Lansbury (Isaac) Edgar

Edgar (Isaac) Lansbury 

Son of the famous Labour leader George Lansbury, Edgar (as he was always known) was born in 1887. His early life was spent in Poplar and as a young man he entered the Civil Service. However, in 1910, he went into partnership with a brother as a timber merchant, running Veneer Mills. His first wife was Minnie Glassman but the marriage was childless.


He was a Labour Poplar councillor from 1912-25, for the last five of those years being elected as a Communist/Labour candidate (one of two). Lansbury went to jail along with 29 other Poplar Councillors in September and October 1921. While in Brixton jail, a daily meeting of the council took place and the minutes were later to be incorporated into the official records of Poplar Borough Council.


The stand of the Poplar Councillors and Guardians was condemned by the Times newspaper as a “communist doctrine of full maintenance for the unemployed”. `The Communist’ of November 12th 1921, in response to Labour leader and Hackney Mayor Herbert Morrison’s attack on the Poplar councillors’ stand, stated that: “The London Labour Party Executive Committee and the Labour mayors pulled all the wires to isolate Poplar.”


After his first wife Minnie (see separate entry) died, Edgar married Moyna MacGill in 1924 and the couple went on to have three children. This was his second wife and she had been born Charlotte Lillian MacDowie, on December 10, 1895 in Belfast, the daughter of William McIlldowie and Cissie Mageean.  


Edgar Lansbury was elected Mayor of Poplar for 1924-1925. One of the strongest supporters of the Poplar councillors was Bethnal Green’s Communist Mayor, Joe Vaughan (see separate entry), whose council (along with Clem Attlee’s Stepney) followed Poplar’s stand. Clem Attlee who actually moved the resolution at Stepney Borough council to follow Poplar stated: “I have always been a constitutionalist, but the time has come when it is necessary to kick.”

Edgar Lansbury had joined the Communist Party at foundation and, in May 1924, was elected a substitute member of the central committee.


He died suddenly in 1935 and Moyna Lansbury moved with her children to the United States. An actress for much of her time in the US, she performed in the Broadway show, `The Boy Friend’, in a 1954-1955 run. One of Edgar’s and Moyna’s daughters was Angela Lansbury, the Hollywood TV and film star. Born in 1926, she began her film career in 1944 and this continued up until the present day.  Moyna did not die until November 25 1975, in California.


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