Weaste Cemetery

Biographies of people buried between 1940 & 49

James Rowan (1871 - 1944)

 James Rowan was the General Secretary of the Electrical Trades Union for 34 years. He was also a member of the General Council of the Trades Union Congress from 1921 to 1934, a member of the permanent panel under the Safeguarding of Industries Act, vice chairman of the Joint Industrial Council of Electricity Supply, joint secretary of the Emergency Committee of the Federation of Engineering and Shipbuilding Trades, and vice chairman of the National Technical Advisory Committee for Disabled Sailors and Soldiers.


He was born on 7th October 1871 in Rochdale. His father was John Rowan (born 1848 in Salford), who was a general Labourer, and his mother was Jane Ann Rowan (born 1849 in Rochdale, Lancashire). James's siblings were: Margaret (born 1870 in Rochdale), John Thomas (born 1874 in St Helen's), Joseph (born 1876 in Salford), Arthur (born 1883 in Salford) and Jane (born 1885 in Salford). In 1891 the family lived at Joynson Street, Broughton, Salford, where James was an Armature Winder.

In 1900, James married Mary Emma Newton (nee Taylor) at St Clement's Church, Broughton. Mary Emma was a widow, being previously married to Charles H Newton in 1883. The 1901 census shows that James and Mary Emma lived at 90 Duke Street, Broughton, with Mary Emma's children: John W Newton aged 18, and Florence aged 6, and also James's brother Arthur aged 18. James was shown as an Armature Winder.

In 1911 the family lived at 26 Clarence Street, Broughton, where James was aged 39 and a Trade Union Secretary. Mary Emma was aged 46 and Florence Newton was aged 16, and a Relief Stamper. In 1921 James and Emma were boarders at 47 Borough Street, Brighton, Sussex, and James's occupation was General Secretary. (In 1921 the census was delayed and held on 19th June. In Brighton on 21st to 24th June, the Labour Party Conference was being held)!


James became an electrical armature winder in Manchester before travelling the country as an electrician. In 1897 he joined the ETU and in 1899 he was elected as Salford Branch Secretary. In 1900 James was elected delegate to the Manchester and Salford Trades Council and in 1904 appointed as full-time National Organiser of the ETU. In three years he increased membership by 50%, from 1,000 to 1,500. In 1907 James was appointed General Secretary, a position he held until 1941 when he retired.


During his time of office he was a TUC delegate to the American Federation of Labour and represented the TUC at the International Labour Organisation on five occasions. He saw membership of the TUC grow to over 80,000 members.

On 6th December 1937 James's wife Mary Emma, died at Wilson House, Larkhill Rise, Clapham, London, aged 74 and was buried at Weaste Cemetery grave A2/1828 of the Dissenters portion on 11th December. The 1939 Register shows James lived at 4 Wilson House, Clapham, London. Five years later, on 5th January 1944, James died at 53 Overdale Crescent, Flixton, Manchester, aged 72 and was re-united with Mary Emma at Weaste Cemetery on 8th January 1944.