Joseph Thomas Deakin was born on August 11th, 1858 in Wednesbury, Staffordshire, the son of Charles, a blacksmith, and Marie, nee Middleton. He left school at the age of 12 to work for the next 20 years at the Wednesbury Goods Station as a ticket office worker.
He became secretary of the local branch of the Socialist League and was also secretary of the local Socialist Club at 18 Goodall Street in 1891, which he founded in 1887.
Deakin organised the successful campaign to elect Hayden Sanders as Social Democratic councillor to the Walsall town council in 1888. Sanders had been influenced by the US Knights of Labour but Deakin was now trending towards anarchism. He attended the international socialist congresses in 1889 and 1891. As a railway worker his staff pass may have enabled him to travel widely.
In 1892, he was one of those lured into the anarchist Walsall bomb plot by the agent provocateur Auguste Coulon. Despite contrary evidence, Deakin received a sentence of 5 years but with some remission was released on Christmas Eve, 1895.
His incarceration and a spell of enforced reading seems to have shifted his position away from anarchism. Over the next two decades, he become extremely active in more mainstream socialist politics, becoming a member of the British Socialist Party. In August 1920 he was first secretary of the Walsall branch of the Communist Party, being especially in favour of all-socialist unity.
He died on September 7th 1937.
Source: George Barnsby, Socialism in Birmingham and the Black Country, 1850-1939
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