Ben Tillett/Ian Mackay Papers

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

Papers of and about the dockers' leader, Ben Tillett, collected by Ian Mackay, including Tillett's diary for 1888, and correspondence; press-cuttings; printed matter.

Administrative / Biographical History

Ben Tillett born in Bristol in 1860. Settling in Bethnal Green at the age of 17, he first came into contact with radical movements, and joined the Free Thought Movement. Tillett was also instrumental in the founding of the Tea Operatives' and General Labourers' Association, in 1887. The great dock strike, called in 1889, had a profound effect on labour relations within the dock-working industry, and in the 1890s Tillett saw the union extend its activities outside of London. During this period, Tillett also confirmed his interest in the political aspect of the Labour movement. He was a member of the TUC Parliamentary Committee from 1892 to 1894, and in 1895 stood as an Independent Socialist candidate for West Bradford. In 1889 the union changed its name to the Dock, Wharf, Riverside and General Workers' Union of Great Britain and Ireland, with Tillett continuing as General Secretary and Tom Mann as President. In 1922, the union amalgamated with the Transport and General Workers' Union, where Tillett took up the post of International and Political Secretary.. From 1921-31 Tillett was a member of the General Council of the TUC, and was Chairman for the year 1928-9. He was also Labour MP for North Salford from 1917-24, and 1929-31, and continued to be active in the Labour movement until the end of his life. He died in 1943.

Ian Mackay was a journalist on the News Chronicle during the early 1950s, and this collection was brought together as source material for a projected biography of Tillett. Unfortunately, Mackay died before the project was completed.

Reference: Finding aid for MSS.74.

Conditions Governing Access

Open

Archivist's Note

The Centre also holds some personal records relating to Ben Tillett (MSS.330), and the records of the Dock, Wharf, Riverside and General Workers' Union of Great Britain and Ireland (MSS.126/DWR). Authority files exist for Ben Tillett, (GB 152 AAR0960), Ian Mackay (GBR 0152 AAR0961), and the Dock, Wharf, Riverside and General Workers' Union of Great Britain and Ireland (GBR 0152 AAR174).

Custodial History

The collection was purchased by the Centre in 1974, from K. Tarbuck.

Personal Names