Thursday, 18 June 2020 15:09

Death of Barnet's veteran trade unionist

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Fred Jarvis (left) celebrating his 93rd birthday with Neil Kinnock Fred Jarvis (left) celebrating his 93rd birthday with Neil Kinnock
Fred Jarvis, Barnet's most celebrated trade union leader - and a New Barnet resident for well over 60 years - has died at the age of 95. He lived in Hadley Road and his wife, the late Anne Jarvis, was a teacher in Finchley for 30 years and spent eight years chairing Barnet Council's education committee. 

 

Full-page obituaries in the national newspapers pay tribute to a life-long trade unionist who led the National Union of Teachers and who clashed with Margaret Thatcher during bitter teachers’ strikes in the mid-1980s.
Mr Jarvis was appointed general secretary of the NUT in 1975 – a post he held for 14 years – and in 1986-87 he served as President of the Trades Union Congress.

He and his wife-to-be Anne, a teacher at North Side Primary School, North Finchley, started their married life in High Road, Whetstone, and moved in 1954 to their house in Hadley Road, a much-cherished family home.
Mrs Jarvis became a teachers’ representative on Barnet education committee and on being elected a Labour councillor she was immediately appointed the committee’s chair.

Mr Jarvis was a familiar figure in Barnet town centre, visiting the Post office, shopping in the Spires and Barnet Market. In more recent years he was a regular attender at lectures organised by Barnet U3A.
His obituaries recall how he planned his union tactics and speeches while gardening and digging his allotment in New Barnet. His filing system consisted of mountains of paper on the floor of both his office and home.

Neighbours confirmed that he was a workaholic. On one occasion a neighbour accompanied Anne to see her husband in hospital, where he was waiting for open heart surgery.
He remembered seeing the hospital bed piled up with letters that Mr Jarvis had written complaining about Tony Blair’s decisions on education. “Instead of calming himself down ahead of his operation, he had been busy writing protest letters.”

According to the Daily Telegraph’s account of his life, Mr Jarvis was popular among his union rank and file, possibly remarked one observer, “because he reminds them of other Freds – shambling eccentrics in the staff room.
“Balding, straggly-haired and disorganised-looking, Jarvis was famous for speeches which rivalled those of Fidel Castro for length.”

His career took off in 1952 after he was elected President of the National Union of Students of which Anne Jarvis (nee Colegrove) was Vice President. He joined the staff of the NUT in 1955; became deputy general secretary in 1970; and narrowly won the 1975 leadership election to become general secretary.
In the 1970s the NUT was the biggest teachers’ union in Europe and as leader he clashed with Margaret Thatcher during the teachers’ strikes of 1985 and 1986 – a confrontation that provoked the Thatcher government to abolish the Burnham Committee on teachers’ pay.
Neil Kinnock led the tributes at a party to celebrate his 93rd birthday party. He praised Mr Jarvis for re-inventing himself in retirement, as an author, photographer and finally as a highly thought of blogger.

He started taking photographs after winning a camera in a NAAFI raffle in 1947 when he was stationed in Germany, serving as a sergeant with the military government.
His last book, Before Selfies, was a collection of his best 100 photographs taken during his lifetime, including shots of World War II bomb damage in Germany, an unparalleled look at life behind the Iron Curtain in the 1950s, and behind-the-scenes images of Labour Party leaders. Proceeds went to the North London Hospice.

 

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