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Ernie Tomkinson

Ernest Tomkinson was an engineering worker and member of the ASE, and later the AEU, in Openshaw No. 12 Branch. He was a member of the Openshaw Socialist Society, established in 1906 and, later, the British Socialist Party. Tomkinson lived around the corner from Harry Pollitt and they both went to British Socialist Party education classes together.

He was a shop steward at Joseph Whitworth's during the First World War. From 1924-1925 he was a delegate to Manchester & Salford Trades Council. Finding himself victimised by the employers and unable to find work, he became an insurance agent. He was married to a supportive wife, Mary Ellen Tomkinson.

Tomkinson became financial secretary of the Openshaw Socialist Hall, or the `St Margaret's
Hall Building Society’, as it formally was. He resisted attempts to take the use of the hall from the Communist Party after the general strike of 1926.  This was finally implemented in 1929, when he was too ill to attend a meeting.

Ernest Tomkinson was around 80 years old in 1960 when he paid this tribute in the Daily Worker to the memory of Harry Pollitt, on his death, stating: "Whenever there was a fight on, something that needed to be done for the Movement, Harry would be there."

His wife Mary Ellen Tomkinson, then 79 years old, stated: “They'll never be another Harry Pollitt....There isn't a speaker ever came to this area who could come anywhere near him. And for getting money out of an audience - well there was just nobody like him.”


Michael Walker


Source: Frow, The Communist Party in Manchester1920-1926, ll