Category Archives: Obituary

Obituary: Paul Patrick, teacher and gay rights activist.

One of the more unfortunately blow backs from the north of Ireland’s troubles, is that unlike the rest of western Europe, where many of the big societal issues were debated through and legislated upon from the late 1960s onwards. The North of Ireland, as far as the more prominent of these issues was concerned was passed by and they are only now coming to the fore.

In many ways the north of Ireland is still in the dark ages as far as Gay Rights, Comprehensive education and ‘A Woman’s Right to Choose’ is concerned. Whilst some legislation has been placed on the Statute book, the northern political elite’s attitudes on the aforementioned issues are very reactionary, at best even progressive political party’s like Sinn Fein prefer to side step issues like a woman’s right to choose due to there fear of the Roman Catholic church’s reactionary influence.

I therefor thought I would repost the Guardian’s obituary of Paul Patrick,* one of the pioneers of the English Gay and Lesbian rights movement.** For Paul was one of those political activist that worked tirelessly away from newspaper headlines to change societies attitude towards Gay people. By personal example, in his work place and by arguing and debating through the right of equality for all GLBT. Gay rights is one of the better examples that from small steps great change can be driven.




Paul Patrick
He was in the vanguard of gay rights, especially in schools and colleges.
By Carole Woddis

Paul Patrick, who has died aged 57 from a lung condition, was passionate, voluble, big-hearted and an inspired and inspiring teacher. In the 1970s he became almost certainly the first openly gay teacher in Britain to not only keep his job, but to get promoted. In 1986 he produced, for the Inner London Education Authority (Ilea), the first video to go into schools highlighting homophobia, A Different Story: The Lives and Experiences of a Group of Young Lesbians and Gay Men. In the 1990s he was one of the first single gay men to become the foster parent of a young male heterosexual – recounting the experience on John Peel’s Home Truths programme on Radio 4.
Paul was one of the country’s leading activists on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual (LGBT) issues. He challenged oppression wherever he found it, especially in schools, where his work focused on bullying and homophobia. His influence on the National Union of Teachers helped bring about a sea change in his union’s attitudes, and put it at the forefront of equality issues.
Paul came out in 1969, two years after the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality. In 1974, shortly after starting his teaching career at Roger Manwood school (RMS) in Lewisham, south-east London – where he became head of drama – he co-founded the London Gay Teachers Group. In 1981 this became Schools Out, which he co-chaired with a longtime friend and work colleague, Sue Sanders, from 2002. In 2004, with Sanders, he helped set up LGBT history month, working on talks and lectures, and touring nationwide.
Paul was born in South Shields, Tyne and Wear. He was educated at South Shields and Burnley grammar schools, followed by the Philippa Fawcett College, in Streatham, south London, where he studied English and drama.
RMS established his teaching trademark: after-school drama projects, pastoral care and training. Under his direction, school plays became legendary. By the mid-1970s he was on the teachers’ advisory panel for Greenwich Young People’s Theatre and worked with the group producing Ilea’s drama bulletin.
In 1983, when RMS had become Crofton school, Paul became its equal opportunities officer, advising on everything from the personal and sexual to the artistic. He also coordinated a project to bring into his school adults with learning disabilities.
Soon after that Ilea made him an adviser for equal opportunities in expressive arts, particularly drama and theatre studies, personal health and social education and the pastoral curriculum. Other Ilea posts followed until the authority’s abolition in 1990.
In 1997, Paul took a post with Accrington and Rossendale College in Lancashire, became a lecturer and then joined its performing arts department. He then taught – and directed school plays – for three years at the nearby Bacup and Rawtenstall grammar school. Increasingly, he found satisfaction in amateur theatre.
A prolific writer and a compelling speaker, he wrote for, and corresponded with, many papers, including Gay News, the Teacher, and the Times Educational Supplement. A frequent Guardian correspondent, in 2002 he responded to a feature by nominating himself as one of the people who had done most to shape Britain during the Queen’s reign. “I, too, have been a queen for 50 years,” he wrote, “although under somewhat less privileged circumstances. As Britain’s first openly gay teacher not to be fired or moved to a ‘safe’ position and as a campaigner for lesbian, gay and bisexual equality for more than 30 years, I feel I have contributed a lot more to Britain than that other Queen has. I am also,” he concluded, “more attractive and a lot more fun!”
Paul was loved and admired across a wide spectrum – from teaching colleagues and gay community workers to parents, students, artists and his family. He was determined not to leave the world as he had found it, and thanks to him, the lives of many people have been made more tolerable. He is survived by his mother, sister and brother.

