50 Facts About Keir Hardie


James Keir Hardie was a Scottish trade unionist and politician.


Keir Hardie was a founder of the Labour Party, and served as its first parliamentary leader from 1906 to 1908.


Keir Hardie started working at the age of seven, and from the age of 10 worked in the Lanarkshire coal mines.


In 1879, Hardie was elected leader of a miners' union in Hamilton and organised a National Conference of Miners in Dunfermline.


Keir Hardie subsequently led miners' strikes in Lanarkshire and Ayrshire.


Keir Hardie turned to journalism to make ends meet, and from 1886 was a full-time union organiser as secretary of the Ayrshire Miners' Union.


Keir Hardie initially supported William Gladstone's Liberal Party, but later concluded that the working class needed its own party.


Keir Hardie first stood for parliament in 1888 as an independent, and later that year helped form the Scottish Labour Party.


Keir Hardie won the English seat of West Ham South as an independent candidate in 1892, and helped to form the Independent Labour Party the following year.


Keir Hardie lost his seat in 1895, but was re-elected to Parliament in 1900 for Merthyr Tydfil in South Wales.


Keir Hardie resigned in 1908 in favour of Arthur Henderson, and spent his remaining years campaigning for causes such as women's suffrage, self-rule for India, and opposition to World War I Keir Hardie died in 1915 while attempting to organise a pacifist general strike.


Keir Hardie is seen as a key figure in the history of the Labour Party and has been the subject of multiple biographies.


James Keir Hardie was born on 15 August 1856 in a two-roomed cottage on the western edge of Newhouse, Lanarkshire near Holytown, a small town close to Motherwell in Scotland.


Keir Hardie's mother, Mary Keir, was a domestic servant and his stepfather, David Hardie, was a ship's carpenter.


Keir Hardie had little or no contact with his biological father, a miner from Lanarkshire named William Aitken.


At the age of ten years old, Keir Hardie went to work in the mines as a "trapper": opening and closing a door for a ten-hour shift in order to maintain the air supply for miners in a given section.


Keir Hardie began to attend night school in Holytown at this time.


Keir Hardie's stepfather returned from sea and went to work on a railway line being constructed between Edinburgh and Glasgow.


When this job was completed, the family moved to the village of Quarter, Lanarkshire, where Keir Hardie went to work as a pony driver at the mines, later working his way into the pits as a hewer.


Keir Hardie worked for two years above ground in the quarries.


The 23-year-old Keir Hardie moved from the coal mines to union organisation work.


On 3 July 1879, Keir Hardie was appointed Corresponding Secretary of the miners, a post which gave him opportunity to get in touch with other representatives of the mine workers throughout southern Scotland.


Three weeks later, Keir Hardie was chosen by the miners as their delegate to a National Conference of Miners to be held in Glasgow.


Keir Hardie was appointed Miners' Agent in August 1879 and his new career as a trade union organiser and functionary was launched.


On 16 October 1879, Keir Hardie attended a National Conference of miners at Dunfermline, at which he was selected as National Secretary, a high-sounding title which actually preceded the establishment of a coherent national organisation by several years.


Keir Hardie was active in the strike wave which swept the region in 1880, including a generalised strike of the mines of Lanarkshire that summer which lasted six weeks.


The young couple moved to the town of Cumnock, where Keir Hardie set to work organising a union of local miners, a process which occupied nearly a year.


Keir Hardie continued his temperance work as an active member of the local Good Templar's Lodge.


In 1887, Keir Hardie launched a new publication called The Miner.


Keir Hardie was a dedicated Georgist for a number of years and a member of the Scottish Land Restoration League.


Keir Hardie finished last but he was not deterred by this, and believed he would enjoy more success in the future.


At a public meeting in Glasgow on 25 August 1888 the Scottish Labour Party was founded, with Keir Hardie becoming the party's first secretary.


Keir Hardie was invited to stand in West Ham South in 1892, a working-class seat in Essex.


Keir Hardie was variously described as the Labour or "Liberal and Labour" candidate.


In Parliament, Keir Hardie advocated a graduated income tax, free schooling, pensions, the abolition of the House of Lords and for women's right to vote.


Keir Hardie hit the headlines in 1894, when after an explosion at the Albion colliery in Cilfynydd near Pontypridd which killed 251 miners, he asked that a message of condolence to the relatives of the victims be added to an address of congratulations on the birth of a royal heir.


The request was refused and Keir Hardie made a speech attacking the monarchy, which almost predicted the nature of the future king's marriage that led to his abdication.


Keir Hardie spent the next five years of his life building up the Labour movement and speaking at various public meetings; he was arrested at a woman's suffrage meeting in London, but the Home Secretary, concerned about arresting the leader of the ILP, ordered his release.


In 1900 Keir Hardie organised a meeting of various trade unions and socialist groups; they agreed to form a Labour Representation Committee and so the Labour Party was born.


Later that same year Keir Hardie, representing Labour, was elected as the junior MP for the dual-member constituency of Merthyr Tydfil in the South Wales Valleys, which he would represent for the remainder of his life.


In January 1907 at the Labour Party's first annual conference, held in Belfast, Keir Hardie helped raise the issue of whether sovereignty lay with the annual conference, as in the inherited tradition of trade union democracy, or with the PLP.


Keir Hardie campaigned for self-rule for India and an end to segregation in South Africa.


Keir Hardie's stance was not popular, even within the Labour Party, but he continued to address anti-war demonstrations across the country and to support conscientious objectors.


Keir Hardie was among many Scottish socialists, the likes of John MacLean and Willie Gallacher, who opposed the War and believed that working-class men fighting other working-class men only served the interests of capitalism.


On 2 December 2006, a memorial bust of Keir Hardie was unveiled by Cynon Valley MP Ann Clwyd outside council offices in Aberdare.


Keir Hardie Crescent in Kilwinning in Scotland is named after him, as is a block of apartments in Little Thurrock.


Labour founder Keir Hardie has been voted the party's "greatest hero" in a straw poll of delegates at the 2008 Labour conference in Manchester.


Keir Hardie was no economist and was ill-informed on many issues, but he had uniquely the charisma and vision that any radical movement needs.


In March 2023, The Keir Hardie Blog was founded, a left leaning comment website named after Keir Hardie.


On 15 August 2010 the Keir Hardie Society was founded at Summerlee, Museum of Scottish Industrial Life.