1990s >> 1996 >> no-1098-february-1996

Obituary: Johnny Edmonds

Jonathan Edmonds was born during World War I into an Anglo-Irish Catholic family, somewhere in the middle of ten children, dominated by a devout mother. When he joined the SPGB in 1940, relations became estranged; when he became a Conscientious Objector she excommunicated him.

Under direction he worked on farms in East Anglia during the War, fortunately in the company of other socialists.

After the war he returned to the building trade and was general foreman for a firm that converted an old country house into what became the headquarters of the Electrical Trades Union, in Hayes, Kent. He moved to them as Estates Manager for the rest of his working life, starting with the converting of a hotel in Rottingdean, Sussex into a nursing home and a larger one in Esher, Surrey into a college.

When I first met him at Lewisham Branch in January 1948, he was one of two members who said nothing in the branch because they both stammered badly. The other member was the late Mick Miller. But gradually and with great determination. Johnny overcame this impediment and became a branch delegate at Conference and Delegate Meetings, and eventually sat as Chairman at these proceedings. He served on the Executive Committee for a number of years and was General Secretary in 1955. He was also a member of the Premises Committee that found us our Clapham office when the Party was forced to leave Rugby Chambers.

Outside of the Party. Johnny’s main interest was music, both jazz and opera. Yesterday he would have played Jussi Björling and Elizabeth Schwarzkopf, today would be the turn of Fats Waller and Louis Armstrong, of whom he could give a fair imitation. I still owe him for introducing me to Erroll Garner. He and his first wife Betty were skilled ballroom dancers at which they earned medals and won competitions.

Possibly, due to his previous speech impediment, Johnny tended to speak loudly and forcefully, and some people misunderstood this. Underneath he was a caring and generous person. The sort of person who would have given his all to make Socialism work. After all, he spent his life in trying to achieve it.

Unfortunately his first marriage ended in divorce; a couple of years after which he married Sylvia Lawrence, who died a few years ago. They had no children. It is to the son and daughter of the first marriage. Karl and Frances, that we extend our condolences.

Ray Guy