· Paul Patrick, teacher and activist, born July 23 1950; died May 22 2008


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Filed under E U, equality, gay-rights, north of Ireland-Polıtıcs, Obituary, Organized Rage, UK

Obituary: Philipp Freiherr von Boeselager,participant in the July 20 plot to assassinate Hitler.

With the British National Party having gained a seat on the London Assembly in Thursdays local elections, I thought it would be appropriate to publish Deutsche Welle’s announcement that the last surviving participant in the 20th July 1944 plot to kill Adolf Hitler has died. Sadly despite the bloody legacy of fascism there are still organizations like the BNP that tout their filth and gain a degree of support at the polls. I for one would like to thank those anti fascist activists who campaign year in year out against the inhumanity that is nazism, for they are the true heirs of the likes of Philipp Boeselager, Sophie Scholl and her friends in the White Rose resistance cell and the millions of working class people who have stood firm against fascism down the years.


Obituary: Philipp Freiherr von Boeselager,participant in the July 20 plot to assassinate Hitler by DW staff writers.

The last surviving participant in the July 20 plot against Hitler has died at age 90. Former army officer Philipp Freiherr von Boeselager provided the explosives for the unsuccessful attack on the German leader.
The bomb exploded but the Nazi leader escaped with slight injuries because an officer had moved the briefcase containing the explosives behind a sturdy leg of an oak table.

Von Boeselager was not executed unlike most of the other officers directly involved in the attempted assassination in 1944 because his co-conspirators refused to reveal his identity.

Von Boeselager advocate of Cruise film

Von Boeselager was one of the few defenders of the film about the 20 July plot
This chapter of German history is currently being turned into a movie with Tom Cruise playing Claus Schenk von Stauffenberg, the plotter who planted the bomb.

Von Boeselager, who died early on Thursday morning (May 1), had welcomed the film, which has been controversial because of the involvement of the Scientologist Cruise, saying that it could help the Americans to understand more about the German resistance.

The former army officer had also been selected to assassinate Hitler in an earlier plot, but the plan — which was due to be executed on 13 March 1943 — was cancelled, when it became clear that Heinrich Himmler, whom the plotters also wanted to kill, would not be accompanying the German leader. He always expressed regret for not having gone ahead when he had the opportunity.

Von Boeselager, whose brother Georg was also involved in the resistance, always cited the Holocaust as his motive for wanting to assassinate Hitler. He told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung daily in one of his last interviews that he could not have slept if he had refused to take part.

He said that he first heard of the Nazi killings during his time at the Russian front in June 1942 — in this particular case the murder of Sinti and Roma.

Until shortly before his death, the former army officer had given talks and lectures in schools and other venues across Germany about National Socialism and the resistance organized by von Stauffenberg and Henning von Tresckow.


Filed under BNP, Democracy/Elections/democratic accountability/organized, fascism, Obituary

Obituary: Greg Tucker, Trade Unionist, Socialist and Railwayman.

Sadly political activist and trade unionist Greg Tucker has died, below is an appreciation of his life by Alex Gordon, which I am republishing from Solidarity Magazine.*


Greg Tucker – a brief appreciation by Alex Gordon.

RMT members learned with great sadness of the untimely death on Sunday 6 April 2008 of Greg Tucker, secretary of RMT’s Waterloo branch since 1993 and of the union’s National Conference of Train Crews & Shunting Grades since 1992.

