Arthur Lewis Horner is a Welsh trade union leader, Federationist politician, and General Secretary of the Union of Britain.
April 5, 1894 in Merthyr Tydfil, Great Britain (today part of the Union of Britain)
Union of Britain
Arthur Horner was born in Merthyr Tydfil, South Wales, the eldest surviving son of a family of seventeen children, only six of whom lived past infancy. Horner's father was a chargehand porter in the railway goods station. His maternal grandfather and two maternal uncles were miners. His earliest employment was as a grocer’s assistant and delivery boy in the coalfield communities around Merthyr. After a short spell in the Merthyr railway goods station, he was drawn into coal mining employment in 1915 due to his growing interest in the political radicalism of trade union activists in the nearby Rhondda coalfield.
Early political allegiances
Horner's first political affiliation was socialist and Keir Hardie, who had been elected MP for Merthyr Tydfil in 1900, his first political hero. After he had joined the Independent Labour Party in Merthyr, Horner moved to the colliery village of Ynyshir in the Rhondda where he became a protégé of Noah Ablett, a trade union militant, executive member of the South Wales Miners Federation, and convenor of the local classes in Marxist education which Horner attended. During this period Horner gradually relinquished the strong Christian faith of his teenage years during which he had been baptised into the Churches of Christ. This small but intellectually inclined Protestant sect had recognised his potential talent as a preacher and financed a period of training for him as a lay evangelist from which he gained considerable confidence in public speaking and debate.
Opposing the Weltkrieg from the standpoint of class solidarity, in 1917 he fled to Dublin to avoid arrest for ignoring his call-up papers. Horner was a supporter of demands for Irish home-rule and became involved with the rebel factions from the 1916 Easter Rising, joining the Irish Citizen Army. On his return to Britain he was arrested by the authorities for avoiding conscription and sentenced to six months hard labour at Wormwood Scrubs. After he had served his sentence he was refused the amnesty made available after the war to most conscientious objectors, rearrested and sent to Camarthen jail. The SWMF campaigned for his release and to this end secured his election in absentia as checkweighman at Mardy Colliery, one of the most militant collieries in the Rhondda valleys. To add to the pressure on the authorities Horner began a hunger strike, refusing both food and water. After six days this combination of tactics secured his release in May 1919. Horner then went on to play an active role in the 1925 British Revolution.