Alf Mattison (1868–1944) was a socialist, local historian and photographer in Leeds and is known for his activity in the founding of the Independent Labour Party.


  1. 1 2 3 4 Battle, John (1997). Tom Maguire: Socialist and Poet. Medium Publishing/Ford Maguire Society.
  2. Thompson, E. P. 'Homage to Tom Maguire' in Briggs, A. & Saville, J. (eds.) Essays in Labour History, London: Macmillan, pg. 295
  3. Thompson, E. P. 'Homage to Tom Maguire' in Briggs, A. & Saville, J. (eds.) Essays in Labour History, London: Macmillan, pg. 300
  4. Tom Maguire, A Remembrance. Manchester: Labour Press Society. 1895.
  5. Miller, Elizabeth Carolyn (2013). Slow Print: Literary Radicalism and late Victorian Print Culture. Stanford: Stanford University Press. pp. 204–20. ISBN   9780804784085.
  6. Maguire, Tom (1895). Machine-Room Chants. London: Labour Leader.
  7. Thompson, E. P. 'Homage to Tom Maguire' in Briggs, A. & Saville, J. (eds.) Essays in Labour History, London: Macmillan, pg. 314
  8. Blow, John (26 January 2019). "Unite boss Len McCluskey delivers first Tom Maguire Memorial Lecture at Chapel FM Arts Centre in Leeds". Yorkshire Evening Post.