J. L. Joynes – A Tribute

J. L. Joynes – A Tribute

I first met him [James Leigh Joynes] in 1882, when I was first elected to the General Council of the S.D.F.—then the Democratic Federation. He and H. H. Champion were then acting as joint secretaries of the organisation. Previous to that I had, however, made his acquaintance through his writings and his adventures with Henry George in Ireland. At first I was disappointed in him. It was difficult to believe that this quiet, gentle, unobtrusive man, tall and fair, with rather stooping shoulders and ruddy, almost boyish, face, was the man who had written the letters and articles I had read; had been arrested as a “suspect” in Ireland; had set himself in open opposition to all authorities; and had given up a good position and a career, rather than play the hypocrite and hide his opinions. I soon got to know him better, and to know that behind his almost timid reserve and kindly gentleness there was a sterling manly courage, a determination and a steadfastness of purpose which I have never seen surpassed. Tender and sympathetic as a woman to all who claimed his comradeship or counsel, he was stern and unbending wherever he came into contact with opposition or wherever a principle was in question. Yet I do not think he ever made an enemy. A more lovable man I never met, and he had the love and respect of all the comrades with whom he worked. In the spring of 1884 E. Belfort Bax and I were elected to attend a Congress of the French Party at Roubaix, and our friend Joynes accompanied us. There was some talk at the time of the old law against the International—under which Kropotkin had been sentenced to five years’ imprisonment in France—being enforced against us. As a matter of fact, there was some slight disorder once or twice, and we ran some risk of being arrested; but not the slightest hesitation or perturbation was manifested by our friend Joynes, who was as calm and unexcited as when sitting on the lawn at a little cottage at Burnham Beeches, where I spent a few days with him a little later in the same year. That brief holiday will always be one of the brightest memories in my life.

To Joynes’s work for the movement it is impossible to do justice. For several years, and those were years of stress and difficulty, and uphill pioneer work, he laboured unceasingly and indefatigably—lecturing at Radical clubs and other places, addressing open-air meetings, writing in Justice, the Commonweal, and To-day. He was always doing something for the cause for which he had sacrificed so much. There is scarcely a number of Justice which appeared during those years but contains a contribution, either in prose or verse, from his pen.

The last time I saw him was at West Hoathly, only a few months before his death. He was kindly, cheerful, and sympathetic as ever, thinking more of others than of himself. It was hard to believe that he, with his youthful-looking, ruddy face, was stricken for death, and would never be with us in the active work of the movement again.

With characteristic modesty Joynes never had a photograph taken of himself, and therefore it is impossible to give in THE SOCIAL-DEMOCRAT the portrait of one of the best and noblest workers in the Socialist movement.

Harry Quelch

Social Democrat, No. 8, August 1897, p. 235