John James Charlesworth, always known as Jack, was born in 1900 at the family home of 4, Howitt Street, Heanor, in the Nottingham district. His father was a hosiery dyer’s sorter, a semi-skilled job involving the separation of the raw textiles into bundles of varying quality.
One of Jack’s earliest opinion-forming recollections was of seeing a family being driven to the workhouse in the early years of the 20th century: “I remember all the neighbours turning out to see this wife and about four children being driven to the workhouse…”, he told Peter Wyncoll (see separate entry) in a 1969 interview.
Despite becoming a skilled hosiery worker, Charlesworth’s years before 1926 were extremely lean ones, with much experience of short time dominating.
He was an enthusiastic seller of Labour papers, such as The Herald, The Clarion, and Reynolds News in the Market Square and outside cinemas but recalls the official leadership of Labour locally as being “really reactionary”. This came to a head during the general strike of 1926 when Jack was the editor of an ILP newssheet. It was not long before he had left the ILP to join the Communists in 1930 in common with much of the ILP’s left wing. Jack Charlesworth stayed with the Party until his death.
He was a dedicated general secretary for the Nottingham Hosiery Finishers’ Association. He had been president of the union from 1934, but stood down in 1942, being but overwhelmingly elected as general secretary in 1947, taking 1,007 votes to his nearest rival’s 124. Under his leadership, membership grew from 1,768, to 2,708 by 1951, and 3,200 by 1969.[ In 1955, the union affiliated to the TUC for the first time.
Charlesworth became the highly respected long-term Secretary to the Nottingham and District Trades Council from 1950.
From 1969, half a dozen skilled craft hosiery unions, including his own which was first in, merged gradually with the National Union of Hosiery and Knitwear Workers (today part of the “Community” union)
Jack died in 1993.