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Everybody has childhood memories, and most of us love hearing those of others. Our parents and grandparents fascinate us with stories of a past that seems like ‘a foreign country’. Here are a few memories of Jack Jones, the Trades Union leader who died last year at the age of 96, about growing up in Garston:

Jack Jones

Jack Jones wrote about his childhood in his autobiography, ‘Union Man” (1986):

 

My home was in York Street, Garston, in the south end of Liverpool – a long street of poor and mean terraced houses. They had two rooms up and two rooms down, generally in a decaying state. They had been built some time in the last century – obviously with the minimum of cost – to house labour for the nearby factories and docks. The houses were infested by rats, mice, cockroaches and bugs. Our rent was five shillings a week, and even that was exorbitant!

From a child’s point of view the street had one advantage: out of the maze of working-class streets it was the nearest to the Mersey river. We walked past the copper works, the tannery, Grayson’s shipyard, the bobbin works (making wooden bobbins for the textile industry), a derelict glass works and King’s ship-breaking yard and there we were on the shore, a wonderful if muddy playground when we tired of playing our games in the the street.

 

 

There was no gas or electricity, so we had a paraffin lamp downstairs, but otherwise we used candles. I was the youngest of five children and my three brothers and I slept in one of the two bedrooms – and when we were very young, we were all in one bed.

 

None of the houses in the street had an inside lavatory or a bathroom – we bathed in a tin bath once a week, and that wasn’t easy, as the water had to be heated on our single coal fire. Every morning a lad would trundle a metal barrel on wheels round the street, shouting “Lant!” – which meant urine, for use in the pickling process in the local copper works. The women would go out and empty the contents of their chamber pots into the barrel.

 

I left school, aged 14, and went to work at a general engineering firm, making components for Graysons as well as Harland and Wolff, the shipbuilding and ship-repairing firms.

 

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From the BBC, 16 October 2010:

A plaque with the names of those from Merseyside who lost their lives fighting in the Spanish Civil War has found a permanent home in Liverpool.

The memorial, with the names of 27 local people, has been unveiled at the Unite building in Islington.

The city’s office block has been called Jack Jones in honour of the ardent trade unionist from Garston who was badly injured in the conflict.

Unite’s regional secretary Paul Finegan said: “We feel very privileged.”

There were approximately 180 men and women who left the safety of Merseyside to defend the Spanish government against the might of General Francisco Franco’s nationalist rebels between 1936 and 1939.

Jack Jones survived the war and became the leader of the Transport and General Workers’ Union. He was heavily involved with the unions until he died aged 96 in April last year.

Local historian, Danny Payne, said that although there were 27 names on the plaque, after further research it is believed that 30 people from Merseyside died fighting.

 

Jack Jones was christened James after James Larkin. For interesting stuff on Jack Jones and Larkin click here.

 

 

 

We’ll be looking at Ken Loach’s film Land and Freedom which focuses on the Merseyside Volunteers who fought in the Spanish Civil War. It stars the Liverpool actor, Ian Hart.

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