Harry Quelch was born 30 January 1858 in the small town of Hungerford, Berkshire, England. He was the son and grandson of a village blacksmith; his maternal grandfather had been an agricultural laborer.
Circumstances forced the eldest child, Harry, into the world to contribute to the family's maintenance from a very young age, with Harry taking his first job at the age of 10. He worked variously in an upholsterer's shop and later for a local dairyman and cattle dealer. At the age of 14 he left Berkshire for good to make his way in the big city of London.
In London the boy worked a succession of jobs in a biscuit factory, in a tannery, and in an iron foundry before landing a better job as a packer in a paper warehouse. This last job allowed the boy sufficient free time to teach himself French. It was in this language that he first read the writing of Karl Marx as part of the process of his self-education. It was in this way that he was converted to the ideas of Social-Democracy. He also later taught himself German, the de facto official language of international socialism.
Quelch married in 1879 and soon fathered a family of his own. His son, Tom, followed in his father's footsteps as a radical political activist, becoming a founding member of the Communist Party of Great Britain.
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