Greg had suffered a malignant throat cancer diagnosed over a year ago and was admitted to St Thomas’ Hospital on Saturday afternoon where he died some hours later.

As well as being a leading socialist activist for over 30 years, including a period in the 1980s when he served as a local government councillor as part of the ruling Labour group in Lambeth, south London and subsequently when he became a founding member and parliamentary candidate in Streatham for the Socialist Alliance in 2001, Greg Tucker played a crucial role in the emergence of RMT as a democratic, fighting, industrial trade union following the NUR-NUS merger in 1990.

Greg joined British Rail as a member of Platform staff at Vauxhall station in 1980 later becoming a Guard first at Clapham Yard and then at Waterloo depot. Following the 1988 Train crew Agreement between BR and the trade unions Greg became part of the first tranche of Guards to become Train Drivers. Along with several of his generation who cut their trade union teeth as Guards in the 1980s, Greg maintained a fierce loyalty and commitment to industrial trade unionism through the NUR and from 1990 the RMT.

In 1992 Greg was elected Secretary of RMT’s newly formed National Conference of Train Crews & Shunting Grades, which merged the former Locomotive Grades with the Guards & Shunters Grades Conference. He told the Conference delegates recently: “I am proud of the role that I have played in building one of the best parts of one of the most progressive, fighting democratic unions in this country.”

Greg Tucker believed strongly in the common interests of all workers, but specifically in the need for Train Drivers to defend Guards’ safety and operational responsibilities against the encroachment of Driver Only Operation train services as BR sought to slash jobs and wage costs in preparation for privatisation.

Already a leading figure within RMT as a delegate at numerous AGMs during the 1990s Greg campaigned against rail privatisation. In 1999 Greg Tucker stood as candidate for General Secretary of RMT. Although unsuccessful this was an indication of the prominent position he occupied within our union. Greg was elected onto RMT’s Council of Executives for the period of office 1997-1998 where he distinguished himself by winning a successful strike ballot by RMT Guards and Driver members against plans by South West Trains to introduce Driver Only Operation trains on their suburban services.

Following SWT’s climb down and promise to withdraw DOO equipment, which they had recently purchased and begun installing, RMT’s General Grades Committee at Greg’s insistence forced SWT’s Managing Director to sign an affidavit to the effect that the DOO plan was withdrawn, a humiliation which SWT always remembered. It is Greg’s great legacy that SWT train services remain DOO-free with a Guard on every train in passenger service today.

On 10 June 2001, following his return to work after standing for the Socialist Alliance in a parliamentary General Election campaign in Streatham against sitting Labour MP, Keith Hill, Greg became the latest victim of SWT management who sought to sack him as a Train Driver and permanently exclude him from any safety-critical position. Greg fought the victimisation and triumphed at his Employment Tribunal, which found: “the dismissal was part of a concerted manoeuvre involving several influential members of the Respondents’ management”. Commenting on the veracity of the SWT managers the Tribunal noted: “Like that of Mr Cook, and in striking contrast with the frank and straightforward testimony of the Applicant, we found much of Mr Marsden’s evidence incredible, and some of it risible.”

At the recent 19th National Conference of Train Crews & Shunting Grades held in York, delegates unanimously and with acclaim carried the following resolution:

Recognition of Brother Greg Tucker
“This Conference thanks Brother Greg Tucker for his long-standing service as Secretary of the Train crew & Shunting Grades Conference.
“Greg is a tireless advocate for the members we represent, a proven fighter for our class and a good friend to us all. This Conference pays its deepest and most sincere thanks for his contribution and commitment to our movement and we send our best wishes to him and his family.
“We agree to hold a minute’s applause in appreciation of the role Greg has played in our trade union. Furthermore we agree to send flowers to Greg and Joan.
“Viva Greg Tucker!”


