Born in obscurity, raised in hardship, a long hard struggle in the trade union movement … This was the life story of a long list of leading Labour Party figures in the first half of the twentieth century, the most outstanding being Ernest Bevin. The last of the line was to be James Callaghan, born in Portsmouth on 27 March 1912. His father, also James, was a Chief Petty Officer in the Royal Navy. He came from an Irish Catholic background, and had run away to sea in his teens, changing his name from Gargohan. This, together with the fact that he was half Jewish, was quite unknown to his son until the Sun newspaper researched his genealogy after he became Prime Minister in 1976. Callaghan’s father married a very young widow, Charlotte Cundy, whose first husband had died in a naval accident. She was a strict Baptist, and the elder James gave up his religion to marry her. Their children were brought up in his new faith. There were to be two of them — Dorothy, born in 1904, and Leonard James, eight years later. He was always known as Leonard, or Len, only adopting his second name in his early thirties, when he entered politics.
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