James William Seamark 1865 – 1951
Labour Party Pioneer
Relationship to Frederick George Seamarks, First Cousins Once Removed
James William Seamark was the first working class, non-conservative / Liberal member of the Bedford Town Council.
James William Seamark organised meetings for Keir Hardie and Ramsey MacDonald. According to local papers he knew Keir Hardie intimately and introduced him to Bedford.
James himself rose from the Poorhouse , apprentice, member of the Trade Union movement , formed the Bedford Trade Council , first Secretary of the Bedford Labour Party , Town Councilor [1906-1922] and became a JP .
1905 Lost first election
The main election disaster for James was his stance of the need for a new water supply for Bedford. James backed the pumping method but was trumped by Mr Wells of the Brewing Family who at his own expense sunk a artisan well to supply Bedford.
1906 Election Programme:
1. Evening Council Meetings
2. Six wards for the town
3. A fair wage clause in all corporation contracts
4. Opposition to any capital expenditure being taken out of the rates
On Election in 1906 local paper wrote:
He will be welcomed into the council for his personal integrity and his own merits. If he has .. enough to learn the ropes before he attempts to navigate the ship, he may prove to be a useful councillor.
The Bedfordshire Times has many references to James Seamark as a Town Councillor.
May 1909 Keir Hardie visit to Bedford, reported in the Bedfordshire Times on May 21.
The meeting was a riotous affair, James was on the Platform with Kier Hardie. Kier was greeted with jeers of “Traitor”, Melodious renderings of “Rule Britannia” and “Dreadnoughts (sedition in India)”.
Kier said he was very glad to find a number of young men present who did not agree with his opinions. Some of them at least would find before the meeting finished that they had been mistaken. Keir Hardie has jeered and applauded whilst he discussed the following topics; What is Socialism, Jingoism in India, Women Suffrage and the Right to Work, Education, The Budget followed by Questions and Answers.
A few examples of the Questions follow;
Q- What are you going to do with the wealth of the country ? Was land stolen or taken ? if stolen from Whom.
Hardie : Land originally belonged to the nation. and was gifted by the King to certain strong invaders. They and their descendants still posses it, and the question is, how are we to get it back ?
Q- Where is your Turban
Hardie: If you have got to the comic stage I will clear out. I was never good at playing the part of Pantaloon. I leave that to you.
Q- What is your opinion of Chamberlain (Cheers and Musical Honours from the back)
Hardie: He was a most successful politician in his day and generation.
The meeting finished abruptly and a large crowd gathered outside confined to noise and bursting of a tube or two of Sulphuretted Hydrogen, Mr Hardie left by a side exit un-noticed and stayed the night in Bedford.
July 1911 Chaired the Ramsey MacDonald Meeting at the Corn Exchange
“The forward march will be no easier than that which has gone before. No Service is too great for such a cause for it is the cause of humanity. No enemy can defeat it in the end for it has its allies in the hearts of men and women everywhere. Hold fast to what has been altered, and march to higher achievents in the future” James Seamark
A founder member of Bedford Labour Party and its first secretary, Mr James William Seamark, formerly of Hartington Street, Bedford, died at Clapham Hospital on Sunday evening. He was 86.
Mr Seamark was born at Stagsden and moved to Bedford in 1882 when he began business as a tailor. In 1886 he married at Howard Congregational Church a Miss Appleby. He had a long connection with Howard Church at various times holding the office of Secretary of the Band of Hope, Sunday School Teacher, Deacon, Secretary of the Church and Lay Preacher.
A Champion of the Labour cause, he joined the Trades Union Movement in 1888 and in 1892 assisted in the formation of the first Trades Council in Bedford. A tireless campaigner in national and municipal politics, he took a large part in organizing local meetings for Keir Hardie and Ramsay MacDonald.
In 1906 he was elected to Bedford Town Council and so began an association with that body which was to last for 16 years. Upon the formation of the Bedford Labour Party in 1918 he became secretary and in the same year he was appointed a Justice of the Peace.
In 1923 he became Borough Housing Collector and also collector of tolls on the Market. He retired in 1933
The funeral service will take place at Howard Church tomorrow (Wednesday) at 11:30 am