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Jack Jones: A Memorial

Jack Jones CH MBE, who died on 21 April 2009, was one of the most prominent trade unionists in Britain during the 1970s and also a member of the Modern Records Centre's Advisory Board from 1979 to 2004.

The Modern Records Centre holds:

A few examples of documents from these collections are shown here. Click on the thumbnails to see a larger version of each document.

 

Invitation to the unveiling of the memorial to Jim Larkin, 1980

Invitation to the unveiling of the memorial to Jim Larkin, 1980

Jones was born in Garston, Liverpool on 29 March 1913. Although he was always known as Jack Jones, he was actually christened James Larkin Jones, after the Liverpool-born Irish socialist Jim Larkin (1867-1943), who founded the Irish Transport and General Workers' Union. Jones's father, a docker, had known Larkin when the latter also worked in the Liverpool docks.

In 1980, Jones was invited to the unveiling of the memorial to Larkin in O'Connell Street, Dublin.

[From Jack Jones's personal papers; document reference: MSS.625/Box 17]

First page of the transcript of a television interview with Jack Jones, 1982

First page of the transcript of a television interview with Jack Jones, 1982

The family was poor and when Jack was 14 he left school to become an apprentice with an engineering firm. When he was old enough he joined the TGWU, which he was later to lead.

[From Jack Jones's personal papers; document reference: MSS.625/Box 16]

The 19-year-old Jack Jones with friends at a Socialist Youth Camp on the Wirral, 1932

The 19-year-old Jack Jones with friends at a Socialist Youth Camp on the Wirral, 1932

The teenage Jones soon became involved in Labour Party politics and was secretary of his local ward party. He was also honorary secretary of the Liverpool Labour College and was elected to the Liverpool Trades Council.

[From Jack Jones's personal papers; document reference: MSS.625/Box 40]

A municipal election card for Jack Jones, 1937

A municipal election card for Jack Jones, 1937

In the lean years of the early 1930s, Jones lost his job when the firm he worked for went bankrupt. He obtained casual, poorly-paid work here and there, even moving to London for a while, and eventually managed to find permanent work on Garston Docks, where his father had worked before him. Here he became a well-known union activist, a shop steward, and a member of the branch committee and the TGWU area and national docks committees. At national meetings he first met General Secretary Ernest Bevin, who was to be instrumental in his later career. Jones was on the National Hunger March in 1934.

In 1937, Jones was elected to Liverpool City Council for Croxteth Ward, becoming the youngest member of the council.

[From Jack Jones's personal papers; document reference: MSS.625/Box 17]

Jack Jones with comrades in the Spanish Civil War

Fellow fighters in the Spanish Civil War, [1938]

Shortly after his election to Liverpool City Council, Jones decided to join the International Brigades fighting on the Republican side in the Spanish Civil War. He had served in a Royal Artillery unit of the Territorial Army since 1934 and been promoted to bombardier.

[From Jack Jones's personal papers; document reference: MSS.625/Box 40]

A more complete copy of this photograph, including Jack Jones himself, is included on the website of the Merseyside International Brigades Network.

15th International Brigade safe conduct pass issued to Commissar Jones, 1938

15th International Brigade safe conduct pass issued to Commissar Jones, 1938

After fighting as a common soldier, Jones was promoted to commissar (political and welfare officer) of the Major Attlee Company of the British Battalion of the 15th International Brigade.

[From Jack Jones's personal papers; document reference: MSS.625/Box 18]

Jack and Evelyn shortly after his return from Spain, 1938

Jack and Evelyn shortly after his return from Spain, 1938

In August 1938, Jones was shot in the shoulder during the fierce battle for Hill 481 during the Battle of the Ebro. After being in a number of Spanish hospitals, he was finally sent back to England. He returned to Liverpool Docks and Liverpool City Council. He also married Evelyn Brown, an old friend and fellow Labour activist and anti-fascist whose first husband had been killed serving with the International Brigades at the Battle of Brunete in 1937.

[From Jack Jones's personal papers; document reference: MSS.625/Box 40]

Jones with fellow trade unionists and executives after signing a deal for a 42½-hour week at the Standard Motor Co, Coventry, 1 July 1946

Jones with fellow trade unionists and executives after signing a deal for a 42½-hour week at the Standard Motor Co, Coventry, 1 July 1946

In 1939, Jones was appointed to his first full-time union job, as District Secretary in Coventry. He stayed there for sixteen years, overseeing the union organisation in the city during the Second World War, in which Coventry's automotive and aircraft factories contributed massively to the war effort. He was also District Secretary of the Confederation of Shipbuilding and Engineering Unions.

