Born in Hanky Park, Salford, Arnison began working life as an apprentice plumber, aged 14, in 1939 and eventually became the long-standing Northern correspondent of the Morning Star.
He had a lively youth; in France, gendarmes arrested him and took him to a police station to await escort back to a ferry for Dover. He visited Hiroshima in 1946, after the US had dropped the devastating bomb. He was also part of the embattled British delegation to the World Festival of Youth in Berlin in 1951. Jim was a Communist Party full timer for much of the 1960s.
He became especially involved in and aware of the situation in Northern Ireland after a relative of his wife in Belfast who had, unknown to them, been a volunteer in the Provisional IRA, was shot and killed in 1972; this led to years of involvement in political work related to British imperialism’s role in Ireland.
Arnison was a severe critic of revisionism in the Communist Party and backed the Morning Star in the divide between camps. But he was critical of some courses adopted by the opposition and published his autobiography, “Decades”, in 1991.
Source: Morning Star February 26th 1991
Obituaries of Jim Arnison by John Green follow:
1) Friday September 21, 2007, The Guardian
For 26 years from 1964, Jim Arnison, who has died aged 82, was northern correspondent for the Daily Worker (after 1966, the Morning Star). He was never happier than when covering the industrial battles of the era.
One of the longest and most dramatic was the Roberts-Arundel strike in Stockport, Greater Manchester, which erupted into violence in February 1967 after the American owner sacked 145 employees and advertised for non-union labour. For 18 months, Jim became a fixture on the picket line and at the local engineering union office. His book, The Million Pound Strike (1970), gave a blow-by-blow account of the dispute.
Similarly, his book, The Shrewsbury Three: Strikes, Pickets and “Conspiracy” (1974), documented the injustice of a case the previous year in which 24 building workers were tried for “conspiracy to intimidate and unlawful assembly” and three of them, Des Warren (obituary, May 1 2004), Ricky Tomlinson and John McKinsie Jones, were sent to prison. During the miners’ strikes of 1974 and 1984-85, Jim was working from dawn to dusk.
Born in Salford, Greater Manchester, Jim topped the class in English and French at his secondary school. He recalled how at home he would listen to his trade unionist father passionately arguing politics and union issues. Like other local youngsters, he suffered the illnesses of poverty; rickets meant he wore leg splints for several years.
In 1939, aged 14, he went into the building industry – completing his education in Salford‘s excellent public library. His later support for the Working Class Movement Library was fired by that experience. From 1943 he served as a radar operator on the light cruiser HMS Argonaut in the Atlantic, Greece and, in 1945, Japan, where he visited Hiroshima. “It was like walking through a gigantic cemetery,” he wrote in his autobiography, Decades (1991).
After the war he joined Ex-Service-men for Peace and later CND. Back in the building trade, a member of the Communist party and working as a plumber, he became a shop steward, and later president, of his local union branch. In the late 1950s and early 60s, he was active in the north-west’s opposition to the resurgence of Sir Oswald Mosley’s neo-fascist movement.
Honest, forthright, generous and humorous, Jim was universally respected. I first met him in the 1970s while working in television documentaries. He was unstinting in his help and advice on industrial and trade union affairs, despite me being a “softie southerner”.
Jim died shortly before his wife Millie, who was already ill with cancer. He is survived by three daughters, 10 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
2) Jim Arnison was born in 1925, a year before the General Strike, in that “dirty old town” of Salford, as characterised by Ewan MacColl, a fellow pupil at his school, in his song I’m a Ramblin’ Man.
The family lived in a two up, two down, terraced house in Hanky Park, which was described so evocatively in Walter Greenwood’s classic novel Love on the Dole. Jim remembered Greenwood visiting the family while he was collecting material for his novel.
As a child, he suffered the usual illnesses of poverty – diphtheria and rickets. As a result, he wore splints on his legs for several years. He describes these years graphically in his autobiography Decades.
At school, he was top of his class in English and French and, today, he would undoubtedly have gone to university. But, in 1939, he left school aged 14 and went to work in the building industry.
He completed his education at Salford’s library, devouring the novels of Upton Sinclair, John Steinbeck and Howard Fast. As a young man, he joined the Communist Party.
Then, in 1943, he joined the forces to fight fascism as a radar operator on HMS Argonaut. In action, he witnessed the reality of war and the unnecessary slaughter of German POWs. He saw action in the Atlantic, Greece and the Pacific.
Experiencing the devastation of Hiroshima in 1945 turned him into a lifelong campaigner for peace and against nuclear weapons. He became a leading member of Ex-Servicemen for Peace and, later, CND.
Returning to the building trade as a plumber, he soon became a shop steward and later president of his local plumbers union branch. He went on to play a leading role in trade union affairs in north-west England.
During the ’60s, when Mosley and his fascist Union Movement attempted a comeback, Jim helped organise North-West anti-fascists and mass opposition to Mosley’s marches.
In 1964, he began working for the Daily Worker and its successor the Morning Star. He refused to leave his beloved north, considering anyone who lived south of that city a “softie southerner” and so became the paper’s only northern correspondent for 26 years.
He concentrated on industrial affairs and covered the volatile and dramatic industrial battles of the 1960s and ’70s.
The Roberts Arundel strike, one of the longest, largest and most dramatic trade union disputes for decades, exploded in violence in February 1967. Jim was on the picket line or in the local AEU union office almost every day during that bitter struggle. His book The Million Pound Strike commemorates that dispute.
The building workers’ strike against LUMP labour in the building industry ended in 1972. A year later, 24 Shrewsbury building workers were convicted of “conspiracy to intimidate and unlawful assembly.” Three of those, Des Warren, Ricky Tomlinson and John McKinsie Jones, were imprisoned in a clear case of Establishment victimisation. Jim’s book The Shrewsbury Three, documents that injustice.
He was never happier than when covering these disputes. During the miners’ strikes of 1974 and 1984, he was out from dawn to dusk, following the pickets or in the local strike headquarters.
He was respected by all who came into contact with him, as an honest and generous man, with a great sense of humour.
Jim Arnison died unexpectedly in Salford hospital on Sunday August 19.
Morning Star Friday 28 September 2007
Jim Arnison was born on 5th May 1925 into a family where his father became active after listening to a fascist speaker in the ’30s and his mother was an engineering shop steward, he learned the facts of the class struggle early in his life. His membership of the Communist Party was a logical development.
He was apprenticed as a plumber and served in the navy during the war, Both experiences sharpened his understanding which was increased when he married Milly Bradbury, whose Irish connections drew him into the “troubles” in Belfast. Jim and Milly’s three girls and the grandchildren enjoyed the warmth and devotion which their family life generated.
In 1964, Jim changed jobs and became the northern industrial correspondent for the Daily Worker and, later, the Morning Star, a position which he enjoyed thoroughly. He wrote several significant accounts of important events, eight of which were published as books. The most important was his account of the trial of the Shrewsbury Three. As a building worker himself, he followed and reported the situation with rare insight.
Towards the end of July this year, material that Jim had collected from Belfast and deposited in the Working Class Movement Library in Salford was mounted and displayed. The family, including those who had enjoyed the hospitality of the Maze prison, joined with trustees and friends of the library to listen to Jim’s opening address, which he delivered with typical humour. It was a happy and memorable occasion.
Jim wrote his life story in the autobiography Decades.
He died on 19th August 2007
Morning Star Monday 27 August 2007