The Funeral: will take place from 12.30-13.30 on Wednesday, 16 April 2008 at West Norwood Crematorium and Cemetery, Norwood Road, West Norwood, London SE27 9JU. Tel: 020 7926 7900. Just 5 minutes walk from West Norwood train station.
A Wake to Celebrate the Life of Greg Tucker: Greg’s many friends, workmates and comrades are welcome to join his family at the funeral and are also invited to attend a celebration of Greg’s life following the funeral from 13.30 hrs at The Bread & Roses Pub / 68 Clapham Manor St, London SW4 6DZ.
Alex Gordon
Monday, 7 April 2008


Filed under Greg-Tucker, internationalist. railwayman. trade-union-activist, Obituary, socialists

Obituary:Maryam Firouz a life long militant of the Communist ‘Tudeh’ Party of Iran

Below is the obituary of Maryam Firouz which appeared in the Guardian.*

Maryam Firouz by Haleh Afshar, member of the Communist Tudeh Party.

Princess Maryam Firouz Farman Farmayan, who has died aged 94, was one of the last surviving members of the early and mid-20th century political feminist movement in Iran. The daughter of Prince Abdol Hossein Mirza Farman Farmayan and Batoul Khanoum, Maryam Firouz was born in the provincial city of Kermanshah and was educated in Tehran at the French school, école Jean d’Arc.

When she was 16 her father arranged her marriage to Colonel Abasali Esfandiary, an aristocrat, a graduate of Saint-Cyr, the French military academy, and son of the speaker of the Iranian parliament. The marriage lasted 10 years and they had two daughters. Out of respect for her father, the couple waited until his death before their amicable divorce.

By then it was the 1940s, and Maryam, embarking on an intellectual quest that was to have a lasting impact on her life, began to move towards communism, to the dismay of much of her family. Her conviction led her to disown the family name, Farman Farmayan, as too aristocratic for her Marxist ideals, and she adopted her grandfather’s name, Firouz, as her surname.

In the early 40s she joined the communist Tudeh (people’s) party, which had been founded in 1941, a move that attracted huge media attention and she was dubbed the “Red Princess”. She then married the architect Noureddin Kianouri, another upper-class radical, who had been trained in Germany, and taught at Tehran University. In 1945 he became a member of the party’s central committee.

Maryam meanwhile was one of the founder members of the Tudeh women’s organisation – the party having initially banned women members. She was also a famous hostess; she opened her drawing-room, very much in the French tradition of literary salons, and entertained artists and intellectuals. Her circle included the authors Sadeq Hedayat and Bozorgheh Alavi and the poet Fereydoun Tavalloli. Maryam was also connected to left-leaning members of the higher echelons of the armed forces, through her close friendship with Captain Khosrow Rousbeh, one of the founders of an informal Tudeh network in the army. Rousbeh was to be executed in 1958 by the Shah’s government.

In 1950, that government was under attack for its handling of negotiations with the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company – later British Petroleum. In April that year the secular nationalist, Mohammad Mossadegh, a cousin of Maryam, became prime minister. Mossadegh was committed to oil nationalisation, which triggered a crisis with the British. Maryam, by then part of politics at the highest level, was said to have been involved in the 1953 revolution that led to the brief departure of the Shah.

An Anglo-American-backed coup, Operation Ajax, toppled Mossadegh in August 1953, the Shah returned, the Tudeh party was banned, Mossadegh was arrested and Maryam and her husband went into hiding. It was the end of an era of optimism which was to have serious long-term implications for Iran – and for Maryam and her husband.

After three years the couple went into exile in eastern Europe. She continued her activities, working with Iranian women abroad and at the same time obtained a doctorate in French language and literature. She worked as a university lecturer, teaching French in East Berlin and Leipzig. These resulted, in the late 1950s and early 1960s, in two trials in her absence in Iran. The first sentenced her to five years’ hard labour and the second to life with hard labour.

After the 1979 Islamic revolution, which brought Ayatollah Khomeini to power, Maryam and her husband returned to Iran. He was by then general secretary of the Tudeh party and during that short period, when the party was permitted to function, she headed the Iran Democratic Women’s Organisation.