[From Jack Jones's personal papers; document reference: MSS.625/Box 40]

Jack Jones in a moment of relaxation at the TUC Conference, 1963

Jack Jones in a moment of relaxation at the TUC Conference, 1963

In 1955, Jones was given control of the whole Midlands organisation of the TGWU when he was appointed Regional Secretary of Region No.5.

[From Jack Jones's personal papers; document reference: MSS.625/Box 40]

Letter of congratulation on his appointment from Reg Prentice MP, 1963

Letter of congratulation on his appointment from Reg Prentice MP, 1963

In 1963, Jones was appointed to national office as Assistant Executive Secretary, the third most senior officer in the TGWU's hierarchy. During this period he acted as Assistant General Secretary from 1964 to 1966 while General Secretary Frank Cousins was serving in the Cabinet.

[From Jack Jones's TGWU papers; document reference: MSS.126/JJ/X/44]

TGWU press statement on Jones's election as General Secretary, 11 December 1968

TGWU press statement on Jones's election as General Secretary, 11 December 1968

In December 1968, Jack Jones was elected to succeed Frank Cousins as General Secretary of the Transport and General Workers' Union, with a large majority.

[From Jack Jones's TGWU papers; document reference: MSS.126/JJ/X/45]

'Trades Unionism in the Seventies', pamphlet by Jack Jones, 1970

Trades Unionism in the Seventies, pamphlet by Jack Jones, 1970

During Jones's General Secretaryship, the TGWU was one of the largest and strongest trade unions in the world. Jones himself was widely regarded as one of the most influential people in Britain.

[From Jack Jones's TGWU papers; document reference: MSS.126/JJ/X/59]

Jack Jones electioneering for the Labour Party in his home town of Garston, 1974

Jack Jones electioneering for the Labour Party in his home town of Garston, 1974

[From Jack Jones's personal papers; document reference: MSS.625/Box 40]

As a member of the ITF delegation to Peru, Jones meets Peruvian trade union leaders, 1974

As a member of the ITF delegation to Peru, Jones meets Peruvian trade union leaders, 1974

During his General Secretaryship, Jones travelled all over the world to liaise with other trade unions and gather information on trade union and labour practices.

[From Jack Jones's personal papers; document reference: MSS.625/Box 40]

'The Case for Pensioners', pamphlet by Jack Jones, 1978

The Case for Pensioners, pamphlet by Jack Jones, 1978

Jones retired from the TGWU in 1978, but he did not cease work. Instead he became president of the TGWU Retired Members' Association, working up to five days a week from an office at Transport House. He was offered a peerage, but refused as he had always voiced his disapproval of trade unionists going to the House of Lords.

[From Jack Jones's personal papers; document reference: MSS.625/Box 11]

Jack Jones lays a foundation stone as vice-chairman of the NPC, 2 December 1987

Jack Jones lays a foundation stone as vice-chairman of the NPC, 2 December 1987

Jones also became a national advocate for pensioners' rights, chairing the National Pensioners Convention from 1992 until 2000, when he became life president.

[From Jack Jones's personal papers; document reference: MSS.625/Box 40]

'Union Man', 1986

Union Man, 1986

In 1986, Jack Jones's autobiography, Union Man, appeared.

[From Jack Jones's TGWU papers; document reference: MSS.126/JJ/X/60]

Jack Jones at the unveiling of the International Brigades memorial, Barcelona, October 1988

Jack Jones at the unveiling of the International Brigades memorial, Barcelona, October 1988

Jones remained involved with Spanish Civil War veterans' associations. He was present at the unveiling of the memorial to the International Brigades in Barcelona in October 1988, on the fiftieth anniversary of their disbandment.

[From Jack Jones's personal papers; document reference: MSS.625/Box 40]

Letter of congratulations on Jones's 80th birthday from old adversary Ted Heath, 1993

Letter of congratulations on Jones's 80th birthday from old adversary Ted Heath, 1993

[From Jack Jones's personal papers; document reference: MSS.625/Box 17]

Jack and Evelyn Jones at Blackpool in a break from the TUC Conference, 1977

Jack and Evelyn Jones at Blackpool in a break from the TUC Conference, 1977

Evelyn Jones died on 22 December 1998, at the age of 85. She had constantly supported Jack in his work and had also continued her own campaigning activities, becoming prominent in the CND and serving as a Labour Party organiser and a magistrate.

[From Jack Jones's personal papers; document reference: MSS.625/Box 40]

Invitation to the TGWU party to celebrate Jack Jones's 90th birthday, 2003

Invitation to the TGWU party to celebrate Jack Jones's 90th birthday, 2003

In 2003, Jack Jones celebrated his ninetieth birthday. The TGWU held a party for him.

[From Bill Morris's papers; document reference: MSS.126/BM/1/3/6/11]