In 1926, fifty-two-year-old James John Hamlyn Moses became Plymouth’s first Labour Mayor and three years … the city’s first Labour MP.
Born in Dartmouth in the summer of 1873 and educated at the local board school he had started part-time work before his tenth birthday and full-time work by the time he was thirteen. The following year, the lad who was to become leader of the Shipwright’s Union, joined Devonport Dockyard as an apprentice shipwright.
Rising through the ranks of Ship Constructors and Shipwright’s Association his involvement with local politics began in earnest when he was elected to the Devonport Borough Council in 1911, three years before it was scrapped following the Amalgamation of the Three Towns – a move he supported.
A local preacher on the Methodist circuit, he is described in Crispin Gill’s ‘Plymouth: A New History’ as being ‘large, shambling and sanctimonious’ and ‘able to use tears to win an argument’.
After his retirement from the yard, in 1929and election to Parliament later that year, he survived a petition to unseat him before being swept out of the House in the 1931 National Government landslide. “The allegation was that AC Ballard, a rich eccentric, had spent unexplained monies on Jimmy Moses’s behalf” (Gill).
Retiring from the City Council in 1945, Moses died the following year at his home in Onslow Road, Peverell.