In February 1983 Maryam, who was then 70, and her husband were imprisoned, and Kianouri was accused of spying for the Soviet Union. That April the party was banned and many of its members were executed. Maryam was kept in solitary confinement and fell ill. The severity of her illness eventually led to her release to house arrest. She rented a house with her daughter Afsaneh and lived on her German pension. A year later, her husband was allowed to join them, on the understanding that he would never speak to the media. In an open letter to Khomeini, Kianouri recorded a horrific catalogue of maltreatment and tortures meted out to him and his wife during their imprisonment. His death in 1990 was a sad blow to Maryam, whose health deteriorated.

But Maryam never lost her interest in politics and women’s issues. She devoured the papers and the few visitors, who were permitted to see her, provided her with gossip and the information that Iran’s press could not publish.

Maryam died in Tehran. She is survived by Afsaneh. Her other daughter Afsar, predeceased her.

· Maryam Firouz (Princess Maryam Firouz Farman Farmayan), political activist, born 1914; died March 23 2008



Filed under communist-party Iran, internationalist., Obituary

Obituary:Steve Fullarton, last survivor of the 500 Scots who fought with the International Brigades

The Obituary below first appeared in the [London] Independent,
Steve Fullarton By Jim Jump.

Steve Fullarton was the last survivor of the 500 Scots who fought with the International Brigades against General Franco’s rebels in the Spanish Civil War of 1936-39. Aged just 18, and halfway through his engineering apprenticeship when he crossed the Pyrenees in April 1938, he was also one of the youngest of the 2,300 men and women from the British Isles – of whom nearly one in four died – who enlisted as soldiers or medics to defend the Spanish Republic. Indeed, he had to lie about his age, since the Communist Party – the recruiting agent for the volunteers – had a policy of only accepting those aged over 21.

Fullarton was one of a family of five raised by his widowed mother in the Shettleston district of Glasgow. He made up his mind to volunteer after seeing cinema newsreel of the bombing of Spanish cities by Franco’s German and Italian allies. “There were women running around with terror in their eyes,” he recalled. “Some people could ignore it and say: ‘It’s none of my business’. I made it my business.” He watched the newsreels with mounting anger as Britain and the other democracies, by their policy of non-intervention, effectively allowed Hitler and Mussolini to topple Spain’s elected government.
Then came an encounter in a dance-hall one Saturday night with the local Communist Party organiser. Fullarton was already involved in the regular street collections of tins of food and condensed milk to send to Spain. Soon he was travelling through France with five other volunteers. With the border sealed, the group entered Spain by night along smugglers’ paths, wearing rope-soled sandals to silence their footsteps.

After basic training with wooden rifles near Figueras, Fullarton was sent to Marsa on the north bank of the Ebro where the British Battalion and other units of the XV International Brigade were billeted. His arrival in Spain had coincided with the rout of Republican forces through Aragon and southern Catalonia in the spring of 1938. Now a daring counter-offensive was being prepared. He was one of those selected for training as a corporal by a Soviet instructor in the village and assigned to the battalion’s infantry company.

He crossed the Ebro with the rest of the battalion on 25 July 1938 and took part in intense fighting around Gandesa. Injured by a bullet in the groin on 1 August, he was rushed to a cave hospital and operated on without anaesthetic. He arrived home on 23 December.

Soon after the Second World War started Fullarton joined the RAF and was stationed in South Africa for most of the war. He moved to Edinburgh in 1945 and worked as a draughtsman in the engineering industry. Warily, he set foot again in Spain in 1969. After Franco’s death in 1975, he made the journey more frequently, his last visit being in 2003.

Stephen Collins Fullarton, political activist and draughtsman: born Glasgow 23 August 1919; married 1945 Isabella Macdonald (died 1968; two sons, one daughter); died Edinburgh 29 February 2008.

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Filed under CPGB, international-brigades, internationalism, Obituary, Spain

Obituary: Ruth Frow; Teacher, Librarian, Communist Party militant.

