Bill Holmes (trade unionist)

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William Holmes (1873–November 1961[1]), usually known as Bill Holmes, was a British trade unionist and Labour Party politician.

Holmes was born in Norfolk. His father was an active trade unionist, and his grandfather had been a Chartist. He left school at the age of twelve to become an agricultural labourer. He later took work at the Colman's mustard factory in Norwich and, in 1890, he joined the Norfolk and Norwich Amalgamated Labourers' Union.[2] He was also a founder member of the Independent Labour Party,[3] being particularly active in its cycling section.[2] He was close to the Socialist League, although he did not join.[4] In 1898, he did join the radical National Union of Gas Workers and General Labourers.[3]

In 1905, Holmes was elected to Norwich City Council, becoming a Labour Party councillor when that organisation was established the following year. Also in 1906, he worked with George Edwards to found the National Union of Agricultural Workers (NUAW). Five years later, he was elected to the union's executive.[2]

Holmes became prominent in the Labour Party and was appointed as one of its first two National Organisers in 1913.[5] He stood unsuccessfully for the party in the Horncastle by-election, 1920 and in Stafford at the 1923 UK general election.[3] He continued in the post even though that year he was elected as President of the NUAW, but stood down in 1928 to become the union's General Secretary.[2]

Established as the leading figure in the union, Holmes tried twice more to gain election to Parliament, in East Norfolk at the 1929 and 1931 general elections but was again unsuccessful. Alongside his union duties, he acted as an adviser to the International Labour Conference and was the Trades Union Congress's (TUC) delegate to the American Federation of Labor in 1932. In 1940, he served as President of the TUC,[3] while in 1941 he received the CBE.[2]

Holmes retired from his union posts in 1944.[1] In retirement, he served on the Local Government Boundary Commission.[6]


  1. ^ a b "Report of the Annual Conference of the Labour Party" (1962), p.38
  2. ^ a b c d e Claire V. J. Griffiths, Labour and the Countryside: The Politics of Rural Britain 1918-1939, pp.359-360
  3. ^ a b c d "New Chairman of T.U.C.", Glasgow Herald, 28 September 1939, p.3
  4. ^ Reginald Groves, Sharpen the sickle!, p.103
  5. ^ Claire V. J. Griffiths, Labour and the Countryside: The Politics of Rural Britain 1918-1939, p.113
  6. ^ John Joseph Clarke, A History of Local Government of the United Kingdom, p.212
Trade union offices
Preceded by
Walter Robert Smith
President of the National Union of Agricultural and Allied Workers
Succeeded by
Edwin Gooch
Preceded by
Robert Barrie Walker
General Secretary of the National Union of Agricultural and Allied Workers
Succeeded by
Alf Dann
Preceded by
Robert Barrie Walker
Agriculture Group representative on the General Council of the TUC
Succeeded by
Alf Dann
Preceded by
John Beard and Frank Wolstencroft
Trades Union Congress representative to the American Federation of Labour
With: Charles Dukes
Succeeded by
Joe Hall and Jimmy Rowan
Preceded by
Joseph Hallsworth
President of the Trades Union Congress
Succeeded by
George Gibson