John Jones obituary

Other lives: Teacher, lifelong member of the Labour party and firm believer in the power of education

The character and career of my grandfather John Jones, who has died aged 87, were defined by his fight to secure access to education for those who might otherwise have been denied it.

Born in the Welsh valleys, John grew up during the depression. A hunger for education enabled him and his family to climb out of poverty. This experience of the reformative power of free education and healthcare gave him faith that life could be fairer, and inspired in him a commitment towards the improvement of society, both in his teaching and throughout an active retirement.

John trained as a teacher immediately after the second world war, in Coventry, where he met his lifelong partner, Mary. She took him back to Manchester, where he was proud to spend most of his life working in some of the city's most disadvantaged communities, helping others make the escape to better lives.

John worked in junior schools in Salford and Cheetham Hill, before becoming headteacher of St James's school in Collyhurst from 1970 until his retirement in 1980. He possessed what the journalist John Humphrys recently identified as a key quality of exceptional headteachers, "the charisma to induce in kids both terror and enthusiasm".

Outside teaching, John was active in the co-operative movement for 42 years and was a senior magistrate on the Manchester bench. At their local Methodist church, John and Mary tirelessly recruited members for the campaigns of Amnesty International, CND, Christian Aid, Unicef and the anti-apartheid movement. Always mindful of people fleeing persecution, they often made their home a refuge to overseas visitors who needed assistance and support.

A devoted Labour supporter, John was a gifted orator and debater and stood for selection in the Blackley constituency of Manchester in the early 50s but, despite personally rejecting communism, was refused for having too many "fellow travellers" among his friends.

John was proud of Labour's many achievements but felt betrayed by Tony Blair and was appalled by the decision to go to war in Iraq. He never forgave New Labour for, in his view, misappropriating socialist ideals, losing historical perspective and pandering to the interests of the rich at the expense of a more equal society. He is survived by Mary, their children Richard and Sara, and five grandchildren, Alice, Richard, Luke, Rachel, and myself.

Anna Jones

The GuardianTramp

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