Dash Jack

Jack Dash

Born in south London in 1906, Jack Dash was an orphan, who left school at 14, becoming a builder, a fire-fighter and then a docker. Inspired by the novels of American author Jack London, he joined the Communist Party in 1936. Jack became effectively the unofficial leader of London dockers and, through that, a significant figure in the national Port Workers Liaison Committee.

He became relatively well-known as a household name by the 1960s as one of the most powerful of the Communist rank-and-file trade union leaders arising from his role as chair of the port shop stewards in the London docks. Due to the 18-year ban on Communists holding office in the Transport and General Workers Union, which lasted virtually until his retirement. 

Having been involved in every London dock strike from 1945 to 1969, he was vilified by the reactionary press in much the same way as others who followed him were.  The media could not accept the simple fact that it was the fear of casualisation returning, which fuelled the readiness of dockers to act in their self-defence. In response, Jack far-sightedly repeatedly warned that it was the short-sightedness of the employers that would lead to the demise of London as a major port.

In retirement, Dash became an official London tourist guide in the 1970s and an advocate for pensioners’ rights. He also spent some of his time quite successfully painting and sculpting, being commemorated in 1990 by the naming of “Jack Dash House”, a municipal office building on the Isle of Dogs, which holds regular exhibitions of contemporary art from Britain and all over the world. Jack published his autobiography, Good Morning, Brothers!, in 1969; the title referring to his invariable opening of mass meetings, often captured by television news. He died in London at the age of 82 on 8 June 1989. 

In his autobiography, he said that the only epitaph he wanted on his tombstone:

 “Here lies Jack Dash
All he wanted was
To separate them from their cash”

Source: Undated Morning Star cutting circa June 8 1989