27 Facts About Jack Ashley


Jack Ashley was a Labour Member of Parliament in the House of Commons for Stoke-on-Trent South for 26 years, from 1966 to 1992, and subsequently sat in the House of Lords.

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Jack Ashley left school at 14 to work in the chemical process industry.

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Jack Ashley became a crane driver and was a shop steward in the Chemical Workers' Union, a union of which he was the youngest executive member aged 22.

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Jack Ashley served in the Army in the Second World War, and then won a scholarship to study at Ruskin College, where he received a Diploma in Economics and Political Science in 1948.

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Jack Ashley continued his studies at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, where he was President of the Cambridge Union Society in 1951.

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Jack Ashley worked as a research worker for the National Union of General and Municipal Workers and then worked as a radio producer for the North American Service and BBC Home Service.

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Jack Ashley served on Widnes Borough Council as a councillor from 1946.

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Jack Ashley was elected as Member of Parliament for Stoke-on-Trent South at the 1966 general election.

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Jack Ashley described the event as "rather like being struck by lightning".

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Jack Ashley prepared to resign his seat, but was persuaded instead to take a crash-course in lip-reading.

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Later, he used a palantype transcription system developed by Alan Newell, Andrew Downton and others at the University of Southampton - this allowed a palantype secretary seated in the public gallery to type what was being said in real time and Jack Ashley could read the transcribed English text from a discreetly-placed monitor at his seat.

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Jack Ashley became a tireless campaigner for disabled people, especially those who were deaf or blind, and won broad cross-party sympathy, support and respect in parliament for his approach.

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Jack Ashley's Labour colleague Alf Morris was a supporter.

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The editor of The Sunday Times, Harold Evans, later wrote in Good Times, Bad Times how Jack Ashley selflessly gave up writing his autobiography so as to concentrate on the thalidomide campaign.

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Jack Ashley campaigned for compensation for vaccine damage and for damage caused by the arthritis drug Opren.

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Jack Ashley became a Companion of Honour in the 1975 New Year Honours, and joined the Privy Council in 1979.

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Jack Ashley received a Doctor of Humane Letters from the Gallaudet University, the world's only university for the deaf, in 1975 for his efforts on behalf of deaf and hard-of-hearing persons.

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Jack Ashley had the ability to read the output from the stenographers who were reporting the debates.

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When Jack Ashley visited the BBC's Ceefax department around 1975, this ability gave one of the staff the idea of commissioning a Southampton University doctoral student to develop a computer programme that would convert stenographic output to normal printed text as subtitles to television programmes.

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Later, Jack Ashley used the technique to follow parliamentary debates on a small monitor.

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Jack Ashley received an Honorary Doctorate from Heriot-Watt University in 1979.

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Jack Ashley retired from the House of Commons at the 1992 general election and was created a life peer as Baron Ashley of Stoke, of Widnes in the County of Cheshire on 10 July 1992.

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Jack Ashley received a cochlear implant in 1993 which restored much of his hearing.

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Jack Ashley was the subject of This Is Your Life in October 1974 when he was surprised by Eamonn Andrews while playing badminton in the back garden of his home in Epsom.

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Jack Ashley married Pauline Kay Crispin in 1951; she died aged 70 in Surrey.

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Jack Ashley's son-in-law was television presenter Andrew Marr through Marr's marriage to Jackie.

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Jack Ashley contracted pneumonia, and died on 20 April 2012, at the age of 89.

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