Papers of Barry Johnson (1931-2020), President of Chesterfield and District Trades Union Council and trustee of Derbyshire Unemployed Workers' Centre; 1930s-2000s

Scope and Content

The collection consists of a number of files on particular issues that Johnson was active in, plus printed materials, photographs (some of which can also be found in the Fred Westacott Collection (FW) and memorabilia.

The memorabilia consists or a card and postcard addressed to Mick Kane (1897-1965). Photographs include: a photograph of the Young Communist League at the MayDay protests in 1949; photographs of supporters of John Peck in election campaigns (one is dated May 1962); a CND demonstration; a photo of Harry Walker (CPGB member Bevin Boys Hucknall no. 1). Also two photographs moved from the folder MS 1037/3 'CPGB East Midlands and earlier' of Dick Mee, Nottingham and District CP Organiser 1920-1925 and a 20th anniversary photo in front of Greyfriars Hall, Nottingham dated 1940.

As a trade union activist he was associated with the Evening Post dispute and one of the files includes research materials he was gathering in later years, alongside material from the 1978 dispute including campaigning leaflets and flyers. Also present is a paper by Barry 'From Nottingham to Wapping: The Lockout Road'. The dispute involved a strike by 28 reporters and sub-reporters as part of a wider provincial journalists' strike, who were then sacked for 'disloyalty' by Managing Director Christopher Pole-Carew (the only provincial paper not to take back its journalists at the end of the strike). The strikers set up a rival paper, Nottingham News, which received public support, and the Evening Post suffered a drop in circulation over the strike (Forest Manager Brian Clough refused to have anything to do with the Post).

The files relating to his Communist Party activities include correspondence, flyers and newspaper cuttings concerning elections in Hucknall, Nottinghamshire.

Some of the documents relate to issues within the CPGB, while one letter refers to Laura Johnson, Barry's mother, and the failed attempt to send her for a while to the Lenin School in Moscow.

Administrative / Biographical History

Barry Johnson was born in Hucknall in 1931. His father was a miner but was blacklisted after having been identified as a local strike leader in the 1926 dispute. During the 1920s and 1930s, Johnson's mother, Laura, was active in the Unemployed Workers Movement. Before he was old enough to vote himself, Barry was involved in running general election Labour Party Committee Rooms in Hucknall. He went on to be an active member of the Communist Party of Great Britain and was involved in the leadership of the East Midlands District. He was also a member of the Nottingham Trades Council and was President of Chesterfield Trades Council for many years, and Vice-president of the East Midlands TUC, which eventually merged with West Midlands TUC to become Midlands TUC .

As a mature student he studied for his A-levels at a Nottingham college of further education and when on to study Economics and Economic History at Loughborough University. During this time he was heavily involved in the print workers’ struggle against a lock-out at the Nottingham Evening Post, and the Union paid for him to work on their campaign.

Barry worked at Chesterfield College from the mid-1970s, where he developed the Trade Union Studies Unit, developing courses TUC courses for workplace reps. He became president of the Chesterfield and District Trade Union Council, helping to establish in April 1983, the Derbyshire Unemployed Workers’ Centres with Bill Mitchell, Bas Barker, Bill Flanagan and others, to bring about the organisation of the unemployed in Chesterfield and subsequently throughout North Derbyshire. The Derbyshire Unemployed Workers’ Centres are a part of a much larger network of TUC Unemployed Workers’ Centres. His continued support for the Unemployed Workers Centres was crucial and he served on both regional and national committees, gaining the respect of people throughout the country. His 80th birthday was marked with a fundraising event for the DUWC.

Barry had a long association with the mining industry, and gave unstinting support to the miners during the 1984-85 strike, both at Linby in Nottinghamshire near his home, and in Derbyshire where he worked. In his role with the Trades Council he supported the NUM and the local Mining Women’s Support Group. The Trades Council organised a march around Chesterfield to show support for the miners, ending in a rally on the Town Hall steps. Although still busy working at the College, Barry devoted his spare time to help NUM National Education Officer Hilary Cave to train branch officials newly elected to the Nottingham Area of the National Union of Miners, mainly at Ollerton Miners’ Welfare.

He took early retirement in 1991, when he moved to live in Chesterfield. He stood down from the role of President of the Chesterfield and District Trades Union Council when he retired from work as a matter of principle, insisting that the president should be active in the workplace. On retirement he studied part-time at Leicester University for an MA in Local History and published a book on the General Strike in Mansfield. He spent many years researching for a PhD, but finally his illness prevented him from completing it. His supervisor, Professor Chris Wrigley later offered to edit Barry's paper 'Who dips in the tin?: the butty system in the Nottinghamshire coalfield' which was published by the Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire Labour History Society in 2015. Barry played an important role in founding the Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire Labour History Society, also serving as Chair.

He was an accomplished orator, having the experience as a young man of drawing an audience while standing on an orange box in Nottingham’s Slab Square. Many people will remember Barry for his enthusiastic and uplifting performances as the master of ceremonies at Chesterfield’s May Day celebrations during the 1980s and ’90s.


Original order has been maintained within files, other materials have been grouped by type.

MS 1037/1: Photographs and memorabilia;

MS 1037/2: File entitled 'Evening Post dispute' [Note that access is restricted to a list of names and addresses of individual strike breakers within this folder].

MS 1037/3: File entitled 'CPGB East Midlands and earlier'

MS 1037/4: File entitled 'CP/LP Elections (Hucknall) leaflets'

MS 1037/5: Bundle of printed materials relating to the media, news, and media coverage of industrial disputes.

MS 1037/6: Assorted printed articles

MS 1037/7: Assorted printed leaflets and articles

A collection of pamphlets have been added to the extensive collection of pamphlets collected by Fred Westacott (Document Reference FWPC). Barry Johnson was Westacott's literary executor.

Access Information

The bulk of the collection is accessible to all readers. However, access to some items is restricted under current Data Protection legislation. Please see our Access Policy or contact us for further advice.

Other Finding Aids

This description is the only finding aid available for the collection. Copyright in the description belongs to The University of Nottingham.

Conditions Governing Use

Identification of copyright holders of unpublished material is often difficult.

Permission to make any published use of any material from the collection must be sought in writing on our Permission to Publish form (see the Reprographics Services part of our website or email

Reprographic copies can be supplied for educational and private study purposes only, depending on access status and the condition of the documents.

Custodial History

The papers and pamphlets were gifted to Manuscripts and Special Collections by Hilary Cave, widower of Barry Johnson, in 2020, so that they could be accessed alongside the papers and pamphlets of Fred Westacott (FW and FWCP). Barry and Hilary were friends and comrades to Fred Westacott. Barry, along with Joe Clark, were Fred’s literary executors. As such, they were responsible for gifting Westacott's archive to the University of Nottingham.

Related Material

Derbyshire Record Office: LS/PER/SOLIDARITY/2011_November/Barry: Barry Johnson, the workers' champion at 80

Fred Westacott Printed Collection (Document Reference FWPC)

Personal and political papers of Fred Westacott (1916-2001), communist and political activist; 1920-1995


'Who dips in the tin?: the butty system in the Nottinghamshire coalfield' Barry Johnson (Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire Labour History Society, 2015). East Midlands Collection Pamphlet Em. O46 JOH Nine days that shook Mansfield: the General Strike in the Mansfield area' Barry Johnson (Chesterfield: Ragged Historians, c2005). East Midlands Collection Not 271.D34 JOH