Born 26th June 1908 in Stoneyburn, West Lothian, Jim Faulkner had the proverbial hard childhood. He won a scholarship at a local high school, walking there and back on a five mile, each way, trip every day. He left this school with a high commendation. At the age of 20, he went to Canada to seek work, where he encountered Communists in action and was greatly impressed with them.
Having left Canada in 1933, back in Scotland, he ended up walking all the way to Birmingham to seek work during the Depression. He began digging drains but also joined the Communist Party in 1934 and remained a member for the rest of his life, for a long period being the Chair of the Midlands District Committee of the Party. During the war, he was a sergeant in the army.
But he was best known as the long-term convenor for Bakelite, the plastics manufacturer, which he turned from a low-paid sweatshop in the 1930s into one of the best organised factories in Birmingham in the post-war years. A member of the the Transport & General Workers Union, he was chair of the Bakelite branch when he was barred from holding office at the height of the cold war due to his refusal to give up his Communist party membership.
He stood for the parliamentary seat of Yardley for the Communist Party in the general election of 1950.
Jim was a particular friend and mentor of Moss Evans, later that union’s General Secretary, during his early days as the Engineering Trade Group officer in the Midlands.
Despite the ban on formally holding office during the 1950s and early 1960s, he nonetheless remained the de facto key figure in both Bakelite and the T&G’s presence in the engineering sector in Birmingham during that period. Under Frank Cousins’ leadership of the T&G, Faulkner was allowed – despite the continued existence of the ban to which a blind eye was turned by the regional leadership – to play a leading role in union affairs at a district regional level.
Together with Sid Easton, during the 1950s and 1960s, Jim Faulkner also played a pivotal role in the Communist Party’s “Transport Advisory”, its development of a nascent Broad Left in the T&G and the campaign to lift the bans on Communists holding office in the T&G. He died in March 1982, being predeceased by his wife, Dot, and was survived by two sons.