Jane O’Neil Kent was born in Glasgow on 30th April 1926. Her father, Joseph Kent, was a shipyard worker who managed to find work as a tram driver when the yards were closed. Her mother, Chrissie Sinclair, was employed as an understairs maid, so the family’s experience of the 30s was better than most. Nonetheless, her parents were Communist Party member and the young Janey joined the Young Communist League at 14 years of age, where she met Norman Buchan. He was away for four years, serving as a tank driver in North Africa and Italy. They married when the war ended.
She was one of the organisers of the People’s Festival, the first fringe events that ran alongside the newly created Edinburgh Festival between 1949 and 1953. This was the start of a lifelong involvement with theatre groups, folk singers and other performers who mixed politics and entertainment.
She and Norman established The Ballads Club, an after-hours folk song society, at Rutherglen Academy, and later the original Glasgow Folk Club.
Although both left the Party over Hungary in 1956, for the rest of her life when Janey referred to “The Party”, she meant the Communist Party. Sixteen years of her own membership and a family background made their stamp.
Nonetheless, she made a considerable career for herself in Labour politics for thirty years from the mid-1960s. Causes that she took up over the years included South Africa and gay rights and she was an MEP from 1979 to 1994.
Norman was a Labour MP from 1964 until his death in October 1990.
Janey died in Brighton on the 14th January 2012 aged 85 years.
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