Jack William Jones: Audience & Purpose

Jack William Jones’ memoir, despite delivering a few small anecdotes from his childhood and personal life, is predominantly a recollection of a historically significant political movement. This is Jack’s primary aim – to deal with the history of the bus strikes in London in written form. He begins his memoir by saying ‘I can only hope – and try – to keep within my time limit in dealing with the history of the London bus section over a period of 15 years’ [1].

Jack Writing at the beginning of his memoir

Written in retrospect from the time of Jack’s retirement, his memoir contains instances of times, dates, locations, accounts of famous strikes, an insight into working class conditions, and record of physical political artefacts from the Ranks and File movement and the Trade union of the 1900s. This would suggest that the purpose of his autobiography was not self-glorification, or an egotistic account of his own successes but a page in the book of history and change, a demonstration that because of his involvement in that place at that time, life today is, as we know it. As Regina Gagnier has written, autobiographers often wrote with a strong sense of purpose and, ‘Insisted upon their own histories, however difficult it was to write them, and they  unanimously state that their reasons for writing are functional rather than aesthetic: to record lost experiences for future generations; to raise money; to warn others; to teach others; to relieve or amuse themselves; to understand themselves. [2]

Jack’s autobiography can be seen as the author attempting to understand himself and why he ended up where he did. Jack’s memoir does not have a fixed structure of chapters and timelines, but instead has sections that detail events as he remembers them, rather than recounting his life chronologically. This is significant, as we do not actually hear of his mother and her hardships, labouring in the railway section, until nearing the end of his memoir. Yet Jack’s participation in the Rank and File Movement may have been inspired by labour his mother endured and his personal motivation to ensure justice to workers like his mother.

Jack’s father was an alcoholic who, abusing the dedication and kindness of his wife allowed his addiction to destroy the lives of his family. By telling us about his father, Jack raises awareness of the struggles of the working class, issuing a warning, or a moral lesson about the hardships that follow this kind of careless behaviour. The memoir also acts as a reassurance that life can be as successful as you wish to make it, if you overcome to burdens of your past.

With the inclusion of so many editions of The Busman’s Punch Jack’s memoir helps to preserve a section of history, as well as a proud memory of the success of something so small that had such a large impact on the support of the movement.


Works Cited

[1]Jack William Jones, Untitled, 2:443 TS, chapters paginated separately. Extract published in Childhood Memories, recorded by some Socialist Men and Women in their later years, edited with an introduction by Margaret Cohen, Marion and Hymie Fagan, Duplicated typescript, pp.60-8. BruneI University Library.

[2] Gagnier, R (1987) Working-Class Autobiography, Subjectivity, and Gender Victorian Studies, Vol. 30, No. 3 (Spring, 1987), pp. 335-363


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