Jarrow Crusade’s leader recognised with plaque in town

The Mayor Councillor Ken Stephenson and Mayoress Cathy Stephenson, Councillor Stephenson's mother, are pictured with Joseph Symonds' surviving children Tom, Josie, Mary, Jim and Vin, as well as poet and playwright Tom Kelly.
The Mayor Councillor Ken Stephenson and Mayoress Cathy Stephenson, Councillor Stephenson's mother, are pictured with Joseph Symonds' surviving children Tom, Josie, Mary, Jim and Vin, as well as poet and playwright Tom Kelly.

The family of the man who helped lead the 200-strong Jarrow Crusade to London as he championed his community say they are “thrilled” he has been recognised.

A commemorative blue plaque has been unveiled in memory of former Jarrow Mayor and councillor, Joseph Bede Symonds, on the side of the town hall.

The unveiling ceremony was a very special and emotional occasion and we are thrilled that he has been recognised in this way.

Joseph Symonds’ daughter Josie

He was instrumental in organising the Jarrow Crusade which was held in October 1936 to deliver a petition - which had his name at its top - to Parliament demanding work for the poverty-stricken town.

The marker was unveiled by the Mayor of South Tyneside, Councillor Ken Stephenson, as members of Mr Symonds’ family looked on.

Mr Symonds’ youngest daughter, Josie said: “Joe was a family man who gave his time generously and with great passion so that people could live their lives with dignity and pride.

“The unveiling ceremony was a very special and emotional occasion and we are thrilled that he has been recognised in this way.”

The plaque is the first to be unveiled under a new scheme in South Tyneside in which members of the public were invited to put forward nominations to recognise people or structure for their importance to the area’s history and heritage.

Mr Symonds lived in a council house in Hedworth View and was active in politics.

When plans were mooted for a bridge over the River Tyne, Symonds campaigned for a tunnel instead to safeguard the many decent council homes that would have been destroyed otherwise.

He was Mayor of Jarrow in 1945 before serving as MP for Whitehaven from 1959 to 1970.

He was also an Alderman and made a Freeman of Jarrow in 1955.

Jarrow born poet and playwright Tom Kelly nominated Mr Symonds for the plaque.

He said: “I met Joe in the early 70s and will never forget his passion for the work of the Labour Party in Jarrow during the 1930s.

“He and the other leaders worked tirelessly to save the town. I am more than delighted the plaque is displayed where the Jarrow Crusade began.”

St Hilda’s Colliery Band, which won brass band World Championships multiple times, and John Dagnia, who built Cleadon House in 1738, are also set to be commemorated in the future as part of the scheme.

There are currently 21 plaques located across the Borough commemorating people and organisations, with more details available via www.southtyneside.gov.uk/blueplaques.