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Shoe Trade - Union Members
NUBSO badge for 50 years
NUBSO badge for 50 years

The Rushden Echo and Argus, 25th January, 1953, transcribed by Jim Hollis

Shoe Veterans Rewarded - 31 Union members to receive diplomas
Thirty men and one woman who have completed 50 or more years as members of the Rushden and District branch of the National Union of Boot and Shoe Operatives will to-morrow receive diplomas and free membership cards, entitling them to full benefits, from Alderman Arthur Allen, M.P.

Between them they have contributed 1,781 years’ service to the shoe trade of the Rushden district – from the time of its early struggles, through half a century of progress, to a day when the area’s output maintains a unique position in the world’s market.

A member since 1896, Mr. James Henry Smith, of 29, Newton Road, Rushden, now retired, advocates the benefits of trade unionism…”Trade unionism is good for any job; we should be in a poor way without it. With it you can fight,” he told our reporter.

Despite the amenities of the present day in the shoe trade Mr. Smith observed: “I still like the old days, when you could do the work in your own time and make a really good job of it.”

Strikes? “They were fun to me then – I was only a boy, and they meant a holiday. I don’t suppose they were for Mother, but we managed.”

One woman
Only woman to receive a diploma will be Mrs. Kate Clarke, of 169, Newton Road, Rushden. Aged 67, she started work at 11 in the factory of Messrs. Wm. Green and Son and is still employed there in the afternoons. Until three years ago she was a branch collector, a job in which she succeeded her father.

Although no written records exist to provide us with a definite date of the formation, a local branch of the union was formed “about” 1886. There are those who contend that Irthlingborough was first in the field, and others Higham Ferrers. Certain it is that enthusiasts got together with a view to the branch covering the Rushden, Higham Ferrers and Irthlingborough areas.

The 31 veterans who will receive their diplomas to-morrow hail from Rushden, Higham, Irthlingborough and Raunds. At least three, all Rushden men – James Peacock, 4, Roberts Street, William H. Lett, 74, Crabb Street, and Thomas Burfield, 141, Queen Street – were members in 1890.

Long hours
In the early days exploitation of women and children was not unknown and often they had to work long hours at the end of the week to make up the time lost in the observance of “St. Crispin’s Day” by the head of the household. The late Mr. Charles Bates, who became president of the branch, related how he was knocked off his stool for falling asleep at midnight.

Those years saw many struggles and disputes, one of the earliest and bitterest being the 1890 dispute over the 7-16 edge.

Eventually a strike was declared, but the men were urged to be of peaceful behaviour and if they met their employers in the street to treat them with as much courtesy as previously.

About 120 men went on strike pay, but clickers and closers were deprived of all means of sustenance. Trade was almost at a standstill and some men left the district with their “kit” under their arms in search of work elsewhere. By the end of the second week there were 5,000 people out of work in the district out of a population of 14,000.

After a three-weeks struggle the dispute was referred to arbitration and the men resumed work. An award was subsequently made in favour of the employers, and the operatives could not be said to have improved their position, but they had at least demonstrated their determination and solidarity.

Machine age
First warning of the upheaval to be caused by the machine age came in 1893, when owing to the severe depression in the Army hand sewn boot trade, particularly at Raunds and Ringstead, it was arranged for a deputation representing the men to meet for an interview at the War Office. It was then stated that Ringstead alone could produce 55,000 to 60,000 pairs of hand-sewn boots annually, and Irchester 10,000 to 15,000, not to mention Raunds and smaller places.

The most publicised event in local trade union history was the “Great Strike” of 1905, when 115 strikers marched to London from Raunds and brought nation-wide attention to their scheme to present a petition in the House of Commons.

In addition to those who will be honoured to-morrow, the half-century list names Mr. James Robinson and Mr. Joseph Webb, both of Higham Ferrers, who died during the past year.


Various items that have come to us: union membership cards, badges, certificates and book plates.

Mr T G Scarborough - 50 years membership 1915-1966 Mr T C Payne - 50 years membership1917-1967
Mr T G Scarborough - 50 years membership 1915-1966
Mr T C Payne - 50 years membership1917-1967
C W G Rawlins 1927 - 1977
Bookplates from copies of
"A History of the National Union of
Boot and Shoe Operatives 1874-1957"

by Alan Fox
Above: Presented to Mr Walter Carroll 1913-1963

Below: Mr E W Hillson membership 1918-1968

Right: Mr R W Horn membership 1929-1979

Mr R W Horn membership 1929-1979
Mr E W Hillson membership 1918-1968

Honorary Life Membership certificates were presented for 50 years in 1968 to Mr F Underwood, Mr W T Sinfield and Mr C A Chapman.
All had Free Life Membership cards, a certificate and a copy of the book.
Honorary life membership certifcate
W T Sinfield's card - NUBSO no. 97462

Mr C A Chapman A R Nicholls
Mr C A Chapman 1918-1968 - NUBSO No. 104032
Mr A R Nicholls 1925-1975

Mr A D Sharp's life membership card Life membership card
Mr A D Sharpe's free life membership in recognition of his 50 years membership in 1975 of NUFLAT - National Union of Footwear, Leather & Allied Trades

NUFLAT badge
By 1975 the Union was renamed:

National Union of the Footwear, Leather and Allied Trades

N.U.F.L.A.T.


A 50 Year Member's badge
On February 1st 1980 Jack Tear was made an Honorary Life Member in recognition of
Fifty Years Continuous Membership of this Union.

Book plate for S Barker
Book plate - S Barker 1938 - 1988

union card card with benefits
Membership Card 1971-74
Membership Card 1979-81


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