W.H. (Harry) Thompson
(15.10.1885 – 4.8.1947)
Harry Thompson was born and brought up in Preston.
After attending Preston Grammar School Harry qualified as a solicitor in 1908 and moved to Staffordshire where he was introduced to trade union work by John Ward, the one time Social Democratic Federation and Independent Labour activist who was secretary of the Navvies Union.
When he was called up for service in WW1 in 1916, Harry refused to be conscripted and served several terms in gaol as an absolutist. On his release he set up in practice in London, was solicitor to James Ramsay MacDonald, George Lansbury/ Poplar Borough Council and acted for the councillors in the infamous Poplar dispute in 1921. Throughout the 1920s and 1930s, he acted for many of the accused in the great sedition trials, including that in 1925, wrote pamphlets for and was an executive member of Labour Research, produced the seminal booklet “Civil Liberties” in 1938, and was a founder member and chairman of the Executive Committee of the National Council for Civil Liberties (now renamed Liberty) from its inception in 1934 until his death in 1947.
Thompson specialised in workmen’s compensation and was the acknowledged expert in the field, waging a long campaign against the iniquities of the Workmen’s Compensation laws then in place, and highlighting and campaigning for those affected by industrial diseases in particular.
Thompson was a member of the Central London Branch of the ILP, one of the branches which seceded to join the Communist Party of Great Britain on its formation in early 1921. He left the party after about two years, but retained close links and was legal adviser to Harry Pollitt and many others within the Party for the rest of his life.
One of his sisters, Constance (Connie) married Percy Taylor and produced a child Alan (A.J.P.) Taylor, the historian.