Jimmy was born in Carlisle, the son of working-class Communist party members. Apprenticed as an engineer in Carlisle in 1966, he worked for London Underground, and in Sunderland for the National Coal Board. From 1977 he studied philosophy and politics at Sunderland Polytechnic, and into the mid-80s he was active in the Young Communist League and the Communist Party.
Living on benefits and erratic funding, he devoted his energies to Trade Union CND and Trade Union Review. Jimmy cared passionately about books and ideas. In 2005 he acquired The Queens pub in Church, Lancashire, a great financial challenge - which he met by working as a maintenance engineer in Accrington. Jimmy was a socialist who mixed philosophy and trades unionism with a range of practical skills. In 2000 he revived the NUJ branch in Carlisle, having moved back there to be with his parents.