Sammy Taylor began work as a miner aged 14 and led his first strike at Barnsley Main Colliery aged only 21. Having joined the Yorkshire Miners Association in 1922, twenty years later he became the Secretary of its Brierley (Ferrymore) Branch, a position he retained for many years. He was elected Checkweighman at Ferrymoor during the Second World War. Sammy Taylor was also the YMA representative on the Mining Advisory Committee of the Yorkshire Council for Further Education. He gained prominence across the Yorkshire coalfield for winning the then enormous sum of £1,150 above the normal maximum in two compensation cases.
In the 1945 local elections, he was the Communist candidate in one of the Barnsley wards (pictured left). He was a member of the Communist Party’s Yorkshire District Committee for many years and Chair of his local Party branch in the Barnsley Communist Party. When he was aged 40, he fought as the Communist Party Parliamentary candidate for Don Valley securing 1,007 votes. But he was mainly remembered amongst Yorkshire miners as, along with Jock Kane (see separate entry) becoming one of the Party’s trusted officials in the NUM.
In 1954, when Sammy first stood in the NUM’s preferential vote system elections as a candidate for the post of Yorkshire NUM Vice President, there were 45 candidates nominated from 130 branches. Only eight were short-listed and Sammy emerged as the prime candidate against Sam Bullough; the Communist got 13,000 votes against a most right-wing candidate, who polled 27,000. (Bullough became President of the Area in 1961.)
In the end, Sammy Taylor made the first major breakthrough for the Party by becoming the first Communist from Yorkshire to win a seat on the NUM National Executive in 1959. Since the then Vice-President, Bullough, was one of four candidates for the seat, the Party reasoned that, to win, Taylor’s strategy had to be to gain as many first preferences. He was to poll 1,319 votes in the first round against 1,279 for the other three candidates, winning by a majority of 40 votes. It was the beginning of the end of right-wing Labour dominance of the Yorkshire NUM.
In elections for NUM Area Agents, the full-time posts, Sammy stood in his home turf of the Barnsley Area, (known then in NUM circles as the Carlton Area), polling 2,255 votes and being neck and neck with J. Stone from the strong Frickley (South Elmsall) Area, who eventually beat Sammy by 186 votes. But Sammy was elected as Compensation Agent in 1961. Communist candidates in Yorkshire NUM elections totalled 11,004, in a very difficult period immediately after Hungary and the Krushchev revelations noted the Daily Express in a story headed "The Reds step up pit drive".
In due course, Jock Kane won a major post in the Area leadership and the entire coalfield tipped to the left, laying the basis for the strong position that Arthur Scargill would later inherit, first as Area President, and later as NUM President.
Sources: Frank Watters “Being Frank” (1991); contemporary local election leaflets
Right: Sammy in 1950