Sunday 20 April 2014

Fred Gould MP - Frome, Somerset 1923

Labour's First South West England
Member of Parliament
Frederick "Fred" Gould MP - Frome

Frederick "Fred Gould was born 28th June 1879, one of 12 children from a family living at Midsomer Norton, Somerset, his father was a miner and a founder of the Somerset Miners Federation.

The Gould family were strong Methodist's and Fred would go onto be a lay Wesleyan preacher.

The young Fred Gould attended the local C of E school and left school aged 13 to become a "bootblack" in the household of a local ironmonger and fill in time with being a stable boy and later serving customers in the shop.

In his youth he became an expert "orchard raider", but he still found time read Robert Blatchford (Clarion) writings and heavier writers on politics and theology. In1908  he became an unpaid organiser for the Independent Labour Party (ILP) and helped establish several branches of the ILP locally.

When Fred Gould left the Ironmongers, after four years at cleaning boots he started making them and until 1920 worked in various factories, finding work as a "rounder" in Ollie Edwards Boots factory at Midsomer Norton

Gould was branch secretary of the small Midsomer Norton branch of National Union of Boot and Shoe Operatives union,

In 1910 he won a seat on Radstock Urban District Council and later became Labour's first Chairman of Radstock Urban District Council. he was also elected as a Poor law Guardian, school manager and was active in the Co-operative Society

At the 1917 Boot and Shoe Operatives Union conference Gould was one of the few radicals challenging the unions leadership on issues such as "Workers control" stating "are we going to control machines or are we going to let them control us"

Due to a depression in the boot and shoe trade and no-doubt his role in the union, Gould found himself unemployed. Ten months out of work ended in Fred Gould's appointment in January 1921 a Labour Party divisional agent.

When the popular Cpt Edward Gill the Frome perspective Labour parliamentary candidate for the 1923 General election died expectantly in June 1923, it was Fred Gould who was selected and who won at the frome seat for Labour at the General election held on 5th December 1923. Gould held the seat until the General Election of 1924 when he lost, however, he won the seat again in 1929 and held it this time until 1931.

The Boot & Shoe workers union who sponsored Gould then decided he would have to stand in Leicester (with its sizable Boot & Shoe union membership) in future if he wanted union support. He did stand in Leicester but was ultimately unsuccessful in regaining a seat in parliament.

Fred Gould died 23 February 1971

Fred Gould's son Ronald Gould became a teacher in Midsomer Norton and national General Secretary of the National Union of Teachers


First meeting of the Frome Independent Labour Party (ILP)
August 1908 - James Swift - Chairman the speaker was
J. W Ronayne (Frome Hill, Radstock) speaker - large crowd attended in the Market Place

The Frome constituency covered most of North East Somerset and was abolished in 1949

Frome town was a textile town, but the rural parts of the constituency contained areas such as Radstock that had over 50 pits (The last two pit, Kilmersdon and Writhlington, closed in September 1973)

The Labour candidate for Frome in 1923 was expected to be Captain Edward Gill MC a popular local man he had been the Labour candidate in 1918 securing 44% of the vote, only losing because the Liberal candidate split the vote. Edward Gill died 30th June 1923


Rev G.A. Ramsay, The Rectory Writhlington, Bath
J.W. Ronayne, Frome Hill, Radstock
C. Webber, 48 St James Taunton
H.C.  Caswell, Kingston Road, Rowbarton, Taunton
T. Oaten, 27 Alber Marle Road, Taunton

Rev G. A Ramsay was also chairman of the Radstock Co-operative Society,

Miners leader A. J. Cook spoke at Radstock May 1926

Street Boot & Shoe Union Branch secretary 1913 Fred Laver (active in the ILP)

Taunton NUR Banner

Other South West MP's elected at 1923 General Election 1923
Walter Ayles -Bristol North
Walter Baker - Bristol East