My husband, Jim Sweeney, who has died aged 86, came from a humble background, but he was filled with a remarkable desire to learn, and became a teacher of industrial relations, first with the Workers’ Educational Association (WEA) and later at Loughborough University.
Jim wrote an extensive number of academic papers, articles and textbooks, mainly focused on industrial relations, industrial history and social development, and encompassing both Britain and Europe, especially Austria.
He was born in Bellshill, North Lanarkshire, the youngest of four children of parents of Scottish and Irish descent. His mother, Barbara, died when Jim was nine; and the family subsequently moved to Corby, Northamptonshire, where his father, John, was employed in the steel works.
Jim excelled at every kind of sport, including football, golf, tennis, cricket and skiing. At 16, he started a career as a professional football player for Plymouth Argyle, and continued to play for the RAF when called up for national service.
He filled his spare time with reading, entered an essay competition and received a grant to study at Fircroft College for Working Men in Birmingham. Jim cherished these years, when he met other ambitious young men from the same background, who became lifelong friends. He then went to Leicester University to study social sciences, followed by a year at Manchester University, where he obtained a diploma in adult education.
Jim started work as a tutor in trade union and industrial studies at the WEA in the West Midlands and became a very popular teacher with trade unionists and shop stewards. His dedication to industrial relations was mirrored in his political stance. He was a member of the Labour party, serving time as ward secretary for Selly Oak, Birmingham, actively campaigning and eventually becoming a Labour councillor for Longbridge, a commitment which he undertook with great gusto.
Having gained a master’s degree at City University, London, in 1973 he became a lecturer in industrial relations at Loughborough University.
Through a particular interest in Austria, Jim established contacts with the Austrian Trade Union Federation. I met him through my job there as a translator and interpreter when I accompanied a study group to the UK, and we were married in 1976.
After his retirement in 1990, Jim played a prominent role in the West Midlands Co-operative movement. He enjoyed classical music concerts in Vienna and Birmingham and loved singing. Friends and acquaintances always remarked on his sharp wit and brilliant rhetoric.
He is survived by me and his sister, Catherine.