John Cummings

6th January 2017 — 22 Comments


Picture – JW

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


Northern Echo

John (centre) with Lynda and myself


John Cummings Obituary


“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.



John’s funeral will be on Friday, January 20, at 11am at St Joseph’s RC Church in Church Lane, Murton, with family flowers only and donations in lieu to go to the church. It will be followed by a gathering for relations and friends at the Glebe Centre.



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22 responses to John Cummings

  1. Sorry to read about the loss of your dear friend.

  2. Sorry for your loss John.

  3. Thats sad news may John Cummings RIP. Jerry.

  4. Sorry for your loss, seemed a right nice fella actually caring for his constituency.

  5. David Baverstock 6th January 2017 at 1:02 PM

    It is very sad to lose friends especially when they have been long friendships. May he rest in peace.

  6. Sounds like he was from the old school of politicians caring for his community rather than being a careerist like most of the modern intake. RIP John Cummings

  7. John was a well known figure throughout the North East and I remember well when he took over from Manny Shinwell.
    If my memory serves me well I believe John was the judge for the Miss Crimdon Dene beauty Queen contest every August Bank Holiday Monday in Crimdon Lido in Easington District.
    RIP John.

    • Hi yes that is true. He did judge Miss crimdon dene beauty queen.
      He would take my cousins & myself there for the shows (nobles).

  8. So sorry to hear of your loss John

  9. Thats so so sad,thoughts are with his friends & family

  10. He will be sadly missed by many. A wonderful uncle/great uncle to my cousins and myself and to both their and my children.
    It is lovely to read such wonderful tributes from his friends both near and far.

    • Hello Donna. Many thanks for your welcome contribution. Your Uncle John was a ‘canny lad’. I remember him with affection and have long-lasting vignettes of many of those memorable occasions, which I will always treasure.

      I recall 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 he spoke. He implored, “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.

      When we married he presented Mrs John with a miner’s lamp which, nearly 50 years later, still sits on a bookcase in the lounge. We have a constant reminder of his presence in our lives. Lynda and I shall miss you … Rest In Peace, John.


    Children are wading on a dirty beach with mud up to their armpits.

  12. I feel for your loss John and also the loss of the people in the Easington District he fought so hard for. I have worked in the Easington district for over 12 years and he will be sadly missed.

  13. John had many friends and comrades across the country and abroad. In recent weeks, senior members of the Chinese Government, amongst others – were sending him their best wishes and thoughts. He was a lovely man, dedicated to the Labour movement and to the mining communities in Easington and beyond. He also had a wicked sense of humour and a profound wisdom and generosity. I shall miss him greatly. People sometimes say ‘they don’t make ’em like that anymore’. In John’s case that is so very true!

    • Would that have been the Chinese ambassador? He and his wife were over here May of ’98. A lovely couple. My uncle brought them along to my wedding. He met so many people from all over the world. Often people would visit and stay at his and when my grandparents were alive too.

      • Hi Donna, I am very sorry for you & your family’s loss. John would often talk fondly of you. Grahame Morris would know if the former Chinese Ambassador sent a note — but I do know that Minister of State from the Chinese Government, Zhang Zhijun did. He wrote: ‘Very sad to hear the heart-breaking news. Our deepest condolences. He lives on in our fondest memory’.

        • Hi mark. Thankyou for letting me know. What a lovely message from the minister of state.
          He were clearly thought greatly of by many.

    • Donna, nice to see you again — here is the article for John that has been in the online edition of The Guardian. I will let you know when they print it in the actual newspaper. I didn’t get to meet John’s sister, Aileen, so would you mind giving her a copy as well?

      We shall all miss John very much.

      • Hi mark. Thankyou. Nice to see you yesterday. I have a recollection of meeting you before no doubt at uncle John’s.
        I will definitely show my mam the article. I’ve saved everything to my phone so far for her to read through (how would we manage without modern technology ironically something my uncle were not a fan of).
        “Get off that bloody phone, do people not talk now instead of texting” that i (and no doubt my cousins) often got from him. He had same phone for about 15 years.
        Wonderful to see so many there yesterday -although a lot I didn’t recognise- friends,colleagues,family.
        He will be missed by many.
        It’s quite hard to comprehend he’s not there to just drop in on. Going shopping for him weekly his “easy peel satsumas ” and “full fat yoghurts” etc.
        Thanks again and yes,please let me know when published x

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