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Rushden Echo & Argus, 20th January 1939, transcribed by Kay Collins
William Bazeley J.P.
William Bazeley J.P.
William Bazeley J.P.
Veteran Shoe Union and Labour Worker
Mr. W. Bazeley, of Rushden Retires from Local Public Life - Chairman of Magistrates

President and afterwards secretary of the Rushden and District Branch of the Boot Operatives' Union for a total of 22 years before and during the Great War, when its membership grew from a few hundred to more than 6,000, Mr William Bazeley, J.P,. of Rushden, left Northamptonshire this week to live in retirement with his wife at Walton-on-the-Naze, Essex. On Friday he bade farewell to his fellow magistrates of the Wellingborough Bench, of which he has been chairman of one of the rotas for a number of years.

Twice chairman of Rushden Urban Council in 1908-9 and 1921-2—Mr. Bazeley will be chiefly remembered by local people as a sturdy champion of the right of the shoe trade worker both in local government and industrial affairs.

In his early days as an official of the Union branch, Mr. Bazeley made his first attempts to gain a seat on the Council, but at the time trade unionism had not so much backing among working people; he was eventually elected, however, and completed a quarter of a century's work in local government and on Rushden Council, with one short break shortly after the War.

Raunds March

Mr. Bazeley began his official career with the Shoe Union in April, 1896, when he became president of the Rushden District Branch in succession to the late Mr. F. Skeeles, and in 1903 he became secretary, continuing in that office until the spring of 1918, when he resigned owing to the strain of his work during the War.

The year after he became secretary saw the organisation of the famous Raunds Army boot workers’ march to London as a result of the dispute in that town, and Mr. Bazeley was one of those who helped to organise the workers there during the 13 weeks' strike.

"Before the strike the Union was very weak over there, but I went over with officials from Northampton and organised things do we soon had hundreds joining the Union. I remember the late Mr. James Gribble of Northampton, leading the shoe workers' march up to London which was so successful—the marchers came back with £200 in their bag given by a sympathetic public," Mr. Bazeley recalled in conversation with a representative of this Journal.

"The Board of Trade sent Mr. G. R. Askwith (now Lord Askwith) down as mediator," he said, "and after negotiations he presented a report which from time to time has been used and improved by the Army boot trade."

Varied Experience

Mr. Bazeley is a native of Ecton, and in his life has played many parts. Born in 1863, one of a family of twelve and "somewhere half-way down the family," as he said, he left the Church school where he was educated, at the age of ten. He was first employed by farmers for scaring crows or cutting thistles, but afterwards began to learn the boot trade, which was then carried on for the most part in cottages. "We worked at all hours then, but I managed to get two years of night schooling," said Mr. Bazeley.

He then became successively a grocer's porter, an employee at the Wellingborough Institution, a porter at Northampton General Hospital, and, when he was 21, a House Superintendent of the Male patients' Mental Ward in the Marylebone (London) Workhouse.

He married his first wife in 1887, and as they were unable to obtain a joint post he came to Rushden, where the shoe manufacturing industry was then expanding rapidly, and work was not difficult to obtain, and began to learn the boot trade again. He obtained work in a factory and was elected president of the Union branch several years later.

New Headquarters

In the following November—1898—the branch decided to build new headquarters and land was purchased on Higham Hill, Rushden where the present well-equipped offices and Trades' Club were erected. Hitherto, the meetings of the branch had been held at the "Swan" at Higham Ferrers. Commenting on the selection of the site, the authors of "An Epic of Trade Unionism," a history of the branch, pubished some years ago by the "Rushden Echo and Argus," stated that if the subsequent growth of Rushden had then been foreseen, no doubt offices would have been built in a mote central position in me town. As it is, the building of the head-quarters half-way between Rushden and Higham is evidence of the importance of the relative membership in the ancient borough at that time.

"The Union in Rushden at that time was at a very low ebb," said Mr. Bazeley, and there was a very small membership. I have seen many changes in the Union and the conditions of work—the sub-division of labour for instance.

"But really we have not had many disputes in Rushden. I can only recall one strike, which was before I became an official—the "7—16 Edge" dispute In 1890. The boot and shoe industry has a very good record in this respect, and arbitration has taken the place of strikes."

Election Agent

After the War, when he had retired from the Union branch secretaryship, Mr Bazeley was appointed political agent for Mr. W. R. Smith, who won the then newly-formed Wellingborough Division (formerly part, with Kettering, of the East Northants constituency), for Labour, defeating Mr. Milner Gray (Coalition Liberal in a straight fight.

Mr. Bazeley became an agent for the Co-operative Insurance Society in 1919, and has only just retired from the active business. During his 20 years' association with the Society, Mr. Bazeley has been extremely popular with its officials and with his fellow workers. His devotion to his work has been conscientious right up to the moment of his retirement, and he has also been interested in sporting activities, playing for the C.I.S. bowls team.

Appointed a magistrate for the county in 1915. Mr. Bazeley was a member of the Military Tribunal at Rushden during the War; has been a member of the Old Age Pensions Committee since its inception, and is the only survivor of the original members. He was the chairman until his resignation last week. Mr. Bazeley has been married three times, the last occasion being in 1924. His wife comes from Mablethorpe.

"Nazi Emblem"

How many Rushden people who have seen the photographs of Rushden's former Council chairmen on the walls of a room at Rushden Hall have noticed that on a lapel of Mr. Bazeley's coat is the emblem of Nazi Germany—the swastika?

"I want to explain to people who might get a wrong impression from that photo," said Mr. Bazeley, "that it was taken in 1917, before the Nazis were ever heard of. It was given to me by some American Trade Unionists at a congress at Hanley, and had been worn by Red Indians who believed that it protected them in battle.

"I keep it as a memento, but I detest Nazi Germany and its dictatorship."

Rushden Echo, 12th April 1918, Transcribed by Kay Collins

Councillor W Bazeley, J.P., the retiring secretary of the Rushden branch of the Boot Operatives’ Union, has not lost a day from the office through ill-health during his 22 years’ service.

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