Keir Hardie was a man of many interests, but less well known is his love of archeology.
The biography of Ben Harrison of Ightham of Kent, who was an ardent archeologist, refers to visits by Keir Hardie to his house and to nearby sites.
Ben Harrison found Keir Hardie not quite what he expected. He said “He is not a firebrand, quite the reverse, and has a nice, quiet manner. His soft felt hat, blue striped shirt, and neat little check tie become him admirably.”
On his first visit in May 1901, they went to Oldbury fort and inspected the ramparts. After dinner, Keir Hardie sang to the family. In his letter thanking Harrison he said:
“I have always had leanings towards this field of study, but my life has been cast in a sphere which does not readily lend itself to the calm, philosophic cast of mind which is such an essential to success. However, I can none the less feel a sympathetic interest in what you do, and rejoice with you in your success.”
Before a visit in July 1902, which lasted three days, he also wrote:
“My whole bent is towards the kind of research in which you are engaged, but the claims of the living and the unborn leave me no option but to continue my work as an agitator.”
It would appear that the Labour movement’s gain was archeology’s loss!
(The Keir Hardie Society is grateful to Andy Sylvester who is related to Ben Harrison and forwarded this reference.)