Tributes to Chesterfield trade union stalwart

Tributes have been paid to a Chesterfield trade union stalwart who has died after a long battle with illness.

Thursday, 30th January 2020, 5:00 pm
Updated Friday, 31st January 2020, 10:27 am

Barry Johnson, former president of Chesterfield & District Trades Union Council, was described as an ‘accomplished orator’ whose ‘uplifting and enthusiastic’ speeches at the town’s May Day celebrations during the 1980’s and 1990’s will long be remembered.

He also worked at Chesterfield College from the mid-1970s until his retirement in 1991 and was a trustee of Derbyshire Unemployed Workers Centres (DUWC).

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Peter Heathfield, David Blunkett, Barry Johnson, Arthur Scargill and Eric Varley MP.

Colin Hampton, spokesperson for the DUWC, said: “He was an enthusiastic trade unionist throughout his working life. Barry had a long association with the mining industry, and gave unstinting support to the miners during the 1984-5 strike.

“He worked tirelessly in support of the miners both at Linby in Nottinghamshire near his home, and in Derbyshire where he worked.”

Barry, originally from Hucknall and born in 1931, was involved in politics from an early age, as his mother was active in the Unemployed Workers’ Movement.

As a delegate from the College Lecturers’ Union he became president of the Chesterfield & District Trade Union Council, helping to establish the Derbyshire Unemployed Workers’ Centres in the town.

Barry Johnson at the microphone.

Later, he was instrumental in setting up the Trade Union Safety Team and Derbyshire Asbestos Support Team. Barry also served on the Regional Executive of the Midlands TUC.

Mr Hampton said: “He stood down as a matter of principle when he retired from work, insisting that the president should be active in the workplace.”

On retirement he took the time to study for an MA in local history at Leicester University and produced two short books, one on the General Strike in Mansfield and also a study of the operation of the ‘butty system’ in pits.

Barry also played an important role in starting the Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire Labour History Society.

“His continued support for the Unemployed Workers Centres was crucial,” Mr Hampton added.

A Memorial Meeting will take place at the Winding Wheel Ballroom, Chesterfield, on Monday, February 17 at 11am. Contact 01246 270628 if you wish to attend.