Leading Trade Unionist
Sudden Death of Mr. B. J. Wellstead
Former Dorset Chairman of N.U.A.W.
Mr. Bertie John Wellstead who died suddenly at his home at Congella, Winterborne Kingston in the early hours of Tuesday was one of Dorset's leading trade unionists and a staunch supporter of the Labour cause. Until ill-health obliged him to give some of his public work he was a prominent member of the Dorset branch of the National Union of Agricultural Workers, and a former chairman, retiring from that office in 1950. He also at one time served on the Union's National Executive. With the late Mr. Fred James, who was then the county organiser, Mr. Wellstead did a great deal of the spade work In the early days of the Union in Dorset, and addressed ' meetings all over the county. He and Mr. James (NUAW District organiser) actually organised the first big Union rally at Tolpuddle, which has now become an annual event.
The late Mr. Wellstead was one on the originators of 'the scheme which resulted in the building by the T.U.C. of the Martyrs' Memorial Cottages at Tolpuddle. Since the death of Mr. James had acted in the capacity of friend and elder statesmen to the residents of the cottages, and had looked after their welfare on behalf of the T.U.C.
Mr. Wellstead had devoted the greater part of his life to public work. He was a Justice of the Peace for the county, having been appointed in 1947, and sat regularly on the Blandford Bench. He was a member of the Dorset Standing Joint Committee and of the Police and General Purposes Sub-Committee of the Dorset County Council. He also represented the magistrates of the Blandford division on the County Licensing Committee and the County Appeal Committee.
He was vice-president of the North Dorset Labour Party and occupied a similar office with the Blandford local Labour Party. He was also Chairman of the Party's newly-formed branch at Winterbourne Kingston. Mr Wellstead was also the first president of the Blandford & District Trades' Council when it was formed in 1947 (Arthur Jordan Dorset organiser of NUAW being Secretary), Wellstead giving up his office three years later owing to ill health.
He took a keen interest in the affairs of his own village, where he was a member of the Parish Council for more than 30 years and the chairman for close on 20 years. He resigned from the Chairmanship in May last year (1952). He was intensely proud of the fact that under his Chairmanship the Parish council had acquired for the village its own allotments, recreation ground and cemetery - all without cost to the rates. He was a manager of both Kingston Bere Regis School.
Mr. Wellstead retained his interest In the village right to the last, Only the evening before his death he spoke at a parish meeting which had been called to consider the question of a local appeal for the Flood Relief Fund.
Mr. Wellstead had been a sick man for several year's, but his wonderful spirit still kept him going, and he continued to take his share in village and county affairs. Although some of his activities had to be curtailed.
Aged 63 he leaves a wife Mrs B. J. Welstead, three sons (Cyril and Harry), and a daughter (Mrs L. Langdown). One son died some time ago. (His brothers were Edward, William and Reginald Wellstead and sister Mrs F. Vincent) Before his retirement for health reasons in 1949 he was employed by the Dorset County Council Highways Department, which he joined in 1918. When he retired he was district road foreman for the Sturminster Newton district.
He was born in Winterborne Kingston, where he had lived for the greater part of his life. His father, the late Mr. Harry Wellstead, was a hurdle maker, who was the last farm worker in Dorset to pay into the National Agricultural Labourers Union formed by the late Joseph Arch (estb1872-1896). At the age of 19 he became secretary of the Winterborne Kingston branch of the Liberal Association. In 1915 he joined the Army, and during four years abroad he served in German East Africa. On demobilisation in 1919 he joined the local branch of the National Union of Agricultural Workers which had been formed in the village, and was soon elected chairman. It was at this period that he began his friendship with the late Fred James (NUAW District Organiser). Who was to have such a profound influence on his later life In 1928 Mr. Wellstead was elected to the Union's National Executive to represent the counties of Dorset, Devon, Somerset and Cornwall, but resigned when he was appointed road foreman as his duties -prevented him from attending meetings. One of Mr. Wellstead's greatest delights in an active life was his visits to the village centenarian Mrs. Sophie Wellstead, who lived near him and will be 102 this year. The funeral was arranged to take place at Winterbourne Kingston Methodist Church this (Friday) afternoon at 2pm.