by Harry Gosling
Harry Gosling was born in 1861. He left school at thirteen and was soon apprenticed as a lighterman on the River Thames. The great dock strike of 1889 engendered a rash of new unionism, and much activity within the old unions. By 1893, Gosling had been elected General Secretary of his Union, a full-time post. He was also extremely active in local government, becoming a member of the London County Council in 1904.
It was in July 1910 that Ben Tillett, the leader of the Dockers’ Union, convened a meeting of waterside unions to discuss the formation of the National Transport Workers’ Federation. Harry Gosling was elected President. Ernest Bevin was soon elected to the Executive, after which he and Gosling worked very closely together. Eventually, the Transport and General Workers’ Union was formed out of the multiplicity of unions constituting the Federation, and Gosling was its founding President.
After several attempts to win election to Parliament, Gosling was finally victorious in a by-election in 1923, at Whitechapel. The following year the first Labour Government was formed and MacDonald appointed Gosling as Minister of Transport. He died while still a Member of Parliament, in 1930. All these adventures and insights, recounted in his own words in his autobiography, which has long been out of print, will resonate with new generations.