Fred Knee – ‘The mighty atom’

Fred Knee’s life serves as a fitting standard bearer for any who have pride in the county of Wiltshire, for the energy of Non-Conformism and the achievements of the early struggles for the rights of working people.

Fred’s parents came from Melksham (close to the cradle of the Knees) where his father, James, was a woollen weaver and his mother, Elizabeth, a weaver of silk. Fred was born over the border in Frome, Somerset in 1868. Even as an adult, Fred barely reached 5 feet in height and was plagued by ill health. Leaving school at 13, Fred was apprenticed to a Compositor in the Printing Industry. We are told that his interests included diary writing and the Congregational Church where he preached and sang. The powerful faith, which he developed at a young age, had, like Henry Knee in neighbouring Lacock (see Peterborough), granted him the church based education and the drive to move away from Wiltshire. It was not the church that drew Fred away but radical politics.

Fred moved to London and quickly became involved in support of the Social Democratic Foundation and the Co-operative Education Committee. In 1907 Fred shared a platform with a delegation from Russia led by Trotsky. Fred committed his energy and his considerable skills as an orator to support for the Workman’s National Housing Council. This and other responsibilities eventually led to his election as first secretary of the provisional committee of the London Labour Party. A blue plaque at 24 Sugden Rd, Wandsworth celebrates his achievements. Tragically, Fred died before he had realised his potential as a ground breaking politician and before the Labour Party became a national power. He is buried in Radlett, Herts.

Death of Fred KNEE Prominent British Socialist


With deep regret “The Maoriland Worker” learns of the death of Fred Knee, one of Britain’s front-rank Social Democrats and secretary of tho London Trades Council. Fred Knee was an active worker in the Socialist movement for many years. He was for a long period an executive member of the S.D.P., and secretary of its Parliamentary Committee. For a considerable time be was assistant editor of “Justice.” He was an original member of tho Battersea Borough Council, and served six years as an alderman, reaping as a reward The cordial dislike of both Progressives and Moderates. In recent years he had served as member of the Parish “Council of Radlett, Herts. . He paid particular attention to the subject of housing, and for many years acted as secretary of tne Workmen’s National Housing Council. He was a keen advocate of State’ aid for housing purposes; a policy which is now being adopted. Since the  war he has acted as secretary of the sub-committee on Housing of the Workers’ National War Emergency Committee. Ho succeeded James Macdonald as secretary of the London Trades Council, and had done much to bring this body once more to the front as representative of the London Labour Movement. He brought into existence the London Labour Party for municipal purposes, a task often attempted before, but without seccess, and its conferences so far indicate that the body has come to stay and will have considerable influence on the London government. His daughter died also during his illness, so that a double misfortune has visited the family. The London “Herald” says be sacrificed himself to the cause he loved. Tlie doctor’s verdict was: “He wore himself out, working a machine without oil.”



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