Dead Socialist Watch, #291

John William Gott, freethinker. A tailor and draper in Bradford, he became secretary of the Bradford branch of the National Secular Society in 1891 and by 1900 was editor and publisher of Truth Seeker, a monthly freethought periodical that ran to at least 1915. Around 1909 he founded the Freethought Socialist League; in 1911 he was jailed for blasphemy for his Rib Ticklers, or, Questions for Parsons, though he was released early after his wife Ada died following a stroke. Various convictions followed for selling profane books, blasphemous libel, obstruction, and sending obscene books (“How to Prevent Pregnancy”) through the post. A final conviction for blasphemy in 1921 (nine months with hard labour) was the last time anyone in Britain was imprisoned for blasphemy. As the ODNB notes, “The works for which he was imprisoned seemed harmless a century later.â” Born at Cowling, Yorkshire 17 January 1866, died in Blackpool, 4 November 1922.

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