Miner's son, born at Whitley, Northumberland. He suffered an injury soon after going down the pit at the age of 10 and so got more schooling than most miners' sons. He became a PM local preacher and an advocate of temperance. His concern for social reform led him into the trade union movement, via the Northumberland miners' union formed in 1863 to oppose the reintroduction of the 'yearly bond'. In 1870 he was appointed a full-time agent of the newly formed Durham Miners' Association, becoming its President later that year and its Secretary in 1872. His religious convictions led him to advocate moderation and tolerance and he gave his support to the formation of conciliation boards. From 1877 he was secretary of the Miners' National Association and from 1878 to 1890 served on the parliamentary committee of the TUC, being elected its chairman in 1881 and 1888. He was Liberal MP for Mid-Durham from 1885 to 1890. As a freemason from 1878 he was worshipful master of his local lodge in 1886. He died in Durham on 1 July 1890.