Ruth Frow, who died recently was the type of progressive militant who had their lives shaped and formed by the now dissolved Communist Party of Great Britain. They were tireless in their activism and their political and social lives revolved around the Party. Along with her husband Edmund she created what became known as the Working Class Movement Library,* which now has a permanent home in Salford, Manchester. Today it is run by a Trust and comprises tens of thousands of pamphlets, books and artifacts on working class history and struggle and serves the Working Class Movement as a whole, but it began life as a row of well thumbed books on a shelf in Ruth and Edmonds house, and was not dissimilar to that which could and still can be found in the homes of thousands of ‘working class intellectuals’.

For that is exactly what her husband Edmund Frow was, plus an engineering worker, trade unionist and Communist Party militant. Whilst Ruth came from a middle class background, she became part of a distinguished working class duo after meeting her future husband Edmund at a CPGB weekend school, when they discovered they both had a great love of books, which along with their leftist politics helped them sustain their life long partnership in struggle.

* The Working Class Movement Library is here,

Ruth Frow
Kevin Morgan

In the splendid Working Class Movement Library she founded with her husband Edmund, Ruth Frow, who has died aged 85, already has her lasting memorial. Originating in the Frows’ shared love of labour history, by the 1980s the collection was bursting from every seam of their Manchester home. Fortunately, in 1987, neighbouring Salford council had the sense and public spirit to house the collection in the converted nursing home where it remains.

Run by an independent trust, the library today comprises tens of thousands of pamphlets, books and artefacts, dating from the days of Tom Paine and William Cobbett to more recent battles in which the Frows themselves played their part. It is one of the outstanding collections of its kind, in Britain and internationally.
Frow was born Ruth Engel, of partly Jewish, partly Irish extraction, and grew up between the wars in the north London suburb of Mill Hill. Her father had been a concert pianist who, due to rheumatism, had become an international commercial traveller. She was educated at Downhurst private high school in Hendon – receiving the grooming and education of a “young lady” and later taking pleasure in recording its failure.

The outbreak of war when she was 17 introduced her to the altogether less restrictive environment of the WAAF. Enlisting under age in time for the Battle of Britain in 1940, she spent the war in Fighter Command on the Kent coast.
Having encountered leftwing politics, she campaigned for Labour in the 1945 general election, and on the advice of a Kent miner at Betteshanger colliery, joined the Communist party at the same time. Her first husband, whom she had met in the RAF, joined with her.

Returning to London after the war, Frow was one of many young party members whose appetite for social reform found an outlet in the emergency teacher training programme. She was trained at Hampton, took her first teaching job in Mile End, east London, in 1949, and throughout the 50s was active in CP-sponsored peace campaigns. She was secretary of Teachers for Peace and the Manchester Peace Committee, and cofounder, and first chair, of Manchester CND.

She had met Edmund Frow, a Manchester shop steward, at a Communist party school in Sussex in 1953. Their first encounter was on the tennis court – Ruth was a former Middlesex junior county player – and they also discovered a common love of books. A memorable partnership was born. Eddie was a seasoned activist of impressive self-education, and Ruth never lost her admiration for his political understanding, though she did chip away at the male chauvinism she found in his shopfloor culture.

Their commitment to the CP was quickly tested. Eddie, too, had been previously married and the party was wary of any scandal that might affect its political activities. The couple were therefore directed to live apart and, for a year, Ruth worked in Liverpool while Eddie visited at weekends. This was the rule the party had pronounced – and, she later recalled, “we were nitwits enough to stick to it”. Theirs was a steadfast commitment, and one of the shocks of Ruth’s later years was her expulsion from the CP during the bitter factional rivalries of the 1980s. Though under no illusions as to the extent of its decline, she remained convinced of better days to come. From the overnight collapse of Europe’s communist regimes, she took at least one positive lesson, that history had not yet done with great political changes.

