Some little-known anarchists

Some short biographies of lesser known anarchists active in Britain and elsewhere

David Baxter
Active for many years in distributing anarchist propaganda in Scotland, David Baxter worked as a barber in Glasgow Green. Harry McShane in his autobiography No Mean Fighter recalled that when he was evading the draft in 1914, “the old anarchist barber” sheltered him. According to MCshane Baxter had a shop in Brunswick Street and a six-roomed house in Grafton Square. Earlier in the book he mentions Baxter as an “old fellow” who sold free thought pamphlets round every speaking pitch at Glasgow Green. “He never spoke much, he always wore a nice blue suit and had a big grin, selling “The Mistakes of Moses, one penny”. In later years he moved to Liverpool. He died in the West Derby Union, Walton, Liverpool on March 15th 1928. In an obituary in Freedom of July 1928, Baxter was referred to as a “persistent propagandist” and that he had “sold many copies of Freedom and of Anarchist books and pamphlets”

Jessie Bell Westwater
Sister of the anarchist Tom Bell, Jessie was herself involved in the anarchist movement. She was active in Edinburgh and in the 1890s her home was the centre of the anarchist movement in Scotland. She was one of the founders of the Women’s Trade union movement there. Like her brother she moved to the United States. She was in ill health for many years, which ended her involvement. She died at the age of 57 in December 1926 in Berkeley, California. ( information from an obituary written by Tom Bell in Freedom, March, 1927)

George Lawrence
George Lawrence was very active in the anarchist movement in London. He was a fierce advocate of the use of physical force to overthrow capitalism. An article by him Why I advocate Physical Force to repel the aggressive force of the Governing Class' appeared in Tochatti's paper Liberty in 1894 and he returned to this theme when he spoke from the platform at a meeting to welcome Emma Goldman to London in the following year. Ill-health compelled him to lead a quet life and he withdrew from the movement. He died in Willesden, London on May 31st 1928 and was buried in Willesden Cemetery on June 6th. His funeral was attended by many old anarchist comrades (Obituary in Freedom, July 1928)

Fred Goulding
Born around 1864 Fred Goulding was active in the Socialist League in East London and belonged to its anarchist wing. According to an obituary in Freedom in 1923 Fred played “a strenuous part” in the early days of the workers’ movement and “opposed Authority in every shape and form”. He was listed as secretary of the Leytonstone Anarchist Communist Group in 1891 in Commonweal, the Socialist League paper. His address was given as 2 St George's Villas, Montague Rd, Leytonstone. He served a month in that year for speaking on Wanstead Flats. Another anarchist using the same address, Richard Jane, 23, described as a fly bill-poster, received two months for the same offence.
He fought against compulsory vaccination of his children, and on another occasion according to information in the last issue of Commonweal refused to send his son to Board School because “he knows what education he wants his children to have”. As a result his son was sent to truant school for three months. He was actively involved in all the free speech fights and the no-rent agitations in the East End in the 1890s. “In Anarchist outdoor propaganda he always did his share of the work, both as a speaker and in selling literature”. In 1907 he joined the Industrial Union of Direct Actionists, set up by Guy Aldred. He remained an anarchist to the end, two weeks before his death sending a letter and a donation to Freedom. He died in Manor Park on October 9th 1923 at the age of 87. He was buried at Manor Park Cemetery on October 15th, with a National Secular Society service read by his son in law W. Young

William Barker
Born and brought up in a country village near Lowestoft, William Barker started work at an early age. He emigrated to the USA. There he was radicalised by the trial and death of the Chicago Anarchists, becoming an anarchist himself. He returned to England and tried to earn a living in Lowestoft but his anarchist activities became known and he moved to Brighton. Here he “carried on a vigorous propaganda almost single-handed”. He moved to London in the 1890s. He spoke at Anarchist open air pitches in Hyde Park and elsewhere almost daily. Later on he started a newspaper business in Gorleston but his denunciation of the Boer War got him into trouble and he had to leave. He then moved back to Lowestoft and “eked out an existence” as an outside porter at the railway station. He “carried on his propaganda as long as his vitality lasted”. He died at the age of 77 on March 12th 1926 in Lowestoft (obituary in Freedom 1926)

Robert Peddie
Active in the Socialist League in London, Robert Peddie belonged to its anarchist wing. According to an obituary in Freedom in 1921 he was “a unique personality who knew no fear”. For over thirty years he was an active propagandists in all parts of London, but especially Hammersmith, Battersea and East Ham. He chaired the meeting to welcome Emma Goldman to London in 1895. “He was open and courageous in his style of speaking, and his outspokenness and sterling honesty always carried conviction. His homely humour was unique and always earned him large and attentive working-class audiences”. He died on Friday, July 1st, 1921. Efforts were made by anarchists to provide for his “delicate” wife and children. ”No propagandist was more devoted or made greater sacrifices”.

John (Jean) Bardin
Born in France , Bardin was active in the movement there until he was arrested by the police at a May Day demonstration and sentenced to 5 years imprisonment. On his release he went to Germany where he met and worked with Malatesta, also in exile. After living in Italy for 8 years, he moved to London and then Leeds. Here he married and settled down. According to an obituary by the Leeds Anarchist George Frost in Freedom, Feb-March 1926 he “entered into the spirit of the workers’ struggles, and was always willing to help with the propaganda.”. He died at the age of 70 in 1926. Frost reported that his death was “ a sad blow to the Leeds group, which has lost some of its most active comrades during the past few years”.

Fred Large
An anarchist from Walthamstow, house painter by trade. He was active in Aldred’s Industrial Union of Direct Actionists in 1907. Fred later moved to the Whiteway colony in 1914, when was was thirty three years old, and remained there until 1926, during which time his wife left him and moved to Leamington. He emigrated to Canada. ( Nellie Shaw, Whiteway, A Colony on the Cotswolds).

Nick Heath