The Death of Gabriel Price – March 1934

‘Gabe’ as he was known to his co-workers was devoted to his fellow miners and represented them on the Yorkshire Miners’ Association. The son of a miner he took up employment at the age of around twelve, at Hemsworth Colliery, and notably was checkweighman at Frickley Colliery. The Yorkshire Evening Post reported on the 13th of August 1931 that in his younger years, following a strike in 1905 at Hemsworth Colliery, he was refused work by the colliery when the striking men returned, due to his actions in supporting the mens’ cause, leading to his move to Frickley Colliery. On the 24th of March 1934 the Yorkshire Evening Post stated that he had been left scarred by the eviction of his mother during the strike and promised himself that he would find a political party that would see to it that no other mothers would be evicted.  As a result he became a Socialist and in 1913 was elected to the Hemsworth Rural District Council, becoming Labour’s first candidate for the South Kirkby district. He was also a prominent member of the West Riding County Council among other roles.

On 10th October 1931 the Sheffield Independent reported that Gabriel Price had been selected as the prospective Labour candidate for the upcoming general election, with the health of John Guest failing. His selection was very popular, with just one voice dissenting among the 105 delegates in attendance. On the 23rd of November 1931 the Sheffield Independent reported that the Labour and Socialist Party threw a large celebration at Moorthorpe Miners’ Institute to celebrate the return of their man, Gabriel Price, as the Member of Parliament for the Hemsworth Constituency, at the general election. He had gained a majority of almost 14,000.

On the 24th of March 1934 the Lancashire Evening Post reported the tragic death of Gabe. After a period of sickness, reported as “an attack of nerves” for around six months, he had travelled to spend time with his son and was found drowned in the River Calder. Attempts to resuscitate him failed. On the 27th of March 1934 The Sheffield Independent reported that the inquest into his death had found that he had “drowned himself while temporarily of unsound mind”. On the day of his funeral, the 29th of March 1934, Frickley Colliery suspended work in tribute and thousands of miners marched from South Elmsall to Hemsworth, in a procession reported to have been a mile long. The Leeds Mercury reported that Gabriel Price was said to be South Elmsall’s ‘greatest son’ and that many attendees, who had travelled from across Yorkshire to attend, broke down in tears at the sight of his coffin being processed, accompanied by the Frickley Colliery band. The leader of the Labour Party, George Lansbury (no stranger to the area) sent a message to be read, as he was stuck in hospital with a broken thigh. The Sheffield Independent reported an estimated 20,000 people witnessed the funeral and noted the moving nature of events as the coffin approached the Miners’ Institute in Moorthorpe,  where he had held meetings and given speeches many times. The coffin was lifted from the hearse and relayed by teams of men along Barnsley Road for three quarters of a mile until it reached the Miners’ Institute. The crowds were so dense that traffic stopped for three hours, with miners from South Kirkby and Hemsworth collieries rushing from their shifts straight to attend, complete with blackened faces from coal dust.

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