George Sinfield was born on January 22nd 1899 in Hoxton, London, one of a family of twelve. He started work in 1913 as a tea packer, then worked in a locksmiths, and ended up as a piano key finisher. He was called up for the army in 1917 and served in the officers’ mess at various barracks until 1919, until he returned to his old job at Shenstone’s piano makers. This must have been John Shenstone & Sons, of Leytonstone in the east end of London, established in 1870.
After his return, George soon became a shop steward for Shenstone’s workers in the National Amalgamated Furnishing Trades Association. (This was a craft woodworking union at the time and, obviously, much of a piano is made from various woods; as for the keys that George worked on, the black ones were made from ebony, a general name for any very dense black wood, and the white keys were likely to have been spruce covered with strips of ivory.) The workers in his factory, given the choice, opted to come out in the 1926 general strike in solidarity with the miners. For whatever reason, Shenstone’s ceased trading in 1926 and George was unemployed for 18 months afterwards.
Already, in 1923, always keen on sport, he had became secretary of the London group of the British Workers Sports Federation. Now, sport occupied much of his time, but George Sinfield was also by now a YCL member, joining the Communist Party sometime in 1927 and remaining a solid member until his death. He was also, for a time, President of South London Sunday Football League, which contained many young men, both YCL and Labour Party members. This now took him into a new direction.
An invitation from the Russian Workers’ Sports Movement led to the British Workers Sports Federation sending a soccer team there, which was captained by George, in August 1927. On the return of the team, a struggle developed inside the BWSF between the YCL and the Labour Party. These differences were not merely political; the YCL saw sport as a purely amateur recreation, whereas some Labourites were not opposed to becoming semi-professional. (George is pictured here shortly after his return from the USSR and below in his later years as Industrial Correspondent for the Daily Worker and then Morning Star.)
In April 1928, an attempt to exclude Communists from the BWSF resulted in a tied vote but the rightist departed and George Sinfield ended up as the BWSF General Secretary. Under his leadership, the Federation prospered. Within a year, there were seven clubs affiliated across the country. Now under the leadership of the YCL, in 1929, the BWSF affiliated to the Red Sports International.
By the early 1930s, George had become involved in the National Union of Boxers, as his interest in sport widened. In 1935, he joined the staff at the Daily Worker, where he was to remain for the rest of his days. Around this time, George met his first wife, Hilda, through his sporting activities, which he kept up when he was not working. He and Hilda were married in 1937, although she died when their son was only two years old in 1941. George’s mother and sisters helped bring up the boy and, later, he married again, his second wife being Esme.
Sinfield became the Sports Writer and later the Worker’s Industrial Correspondent. It was in the latter role that he excelled. By the 1950s and 1960s, the heyday of Industrial Correspondents, George achieved the highest level of respect from his peers in the journalistic profession. His union, the NUJ, would make him an honorary life member. In the meantime, no TUC annual congress, or major union conference was complete without a report from George in the paper. He set a standard for a tradition that continued into the present with the Morning Star, which George wrote for in the first three years of its renaming. Sadly, he had a severe stroke in December 1969, from which he never really recovered. George Sinfield died in 1973.
Sources: “George Sinfield – his Pen a Sword: Memoirs and Articles collected by May Hill” (1975); Geoffrey Goodman, T&G Record November 1986; Ralph Bond, Morning Star 28th August 1986