This conviction underlay all the couple’s activities. For the Frows, as they readily admitted, book-collecting was not just a pastime but a disease. Educators and proselytisers for the cause they believed in, they saw in the knowledge of working people’s history both an argument for socialism and a precondition for its achievement. Academics were always welcome to their library, and their friends included many eminent historians. Nevertheless, they took special pride in the union and community activists who visited the library, and it was to them that their own publications were chiefly addressed. Titles on Robert Owen, Karl Marx, William Morris and Citizen Guillotine give a flavour of their enthusiasms. Their important collection on political women shows Ruth tilting the balance of a largely male socialist pantheon.

When the library moved to Salford, the Frows moved in with it. Although the constant round of visitors eventually proved too much for them, Ruth remained a regular presence, even after Eddie’s death in 1997. Two days before she died, she was there as usual, attending the library committee. Her warmth, generosity and unflappable common sense will be missed. But she died with the satisfaction of having left not just a memorial, but a resource with which to take on future challenges.

Ruth Frow, teacher and librarian, born July 28 1922; died January 11 2008

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Filed under communism/internationalism/UK/politics/working class mo, CPGB, Obituary, Ruth-Frow

Obituary: Jim Reddell, Seaman, soldier, local councillor, trade unionist and community activist.

I have included an obituary of Jim Reddell for a number of reasons, he was a dying breed in the British Labour Party, working class, trade unionist, absolutely loyal to the Party and Country through thick and thin, conservative with a small c, yet well to the left of most of todays Labour MPs. The likes of Jim were to be found in almost every Constituency LP in the land, up until Tony Blair became leader that is. Hard working, first rate local councillors who new the people they represented like the back of their hand, in their time they sorted out more personal problems than the average CAB advisor of today. Yet Blair and his ilk had no use for them and moved them aside to make way for middle class New Labour wide-boys/girls who were passing through and had no interest in the people that Labour had been founded to represent. Indeed alongside the demise of the likes of Jim Reddell came the demise of the British Labour Party as a vehicle for progressive change

I will also admit to a personal connection with Jim in that he lived in a village not far from where I now live and he was a member of the AEU which was the for-runner of my own Trade Union. For many years he was the only LP member of Brentwood Council, which in those days was a bastion of bourgeois snobbishness, and when he was named a Freeman of Brentwood, the first since 1040, we can only imagine the delight this brought to Brother Reddell when he accepted this offer, as he was working class, a trade unionist and proud of it.

Jim Reddell
Gordon Reddell

Seaman, soldier, local councillor, trade unionist and community activist Jim Reddell, who has died aged 97, made a difference to many people’s lives. Born north of Oxford Street, London, he was placed in a children’s home when he was 10 because his mother could not afford to keep him. At 12, he was apprenticed at a car factory, leaving to go to sea and qualifying as a ship’s cook. A brief period of civilian employment followed before he joined the Essex regiment in 1932, going with them to the Saar region on the borders of France and Germany to help police the 1935 plebiscite. The following year, he married Edith McMurchie, who supported him in all his activities.

Earning stripes through his ability – and regularly losing them through his rebellious streak – Jim remained in Britain until D-day, when he went ashore with his regiment. After demobilisation, he got a fitter’s job with Howard Rotovators in West Horndon, and joined the AEU.

Then began his activism. He became involved in the British Legion campaign to persuade local councils to rehouse returning soldiers. His love of sport saw him play cricket and football for the works teams, and he became a local councillor in Brentwood, Essex, often its only Labour representative. He was also a governor at Hedley Walter school, all the time assisting people with their problems.

Brentwood made him an honorary freeman in 1999, an honour, he was delighted to tell everyone, that had not been awarded since 1040. He became a Chelsea pensioner, proudly wearing the scarlet, and a visit to Hedley Walter school was a pleasure when they named a new technology block after him. Seeing the old republican squirm with delight in his wheelchair, when meeting the Queen at a Remembrance Day event, was almost embarrassing.

Jim died quickly and quietly, alert to the last. Edith predeceased him, in 1998, as did their daughter Evelyn, in 1997. He is survived by me, his son, six grandchildren, nine great-grandchildren and countless friends.


Filed under freeman-of-Brentwood, Labour-Party, Obituary, trade-unionist, UK. socialist