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Archive -> 1895-1905 -> ‘As a Tale That is Told’ Extract 34 Page 107-112



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‘As a Tale That is Told’ Extract 34 Page 107-112

MN describes meetings with various radicals..Burns/Lansbury/Hardie

Before this I met John Burns. I had been asked to join a party of working girls from the East End who were going in brakes to Epping Forest for a picnic. He sat on the box seat and as we went along people called out: “You’ve got Johnny Burns up there.” I was told that he did not like “ladies”, so I kept away from him though I was longing to talk to him. Then I saw him sitting on a bench eating bits of coconut which he took out of his pocket. I sat down beside him and asked him for a bit of coconut. He gave me a bit and this seemed to break the ice and we had a very jolly talk. He was the hero of the dockers in those days, having won the strike for the “dockers’ tanner.” I often thought of him when I was meeting dockers while helping at the Poplar Pensions Office during the war.

And of course I know George Lansbury. I think his position is unique in the Labour movement, and I have an idea that as time goes on and our day becomes history, that he will stand out as having had more influence on the political life of the Labour Party than many of his contemporaries. His belief in Christianity is real and one never hears him say a word or reads of any word or action of his which is inconsistent with that belief in the Christian ideal. And he is especially beloved in Poplar, which he has represented in Parliament for so many years….

But as Miss Petre points out in her religious autobiography the Church has always been more interested in helping those suffering from economic wrongs and bad conditions than in removing the causes of those wrongs and injustices.
But in the early days, the Labour Movement was a religious movement and it was out to remove the causes of poverty and was an advance on the more orthodox Church organisations. Today the Labour Movement has still its distinctly religious side but it has also become an organising movement functioning as a Political Party. This was of course inevitable but it has thereby lost some of it’s (sic) spiritual significance.
But it was my meeting with Keir Hardie and his then newly formed Independent Labour Party that was my real and vital realisation of what the Labour Movement stood for….
Keir Hardie was incorruptible, steadfast, a man of high principles and high ideals, and of an iron will.

Our appeal was always to the beauty physically and spiritually inherent in every child.
I once received enough money to pay for many holidays from a little story I told in a London paper of the child who, unable to pay for a holiday that year, leaned out of

the window of her poor home and called to the other children just starting off:
“Kiss the sea for me”.
It was this that Keir Hardie understood.
I was never anything but a private member of the Labour Party. I never held any official position, but I helped in any way that I could, as delegate to Conferences, as writer and speaker, and I went through two or three strikes of workers for two or three London papers.


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‘As a Tale That is Told’ Extract 34 Page 107-112