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Baird Celebrates 150th Anniversary of Keir Hardie

Items from the Lochnorris collection, taken from the name of the family home, are on display along with items collected from his travels around the world. There is also a room setting based on his home environment.

James Keir Hardie was the founder of the Labour Party in Britain. He was born into poverty in Legbrannock, Lanarkshire and started to earn his living at the age of seven as a delivery boy, and by the age of ten was working in a coalmine. Although he had no schooling, he taught himself to read at home and as a young man became quite a well known lay preacher.

In 1879 he was appointed Secretary of the Ayrshire Miners’ Association and moved to Cumnock and in 1881, appalled at the conditions in the mines he led a miners’ protest against a cut in wages and organised a union of the Ayrshire miners. The protest collapsed which led to him being dismissed and black-listed by the mine-owners, as a result of this he turned to journalism for a living with the ‘Cumnock News’ in 1882. He became actively involved within the Cumnock Community, founding a Good Templar Lodge and promoting the temperance movement. He was invited to become the Secretary to the new Ayrshire Miners’ Union in 1886 and in 1888 helped found the Scottish Labour Party and stood as Labour candidate at the Mid-Lanark by-election.
 
In 1892 Hardie was one of three Labour men elected to serve in Parliament and he made a celebrated entry into the House of Commons, wearing not formal dress but a cloth cap and a workman’s suit. In the following year he founded the Independent Labour Party, whose main aims were to spread socialism and influence the trade unions. He lost his seat at West Ham in 1895, but remained Labour Party leader and was returned as MP for Merthyr Tydfil in 1900 and remained its member until his death from a long illness in 1915. He was the first chairman of the Parliamentary Labour Party. Widely respected for his dignity and sincerity, Keir Hardie was a convinced pacifist who opposed both the Boer War and the First World War. He also supported the Suffragette movement and advised its members on tactics. Throughout his career as an MP in London, Hardie continued to live in Cumnock. He lived in ‘Lochnorris’, a large house which he had built for his family in 1891.Jam

The Baird Institute, Cumnock is open from Thursday – Saturday, 11am-5pm. Futher information can be obtained by calling 01290 421701.