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HISTORY: "Forgotten" socialist hero commemorated
PETE Curran was one of the first ever Labour MPs and a “forgotten” socialist leader, CARL BROWN found out more on the 100th anniversary of his death.
MORE than 10,000 people lined the route of the funeral procession of Pete Curran on Feburary 14, 1910.
The horse-drawn carriage left the Labour campaigner's family home in Pretoria Avenue, Walthamstow, and proceeded to St Patrick's cemetery, in Langthorne Road, Leytonstone.
Crowds were kept at bay by police officers as the carriage made its way through the masses of people.
But unlike Ramsay McDonald (the first Labour prime minister) and Keir Hardie, Pete Curran is less-well known among students of political history.
Graham Reeve, of the Avenue, Highams Park, is Mr Curran's great-grandson.
Mr Reeve, 62, said: “He was a real socialist and pioneer and a hero in the origins of the labour movement; “He was a strong willed man, a born leader and political organiser but his achievements have largely been forgotten.
“If he had not died early it is probable he would have been in the first Labour government, under Ramsay McDonald.”
Mr Curran, who was born in Glasgow in 1860 to an Irish family, became the national organiser for the Gasworkers Union and later chairman of the first management committee of the General Federation of Trade Unions.
Described as a “firebrand speaker” Mr Curran campaigned for better conditions for textile workers in Bradford, he also left the Fabian Society in protest over its support for the Boer War, and campaigned against the use of armed troops against striking workers.
At around the turn of the century, Mr Curran moved to Walthamstow and worked at Woolwich arsenal as a hammer man.
He also worked briefly in Plymouth, where he was sentenced to six weeks in prison of organising a strike on behalf of harbour workers.
Mr Curran left his first wife Mae Mcintyre, and settled in a family home in Pretoria Avenue with Marion Barry, with his seven children.
Mr Reeve said his mother Marjorie, was often told by her mother Mary, that Kier Hardie would visit the Pretoria Avenue house.
Mr Curran in 1907 won a by-election to become Labour MP for the seat of Jarrow, in Tyneside, at a time when Labour (or the Labour Representation Committee as it was then called) only had 29 seats in parliament.
But three years later Mr Curran became ill shortly before the 1910 general election, which was held in January.
He eventually died on February 14.
The anniversary of Mr Curran's death was marked by a ceremony at Mr Curran's grave and was attended by modern-day members of the Labour party and Trade Union movement, including Walthamstow MP Neil Gerrard and Labour prospective parlimentary candidate for Chingford Cath Arakelian.
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