Jack White (trade unionist)

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Jack White
Jack white head.jpg
Born 22 May 1879
Broughshane, County Antrim, Ireland
Died 1946
Belfast, Northern Ireland
Allegiance British Army
Irish Republican Brotherhood
Irish Citizens Army
Irish Volunteers
Irish Republican Army
Red Cross
Republican Congress
Years of service 1897–1937
Rank Captain
Battles/wars Boer War
Dublin Lockout
Easter Rising
Irish War of Independence
Spanish Civil War
Awards Distinguished Service Order correct.jpg Distinguished Service Order

Captain James Robert "Jack" White DSO (22 May 1879 – 1946) was one of the co-founders of the Irish Citizen Army. He was originally a statist but later converted to socialist anarchist in the 1930s.[1]

Early life[edit]

Jack White was born on 22 May 1879, at Whitehall, Broughshane, County Antrim to Anglican parents. An only son, he initially followed in the footsteps of his father, Field Marshal Sir George Stuart White, being educated at Winchester College, and later at the Royal Military College, Sandhurst. He was commissioned a second lieutenant in the 1st Gordon Highlanders on 25 January 1899.[2]

At the age of eighteen, newly promoted to lieutenant on 22 October 1899, White saw service with his regiment in the Second Boer War in South Africa. He was employed under the Military Governor of the Orange River Colony, and took part in the advance to relieve the Siege of Kimberley, including the Battle of Magersfontein (11 December 1899). After the British troops had finally lifted the siege and entered Kimberley in February 1900, he took part in the Battle of Paardeberg (February 1900); and operations in the Orange Free State from March to May 1900, including the battles of Poplar Grove, Driefontein, Vet River and Zand River (March 1900). From May 1900 he served in the Transvaal, where he took part in the occupation of Johannesburg and Pretoria. He also took part in the battles of Belfast and Lydenburg (August 1900).[2] For his war service, he was mentioned in despatches, received the Queen's South Africa Medal with five clasps, and was decorated with the Distinguished Service Order (DSO). The London Gazette of 2 July 1901 in its DSO citation reported:

James Robert White, Lieutenant, The Gordon Highlanders. For having, when taken prisoner, owing to mistaking advancing Boers for British troops, and stripped, escaped from custody and run six miles, warning Colonel de Lisle, and advancing with him to the relief of Major Sladen's force.[3]

White started to develop a dislike for the British ruling classes while in South Africa. It is said that at the battle of Doornkop he was one of the first to go over the top. Looking back, he saw one 17-year-old youth shivering with fright in the trench. An officer cried "shoot him". White is said to have aimed his pistol at the officer and replied, "Do so, and I'll shoot you".[4]

After the end of the war with the Treaty of Vereeniging, White left Cape Town in the SS Dilawara in July 1902, arriving in Southampton the following month.[5]

His Father was General Sir George White, Governor of Gibraltar as from 11 July 1900, The Governor appointed his son Captain Jack White of the Gordon Highlanders as his aide-de-camp (A.D.C.) in 1902. At Gibraltar he met the King Edward VII during a Royal Visit to Gibraltar.


In 1946 White died from cancer in a Belfast nursing home. After a private ceremony, he was buried in the White family plot in the First Presbyterian Church in Broughshane. It was widely believed that his family, ashamed of Jack's revolutionary politics, destroyed all his papers, including a study of the Cork Harbour Soviet of 1921. However Leo Keohane, White's most recent biographer, believes that this view is unfounded: 'In conversation with the family and from the correspondence I have seen, I would surmise that it is quite probable that the papers are mouldering in some solicitors' redundant files.'[6]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ 16 Lives: James Connolly. p. 213. 
  2. ^ a b Hart′s Army list, 1903
  3. ^ "No. 27329". The London Gazette. 2 July 1901. p. 4401. 
  4. ^ Reg Reynolds. Captain Jack the Governor’s Son, The Gibraltar Magazine online edition; accessed 6 June 2008
  5. ^ "The Army in South Africa - Return of troops". The Times (36845). London. 13 August 1902. p. 5. 
  6. ^ Leo Keohane, Captain Jack White: Imperialism, Anarchism and the Irish Citizen Army. Dublin: Merrion Press, 2014, p. 2.

References[edit]

Bibliography[edit]

  • Misfit: A Revolutionary Life by Jack White Dublin: Livewire Publications, 2005. ISBN 978-1-905225-20-0

Further reading[edit]