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Prendergast Jim

Jim Prendergast

 

Born in 1914, Prendergast joined the Communist Party in Ireland at a very young age. He started his working life by being an art critic in a Dublin newspaper. He studied at the Lenin School in Moscow and enlisted in the International Brigade to fight in Spain, where he was promoted to being a political commissar. Having emigrated to Britain to find work in 1936, he joined the British Communist Party and stood with many others in the east end of London to confront Mosley and his Blackshirts.

 

During the Second World War he was a volunteer in a group of men under the leadership of Professor Haldane who were engaged in developing under water suits for the armed forces and then he joined the RAF.

 

Following the war, he became active amongst the resident Irish community in London. Having commenced working on the railways, he became a guard at Marylebone. He became a leading figure in the railworkers’ union, the NUR (today the RMT) and was soon elected to be an NUR Branch Secretary and then to the Executive Committee of the NUR.

 

It was Jimmy who initiated the end of a colour bar in employment at London railway stations in 1966, which had persisted for 12 years. The existence of a bar had been made public by Prendergast, who was a local official at Marylebone. One of his members, a Mr Xavier, an experienced guard, had received a letter telling him that he had been rejected for a job at Euston due to a ban on `coloured men’ being employed as guards and porters there. (At St Pancras it was just limited to guards and supervisory grades that porters could be promoted to.) Guards at Euston were getting from £10 to £15 a week more than those elsewhere. Not only was Xavier offered the job, British Railways agreed that no ban would apply anymore.

 

Jim died 31st May,1974, following a fall down the steps outside his home in St. Johns Wood Terrace.

 

Jim’s wife, Mollie, was also politically active, and she produced a volume of political memoirs.

 

Sources: The Guardian 16th July 1966 and 16th July 2010; Michael O'Riordan “Connolly Column - The Story of the Irishmen who fought for the Spanish Republic 1936-1939” (1979);