Pickard, Benjamin, MP

Trade unionist, born on 28 February 1842 at Kippax, near Pontefract. He was described by Robert F. Wearmouth as 'the most prominent trade union leader to emanate from WM'. He grew up in WM, and was a local preacher, emerging as a strict Protestant, a non-smoker and teetotaller, and a staunch supporter of the Lord's Day Rest Association. At the age of 12 he followed his father down the pit and became involved in trade union affairs. In 1881 he was appointed secretary of the West and South Yorkshire Miners' Association. In 1887 he became Vice-President of the Miners' National Union and, with Thomas Ashton, went on to take a leading part in establishing the Miners' Federation of Great Britain. As its founding President from 1889 to 1904, a 'canny Yorkshireman' and 'every inch a fighter', he was the dominant personality in the organization for more than a decade. He was also actively involved in the International Federation of Mineworkers and from 1885 until his death was MP for Normanton. He died of heart failure in Westminster on 3 February 1904.

  • R.F. Wearmouth, Methodism and the Struggle of the Working Classes 1850-1900 (1954) pp.173-74
  • Oxford DNB