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A brief biography of Bob Davies

by Graham Stevenson

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Born in 1901, Bob Davies, of Bolton and St Helens, was a foundation member of the Party.  He left school at 14 and started work as a blacksmith’s striker at Pilkington’s glass works. At the age of 17, he was elected a shop steward for the United Kingdom Society of Amalgamated Smiths and Strikers, which merged with others to form the AEU in 1920. He was active on his old and new union’s district committee for five years and a delegate to the local trades council from 102-.

Bob Davies was politically active from the age of 18, joining the St Helen’s Socialist Society, which became the local branch of the newly founded Communist Party in August 1920.  J R Stead had represented the group at the Unity Convention.

Pilkington’s laid him off in 1923 and, searching for work, he became a miner and was active in the Lancashire and Cheshire Miners' Federation. Being made redundant in 1925, he quickly became a tram conductor and a member of the TGWU, keeping his trades council role in all three jobs.

Davies was clearly very precocious for, despite his young age, he was Vice-Chair of the Council of Action strike committee during the General Strike of 1926. Three other Party members were also on the committee with Bob Davies. Jack Byrne, from the Woodworkers, being one of the other Communists with a significant leadership role, often assigned speaking duties.  

Charlie Hoyle, the Liverpool Party organiser frequently visited the area. On one occasion, looking for Davies, Bob found him in a remote spot in a hollow in fields conducting a Marxist economic class in front of over a hundred `students’! With such efforts, St Helen’s Communist Party branch doubled in size to 60 members. But the level of agitation during the miners’ lockout saw St Helen’s achieve eight Party branches with one thousand members by the late summer period of 1926!

In 1927, St Helens borough experienced the first appearance of the Communist Party in an election when Bob stood as a candidate, doing surprisingly well in South Eccleston by obtaining 515 votes (17.2%). He and other Communist candidates also stood in 1928, 1931 and 1933, in Central, Parr, South Eccleston, and West Sutton on differing occasions. 

Such was the growing disillusionment with party politics that the election of 1928 saw a very low poll in the borough and there were even four uncontested wards; but two of the five contests had Communist candidates in them.  

Bob Davies was active in the National Unemployed Workers Movement during the Depression years and led a hunger march from Preston to London.

He was the full-time Party organiser for the Lancashire coalfield for a period.  

He wrote `Pages From a Worker's Life, 1916-26’ in the Communist Party’s Our History series in 1961 and published a short book of personal recollections in 1978.

Bob Davies died in 1982 at the age of 81 years, still politically active.

Sources: `From St Helen’s’ in `The General Strike, 1926’, ed Jeff Skelley; CPGB archives; Morning Star undated cutting 1982.