James Dennis Hird, born in 1850 in Ashby, Lincolnshire, was a British clergyman, educator and author. The second of five sons, his parents’ families were well known in Ashby, credited as instigators for Primitive Methodism in Ashby, sparking his socialist tendencies. He would become a member of the Socialist Educational Association. Dennis graduated from Oxford University in 1875. In 1884 he was ordained as a Church of England deacon and a year later a priest. He left the ministry in 1896.
In 1899 Dennis was elected as the first Principal of Ruskin: he was admired as a man of great principle by founder Walter Vrooman. He was also described as “a man of a forcible and attractive personality, known to hold Nationalist and Socialist views of an advanced type”. He taught sociology, evolution and formal logic.
Found to be using the college for propagandist purposes, he was dismissed in 1909. Students went on strike, going on to form the Plebs’ League. Dennis went on to become Warden of the Central Labour College.