JOHN CUMMINGS MP
6th July 1943 / 4th January 2017
I regret to announce that my mate John Cummings has died. We were both colliery electricians 55 years ago and remained firm friends. John went on to become Labour MP for Easington in County Durham (1987-2010) taking over from Manny Shinwell.
John had a deeply felt affection for the mining communities he represented in Parliament for over half a century. He showed great courage at the end having fought all of his life for the oppressed and disadvantaged and against injustice.
My *marra will be sadly missed by all who knew him, his family and many friends in the mining communities and labour movement whose finest traditions he personified. He was Best Man at my wedding to Mrs. John and Godfather to our daughter. Rest in Peace, me old mate! I shall miss you
*workmates down the pit were always referred to as your ‘marrer’ or ‘marra’.
Click on link below for a newspaper report
by Mark Seddon
“John’s lifelong friend John Winter, with whom he trained to be a colliery electrician in the late 1950s, recalled watching an early televised parliamentary committee dealing with the state of the beaches in the north-east (the National Coal Board used to tip waste into the sea), in which John spoke. “He declared: ‘The poor bairns are plodging in muck and clarts up to their oxters.’ Whether the rest of those learned men understood what he was talking about, I don’t know, but he made his point forcibly and with passion. The next time I saw him I suggested that the BBC should use interpretative captions. He laughed … and lit another tab.”
A Size of Man
by Chris Fox
You come across a size of man that’s not
To do with girth or height but of the heart,
Just something that some men seem to have got
That sets them as a kind of race apart;
A hugeness of the spirit, a desire
To make things better, build up something new,
A vision like an inward glowing fire,
An instinct that knows what they need to do;
A breadth of reading, hinterland of life
Experience he’d fused into a whole;
A pitman, one too big to play it safe,
With joy to raise a chuckle in the soul.
They go and there’s a gap that can’t be filled;
You wonder – can such life be really stilled?
On a cold Easter in 1966, I was a Community Service Volunteer, seconded from the NCB and working with the Civic Trust in Durham City. My partner in this project was Christopher Fox, a fresh-faced student straight from Jesus College, Cambridge.
John Cummings joined us in a couple of projects in Weardale and was a popular member of the group. Chris’ poem is his memorial to a fine fellow. This evocative and beautiful verse brings back fond memories; it also brought tears to my eyes. Thank you, Chris.