James Maley was born on February 19, 1908. His father, Ned, was from Mayo and his mother, Anne Sherlock, a Glaswegian. Raised in Stevenson Street in the Calton district of Glasgow’s east end, the young Jimmy attended St Alphonsus. An older brother died young, leaving Jimmy, an older sister, Annie, two younger brothers, Willie and Timmy, and a younger sister, Mary. Jimmy worked from an early age helping his mother – a hawker – wheel her barrow around Glasgow.
In 1926, during the General Strike, hospitalised with pneumonia, Jimmy had part of his lung removed. Judged to be at death’s door, he was given the last rites, but later recalled that heard the sound of distant music and pulled through. In 1929-30, Jimmy left Glasgow for Cleveland, Ohio, where three Irish aunts had emigrated but soon returned. In 1932, he joined the Communist Party, emerging as a noted public speaker at Glasgow Green. Whenever he walked along Argyle Street, trams tooted their horns, acknowledging him.
After hearing the famous Communist leader, Dolores Ibarruri, or La Pasionaria as she was better known, on the radio, Maley went to Spain in 1936 to fight for the Republican government against the insurgency by fascists under Franco. He left with a party of Glaswegians who travelled to London before embarking on a boat train to Paris and then Spain. He was in action at the Battle of Jarama in February 1937, part of a heavy-machine-gun company, covering the retreat for three days. During the battle of Jarama, Maley and his machine-gun company were left in no-man’s land, low on ammunition. They hid among the olive trees for two days before being captured by fascist troops; subsequently, Maley was sentenced to 20 years imprisonment.
News of his capture reached home in an astonishing way; for several months, his mother – who lived in the Carlton district of Glasgow – had heard nothing, but then one day, amazingly, she saw her son paraded with other prisoners on a newsreel shown at the local cinema. It was the last showing of the film, which was then sent on to Paisley. Mrs Maley travelled there and persuaded the projectionist to clip out a frame, which she was able to keep as a memento until her son returned home later in 1937, after being released in a prisoner swap.
At his mother’s request, he didn’t return to Spain but, back in Glasgow, Jimmy continued to speak on public platforms, often ones he carried under his own arm. Before the war he worked in Parkhead Forge, leading a strike. When war broke out, he served in Burma and India, where he made contact with Communists newly released from prison.
He worked in Maryhill Barracks as a telephone operator until 1947, walking home each night to his mother’s house in Shettleston. Around this time, he went to the Highlander’s Institute, a popular social venue, where he met his future bride. The 40-year old Jimmy had asked the 26-year old Anne Watt from Cowcaddens to dance and never let her dance with anyone else. Jimmy proposed within two weeks, and in March 1948 they were married. Within the next 14 years they had nine children together.
In August 1985 at the age of 77 Jimmy was arrested whilst selling an Irish Republican newspaper at an demonstration in the Lanarkshire town of Carfin. He was subsequently charged under Section 2 of the Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA) that: �He carried and displayed a document entitled `Ireland’s War’ in such a way and circumstances as to arouse reasonable apprehension that he was a member or supporter of a proscribed organisation, namely the IRA, contrary to Section 2 of the PTA.’
He was held in custody over the weekend despite the lack of facilities to cater for someone of his age. His case was finally heard at Hamilton Sheriff Court where, as well as being charged under the PTA, he was also charged with a Breach of the Peace. Jimmy pleaded not guilty to both charges and his trial was fixed for February 1986. A fulsome campaign was mounted to have the charges dropped and he subsequently received a letter from the Procurator Fiscal�s office conceding this.
In 1996, Maley returned to Spain for the first time since his deportation, to take part in a BBC radio documentary. James Maley died, aged 99, on 9th April 2007, having firmly been a life-long Communist.
Sources: Morning Star 11th April 2007; firstname.lastname@example.org; The Herald, 14 April 2007
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