Obituary: James Boyden
Thursday 07 October 1993
HUGH DALTON, Labour MP for Bishop Auckland almost without a break from 1929 to 1959, was to retire. Tall, with a booming voice, and a sometime Chancellor of the Exchequer, he had carved his way through the political scene since the 1920s. He was a hard man to replace. The competition was fierce and James Boyden had a clear majority; the Durham miners and their secretary Sammy Watson knew him and supported him. Boyden's value was learnt in the next 20 years.
For 12 years to 1959 Jim Boyden had been the Director of Extra- Mural Studies at Durham University. He was elected to Durham County Council in 1952 and was Vice-Chairman of the Education Committee from 1957 to 1959; he had served as a magistrate since 1951. Not a bad record on which to build a career as an MP in a very demanding constituency, with long-standing and urgent needs.
Boyden's formal education began at Tiffin School for Boys at Kingston upon Thames. A BA in History from King's College London followed in the early Thirties. A career in education, teaching in a grammar school and lecturing in the extra-mural department of universities including London, was interrupted by the demands of war in 1940. In 1944 he was demobbed from the RAF with the rank of Squadron Leader. The training department of the Admiralty took him back to education. And the extra-mural studies department at Durham University set his feet firmly in Durham, where he played a leading part in the transference of Bowes Museum to the County Council.
From 1959 to 1964 Jim Boyden was an active backbencher and constituency MP, but, when in 1964 Harold Wilson became Prime Minister, Boyden's previous experience was recognised by his appointment as Parliamentary Under-Secretary at the Department of Education and Science, with emphasis on the needs of technology. A year later he moved to the Ministry of Buildings and Works, with the problems of shortages in the traditional building materials.
Before returning to the back benches in 1969, he served as Under-Secretary (Army) at the Ministry of Defence, where his associates held him in great esteem and his RAF and Admiralty experience stood him in good stead.
Mines, quarries, railways, hill- farming, a long record of unemployment and deprivation gave full scope to Boyden's energies and experiences in his constituency. A strong and active Labour Party meant help and support on one hand and hard-fought debate on current problems and policies. Boyden listened and took notice of party members and electorate: he would never sacrifice principles for short-term popularity. His strength was that he understood the 'system'. People who had lost hope of any help appealed to him and in many cases he found a way round it.
New industry on derelict mine sites had been a strong plank in Hugh Dalton's platform, Dabble Duck, a pit in Shildon, being a classic example. Jim Boyden and local government carried on this policy with new planned estates. Redundancies and unemployment always threatened. Multi-lateral or comprehensive education systems caused heated debate, as did nuclear weapons and defence. Lack of housing of an acceptable standard caused many problems for him - many had waited 20 or 30 years for re-housing. Traditional building could not meet the demands. Non- traditional threw up its own problems.
Boyden left the struggle of the House of Commons in 1979 but continued to live an active life, not forgetting his old constituency and Durham, despite ill-health. He lost his wife Emily (Pem) in 1988. Sue Hay became a loving wife and 'nurse' in 1990 and survives him.
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