THOMAS, James Henry 1874-1949. Trade Union leader and politician. Born in Newport, Monmouthshire, the son of a domestic servant, Elizabeth Mary Thomas. Later lived at 125 Thurlow Park Road, West Dulwich; and was President of the Dulwich and Sydenham Hill Golf Club.

Thomas joined the Great Western Railway as an engine cleaner at the age of 15, became secretary of the Amalgamated Society of Railway Servants in 1907 and Labour MP for Derby in 1910. The following year he helped to organise the country’s first ever national rail strike. He held various government positions rising to become Chancellor of the Exchequer 1931-35. While in the Colonial Office in 1936 Thomas was forced to resign as minister and MP after being accused of leaking Budget secrets. Renowned for his ‘defiant avoidance’ of the letter ‘h’, he was once heard by FE Smith (Lord Birkenhead) complaining ‘I ‘ave an ‘eadache’. ‘What you need’, advised Birkenhead, ‘is a couple of aspirates.’

Patrick Darby