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James Keir Hardie (1856 - 1915)


Born in Legbrannoch in Lanarkshire, James Keir Hardie began work at the age of eight as a baker's delivery boy and by the age of 10 he was working underground as a miner.

The poverty and stress of life in the mines caused Keir Hardie to agitate for better conditions. He began to attend Union meetings and effectively organised local strikes against wage cuts.

In 1879 he was invited to become Secretary of the Ayrshire Miners' Association. He moved to Cumnock and organised a major strike for improved wages in 1881. After this strike collapsed Keir Hardie was sacked from his post.

He then began employment as a journalist with the Cumnock News in 1882. During this time he became actively involved with the Cumnock community, founding a Good Templar Lodge promoting the temperance movement. He was also involved with local societies and churches. In 1886 he was offered the post of Secretary to the newly formed Ayrshire Miners' Union.

1888 was a notable landmark - the Scottish Labour Party was formed and Keir Hardie was elected as chairman and leader. He also stood as Labour candidate later that year at the Mid-Lanark by-election. However he did not become an MP until 1892 when he was elected to the West Ham constituency of London. Although he lost the seat a few years later, he remained as leader of the new Labour Party.

In 1900 he was elected as MP for the Merthyr-Tydfil constituency, a seat he retained for the rest of his life.

Although an active MP in London, Keir Hardie continued to live in Cumnock which he regarded as his home. He lived in Lochnorris in the town, a large house which he had built for his family in 1891, which still stands today.

In 1915 shortly after the start of the First World War, Keir Hardie returned to Cumnock for the last time, suffering from a prolonged illness. He died in a Glasgow nursing home later that year.

A magnificent bronze bust of James Keir Hardie stands on a pink granite plinth outside Cumnock Town Hall.

 

 

 

Contact Information

Council Headquarters
London Road
Kilmarnock
East Ayrshire
KA3 7BU
Telephone: 01563 576000
Helpline: 0845 724 00 00
Page last updated on6 January 2011
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