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SAMUEL Bamford was a radical whose reputation was always slightly more impressive than the reality.

But he was, nevertheless, a much-loved Lancashire figure who commanded respect throughout his long and colourful life.

Born in Middleton near Oldham in 1788 into a muslin-weaving family, Sam Bamford's main claim to fame was his writing, poetry and prose in support of the working man. Works like Passages in the Life of a Radical (1843) and Early Days (1849) found a ready readership among Lancashire textile workers.

Bamford was never a fire-and-brimstone radical. He was cautious and, certainly later in life, had too-healthy a respect for authority, insisting that reform must be achieved from within the law. Thus, although he launched a Hampden Club in Middleton in 1816, he poured cold water on that organisation's plans for the Blanketeers' March from Manchester to London in 1817, persuading Middleton workers - in the event sensibly - not to get involved.

And he shrewdly shunned a visitor to his home who tried to talk him into taking part in an uprising which would "Make a Moscow of Manchester" - an allusion to an event in the Napoleonic Wars a few years earlier. He suspected, probably correctly, that the man was a Government agent.

However, Bamford's respect for authority did not prevent him making enemies within the establishment, and at one point he was forced to go on the run for a while.

In August, 1819, Bamford led the Middleton contingent to St Peter's Fields, Manchester, for what was intended to be a peaceful reform meeting which was to be addressed by Henry

SAM BAMFORD as a young man (right) and his wife Mima, photo-graphed in old age.
'Orator' Hunt
. Magistrates panicked, read the Riot Act and ordered in the military. The ill-trained, part-time and possibly inebriated Manchester Yeomanry charged into the huge crowd, hacking to death 11 civilians with their sabres and wounding 500 more in what was to become known, universally, as the Peterloo Massacre.

Although he was not even on the platform, preferring to stay with his Middleton colleagues in the crowd, Bamford was arrested and jailed for a year.

Afterwards, disillusioned by the lack of help and support given him during his time of need, and dismayed by the way Hunt was prepared to desert his friends to save his own neck, he confined his reform activities to writing and for a time held a minor government post. Bamford died in 1872 and is buried in Middleton graveyard.