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British Industrial History

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John Burns (1858-1943)

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John Burns (1858-1943)

son of Alexander Burns

1943 Obituary [1]

The Right Hon. JOHN BURNS, P.C., was born in London on 20 October 1858 and died in a London hospital on 24 January 1943.

On leaving school he served an apprenticeship in the engineering works of Mr. Thomas Horner, engineer and millwright, of Millbank, Westminster; under his father, Alexander Burns, of Ayrshire, who at one time was Chief Engineer on boats plying between Holyhead and Kingstown.

He devoted himself to the improvement of the conditions of the working classes and in 1889 he took a leading part in the dock strike, and particularly in the organization of relief among the strikers and their families. In the same year he was elected to the first London County Council, being the only working class member, and his fellow engineers raised a maintenance fund so that he could devote himself to local government work. The "fair wages" clause, which became general in local government contracts, was drafted by him.

In 1892 he was elected Labour Member of Parliament for Battersea.

In 1905 he attained Cabinet rank as President of the Local Government Board and retained that office until 1914, when he was transferred to the Board of Trade. On the outbreak of war in 1914 he resigned his office and retired into private life, although he retained his seat in Parliament until the General Election in 1918.

Mr. Burns was elected an Honorary Member of The Institution on 1 December 1914.

In 1881 he married Miss Charlotte Gale, and had one son, who died in France in 1922 as the result of war service. Mrs. Burns died in 1936.

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