George was the fourth son of Alice Thomlinson and John
Wesley and was born on the 21st March 1890 at 55
As a child he attended the
and at 12 years of age started work as a part time weaver in the cotton mill.
At 22 he was elected president of the Rishton Weavers
Association, and two years later became a councillor.
On the 4th September 1914 he married Ethel
Pursell, a mill worker at the time, and the following year left Rishton to live in
Farnworth on the edge of Bolton. Here he travelled the town with a horse and cart
selling herbal drinks made by his brother in law.
From 1916 to 19 he was an agricultural labourer. After
the war he returned to Farnworth and became involved with local politics, in
particular education. He was duly elected to Lancashire County Council in 1931.
In 1936, on the 5th August, George was adopted as
Labour candidate for Accrington.
George eventually returned to Rishton in 1937, this
time to pick up the post of Secretary of the Rishton Weavers Association, and was
soon County Councillor for Hyndburn.
By 1938 he was being elected for MP for Farnworth, and
during 1941 to 47 became Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Labour, joining
Winston Churchill's War Cabinet.
The Council Chairman's action in congratulating Mr. George
Tomlinson on his being chosen to introduce a Bill into the House of Commons was
endorsed and approved by the Council on the 9th December 1943.
From 1945 to 47 he became Minister of Works, which at
the time was responsible for much of the post war rebuilding, and from 1947 to 1951
became Minister of Education. After the war had finished George returned briefly to
Rishton, in 1948, to visit the mill were he had once worked only this time in his
official capacity for the Government. The Country was in huge debt after the war,
and Britain was depended on overseas supplies for 50% of its food, but half of these
were being paid for in dollars. Under the official slogan "Britain's Bread Hangs by
Lancashire's Thread", George was at the heart of putting cotton mills in the front
line of the battle to bring in vital
money from overseas trade. Thousands of Poles, Latvians, Hungarians, and
Ukrainians uprooted by the war were recruited to work in textiles, which was
suffering from a labour shortage, and a recruitment drive to bring back women who
had quit the mills to bring up families was launched.
In addition to his political career, George was a lay
reader for over 40 years.
Illness of Rt. Hon. G. Tomlinson, J. P., M. P., was spoke of the recent illness and subsequent relapses of Mr.
Tomlinson, and it was Resolved on the 14th August 1952, that a letter be forwarded to him
expressing the hope of the Council for a speedy and permanent
George died on 22nd September 1952, aged
62, and is buried at Golders Green Cemetery, London.
On the 25th September 1952, The Council
Chairman and several members of Council expressed regret at the passing of Mr.
Tomlinson, who had served on this Council for a period of years, and
had been the representative of the Hyndburn Division on the County
Council. Reference was also made to the useful work which he had
done while resident in this district, and of the high esteem in
which he was held by all with whom he came into contact.
In 1954 the Queen Mother was so taken with a book
wrote about George Thomlinson, that she sent it back to the author, Fred Blackburn,
M. P., who was a socialist M. P. himself, for the book to be signed. The Queen
Mother found the biographical book so interesting that she became an ardent fan of
Rishton boy done good……
From the Bolton Evening News.....
RUTH Kelly, MP for Bolton West, is not the first local politician
to become the country's Education Minister.
Mr George Tomlinson, who died in September, 1952, aged 62, was
the Labour MP for Farnworth for 14 years and was Minister of
Education from 1947 to 1951.
Born in Rishton, he began his working life as a half-timer in a
weaving shed at the age of 11.
He later lived in Farnworth for nearly 20 years, initially at 77
Carlton Street. He traded as a botanic beer brewer at Gladstone Road
and later at 6 Darley Street, where he had a temperance bar and wine
Mr Tomlinson gave valuable service to councils in Rishton and
Farnworth before his election to Lancashire County Council.
In 1938 he succeeded the late Mr Guy Rowson as MP for Farnworth
and after three years in the House he was appointed Parliamentary
Secretary to the Ministry of Labour.
After Labour's landslide victory in 1945 he was made Minister of
Works and in 1947 he succeeded Miss Helen Wilkinson at the Ministry
His obituary in the Bolton Evening News contains this passage:
"When Mr Tomlinson was chosen by Mr Attlee for the post of Minister
of Education he was able to bring to the administrative side of the
job a practical knowledge gained through public service.
"He had looked forward keenly to the opening of the new county
secondary school being built at Kearsley.
"It is to be named the George Tomlinson County Secondary Modern
School and will commemorate his service to education."
Mr Tomlinson was a Methodist local preacher for more than 40
years and and was said to have a gift for expressing his political
philosophy in terms of Christian socialism.
When he reached the heights of government he is quoted as saying:
"I am doing something I wanted to do more than anything on earth.
"I am trying to translate Acts of Parliament into deeds of
kindness for young people."
In December, 1992 there was a row when Tory-controlled Southall
Council decided to drop George Tomlinson's name when a schools
merger took place.
But the name has been retained in Bolton through several
I READ with interest the article in Looking Back on
Saturday, October 30 1999 in the Lancashire Evening Telegraph, about George
Tomlinson. He was my husband's uncle. They were both natives of Rishton, Blackburn.
Mrs Tomlinson and my mother-in-law were sisters, maiden name Purcell. The shop in
Darley Street, Farnworth, where George Tomlinson lived for a time was named Murton
Purcell's, not Hunt and Purcell, as stated in your article. Also, George Tomlinson
was certainly more than four feet six, as stated. This was apparent from the
photograph in Looking Back! I would say he was about the same height as the late
Harold Wilson. During the war, George was Minister of Works in Winston Churchill's
coalition government. After the war, on the death of Ellen Wilkinson, he became
Minister of Education in the Labour government. As you know, education was his
The Tomlinson's were friends of my parents, who were
also customers on his "pop" round. Daisy, their only child, left Farnworth a few
years ago to be near her family in Buxton, where she died last year. There are many
happy memories of the I. L. P. (Independent Labour Party) at Maxton Hall,
Bridgewater Street, Farnworth. George Tomlinson was indeed a great man, a man of the
people kind, helpful, dedicated to education, described in the House of Commons as a
great raconteur. It is most fitting that the school in Kearsley bears his name.
A. Ratcliffe, Farnworth, (address supplied)
A Hyndburn Chronology
by Paul Ladham
12th March 2004 (All our yesteryears)
Telegraph 8th November 1999.