Blessed Billy

Bill Blessed

Probably born in Doncaster in 1906 to a miner, Blessed was a long-term member of the Communist Party, based in the mining village of Goldthorpe in South Yorkshire, now part of the borough of Barnsley.

Blessed was married to Hilda (neé Wall). They lived in Probert Avenue and their son, now the famous actor Brian Blessed, was born in October 1937. (See featured image of them with a baby Brian.)

An account told by Brian, suggest that his father secured the lives of some three hundred men at one point. This might be the act of discerning a build-up of carbon monoxide gas in a famous and important seam before this went critical, thus causing it to be permanently closed, and then alerting everyone to the fact. Billy Blessed later suffered an industrial accident, around 1951, which prevented him from further pit work and the young Brian needed to leave school prematurely to held the family’s income.

Being highly regarded in the south Yorkshire coalfield, Bill was involved in the work connected with greeting those who were able visit Sheffield during the aborted Second World Peace Congress held in the city in 1950, including Pablo Picasso and Paul Robeson, both of whom the young Brian met. The 12-year old Brian quibbled with Picasso’s accent, challenging his identity, and ridiculed his artistic endeavour! He also sang a duet with Robeson.

During the mid to late 1950s, former Communist councillor, Percy Riley, who originally came from Goldthorpe, and South Yorkshire coalfields organiser for the Communist Party, Frank Watters (see separate entries for both), were especially close to Bill Blessed.                                  

In 1954, Billy Blessed stood for the Dearne council, with Percy as his agent, polling 148 votes to the 800 of his only opponent, a Labour man, a reasonable result in the circumstances.  

His son Brian suffered prejudice over his refusal to disassociate himself from his father due to his politics, when called up for National Service in the mid-50s.

Much later, in the 1990s, Brian was in touch with Frank Watters, expressing only positive memories of the old days, when they both swapped copies of their own memoirs with each other.

Bill Blessed died in 2005.

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