South Yorkshire Times – Saturday 22 August 1942
Labour Stalwart Honoured
Mexborough Presentation to Mr. Ben Gethen
Mr. Ben Gethen in the armchair presented to him on Saturday. Also in the group are (left to right): Coun. G. M. Hanson, Mr. W. E. Jones, Mrs. E. Tait. Coun. J. Walton, Mr. J. T. Rowan, and Mr. Tom Williams, M.P., P.C.
Twenty-one years’ service as President of Mexborough Labour Party was recognised on Saturday by the presentation of an armchair to Mr Ben Gethen at a meeting of Labour Party and Trade Union representatives, at AdwIck Road School. Mexborough.
The presentation was made by the Rt.Hon. Tom Williams. Labour M.P. for the Don Valley and Coun. G. Hanson (chairman of the Mexborough party), presided, supported by Coun. J Walton (secretary) and Mr. Ernest Jones general secretary of the Yorkshire Mineworkers’ Association,
Coun. Hanson said that the meeting had been called to show some appreciation of the good work of Ben Gethen. Ben had been a member of the Mexborough party since its inception in 1918 and nobody had given more loyal support than he.
Mr. Williams said no function had given him greater pleasure than to attend to pay tribute to an old friend. “This Labour and Trade Union Movement of ours will exact the last ounce out of its representatives,” Mr. Williams said. “It is very rare that the rising generation appreciates what those who are now approaching life’s end have done, in an effort to make life more tolerable.” Ben Gethen was no longer a young man. He was born in an age where education was not fully developed. He started work at an early age but never lost acquaintance with the Bible and the truths taught to him in his childhood. He had not passed through High School or University but had preserved a balanced mind. It could be said that Ben Gethen represented an honest point of view.
The Labour Party was not very popular in the early days. There were incidents, before and after 1920 when many people felt like destroying him (Mr. Williams), like a black-clock (laughter), but Ben Gethen was always there behind him. He was pleased that the Mexborough party wished to show their appreciation of Ben’s services in a tangible manner. Ben loved nothing better than his country and his compatriots. He had always fought for a good and righteous cause and he hoped that the chair would be a perpetual reminder of his work and that he would live long to enjoy the luxury of remembrance.
Mr. Ernest Jones, general secretary of the Y.M.A. said he remembered in his early days making contact with Ben Gethen and with the passing of the years he had no reason to alter the high estimate of his value he had then made. Under the guidance and enthusiasm of Ben Gethen, Jack Rowan and other such stalwarts the present movement had grown into a strong, virile and healthy political organisation.
An Eventful Career
When a representative of the “South Yorkshire Times” interviewed Mr Gethen at his house on Monday he was found comfortably seating in the armchair presented to him. He now lives with his daughter at 35 Pitt Street.
Mr Gethen was born in Staffordshire in 1872 and in 1889 came to Denaby where he lived until turned out of his house in the “Bag Muck” strike of 1902–3. He and his wife then moved to Mexborough. Mr Gethen worked underground at Denaby until 1920.
During that time he went to Africa (he volunteered for the R.A.M.C.in the South African war) and in 1906 went to Canada “to make his fortune.”
He worked in the Rocky Mountains for about a year. As the fortune did not materialise returned to Denaby in 1907 and got married.
His activities in the Trade Union commenced at the age of 18 when his father introduced him to the Foresters Friendly Society in which he subsequently became Chief Ranger. When Mr Henry Baker, secretary of the Foresters became secretary of the Denaby Branch of the Yorkshire Mineworkers Association he invited Mr Gethen to become branch delegate and for over 34 years he acted in that capacity and also as president and committee member.
He retired from his work at the colliery five years ago. Mr Gethen said he was proud to think that during his 34 years service there was neither strike or lockout at the local pit apart from county or national dispute.
He was elected President of the Labour Party on its inception in 1918 and apart from six months he has held that position ever since.
Mr Gethen has been connected with the Fullerton Hospital for over 30 years as a member of the Board of Management and latterly as a trustee. He has been chairman of the Board on several occasions. Mr Gethen has composed several poems during his career as a trade unionist and these used to be sung by supporters of the party to popular tunes at election time.
He has also composed his own epitaph for his tombstone