Obituary: Freddie James
Obituary: Freddie James
Freddie James, who was a Party member for many years, died on 29 August 1992, at the age of 67.
He joined the Party in 1948 and for many years was an active member of Hackney Branch, Although he did not continuously maintain his membership, drifting out and into the Party again at various times, he maintained his links with the Party and supported the party case until his death. He had a somewhat anarchic attitude towards payment of dues and replying to letters, and could rarely bring himself to ask for his dues to be waived, and thus became lapsed from the Party from time to time. However, he never left because of disagreement.
In the 1950s and after, he was a prominent and active member, frequently speaking at open-air venues in Hackney and elsewhere. He was also frequently to be seen at Head Office and Party meetings generally and was often active at Conference and Delegate Meetings. Fred had an aggressive and rumbustious style, which did not endear him to everyone, but he always displayed an underlying good humour, which softened many of his barbed comments.
Fred was also active for the Party in the Provinces, and for some time in the 50s stayed in Nottingham where he spoke at outdoor meetings and was active in the local branch. He also took an active interest in left-wing and anarchist meetings and was frequently to be found at meetings organized by other parties and groups, where he determinedly put forward the party case. He stood as a Socialist Party candidate in Bethnal Green in elections to the old London County Council in 1958.
Freddie James (as he was usually called) was a lifetime student of politics, history, psychology and social sciences generally. In his Hackney branch days he gave lectures and conducted classes on such topics as ancient society and anthropology. His former home in Weymouth Terrace, Hackney, was for many years a centre for party members and others to have discussions and arguments, drink tea and play chess. His last home, a flat near Euston Station, had every room and passageway crowded with the thousands of books that reflected his lifetime interests.
Apart from politics, Fred had consuming interests in psychology and music. He studied the guitar with Len Williams at the Guitar Centre, and himself became a teacher of the guitar, at GLC classes and at the City Literary Institute. He also maintained his enthusiasm for chess, and in recent years frequently had friends dropping in on him for a game. He also helped to found a community arts group in Kentish Town, and was treasurer of this group when he died.
About two years ago he was diagnosed as having cancer of the oesophagus, and underwent drastic surgery. During his periods of hospitalization he maintained a cheerful and lively demeanour and his hospital bed was often surrounded by relatives, friends and acquaintances, enjoying his company. He faced his frequently painful disabilities with remarkable courage and fortitude, and when there was a recurrence of his illness shortly before his death, he continued to display a calm but cheerful presence.
Fred will be much missed in the many fields in which he became well-known. A memorial meeting, to celebrate his life, was held on 25 October at Lauderdale House, Highgate, which was attended by party members who knew him, former members and many others.
A. W. I.