When someone has lived 80 years it is impossible to fit in every detail of their life.
Most of you know Dad as a communist, a trade unionist, loving partner and father.
I will come on to those aspects of his life shortly but I wanted to give a little insight into his upbringing, political awakening and his later years.
Dad was born in 1935 in abject poverty in Dudley. His father tragically died when he was four and his mother had to work three cleaning jobs to keep home for him and his brother John.
Living in a two up two down, sharing a washroom and toilet with four other families in a court yard and occasionally going hungry, Dad’s poverty had a profound impact on him.
When he did national service in the RAF, he was 18, and this was the first time he had seen the sea.
Serving out in Kenya, Dad often described his time in the air force as his “university.”
He learnt about jazz, played football and was an airframe mechanic on a Lincoln bomber – the mark 2 of a Lancaster bomber.
Returning to work on Civvy Street, Dad became a skilled machinist working in several factories.
He was a keen sportsman in athletics and particularly football which at one time led to an offer of a professional contract from Swindon Town.
Tragically his brother John died in 1966 rescuing his wife’s sister in dangerous seas off the coast of New Zealand.
Dad never got over this loss and over the years would talk of his love for John many times.
Dad often described his early working life as a “mindless militant” – somebody who got annoyed about his own terms and conditions but didn’t care about much else.
That all changed when he met communist and fellow worker Fred Hammond.
While dad was working on his machine, Fred, who was a machine inspector would come round, have a chat and help out fellow workers get the job done faster and easier.
Dad said he used to argue with Fred about politics and rather than dismissing my dad, Fred persevered and began to influence Dad on how he saw the world.
Becoming class conscious and a Marxist, dad became a leading shop steward, playing a significant role in winning better terms and conditions for the workforce but also selling 50 Morning Star’s a day and getting the union branch to supply funds to other workers in struggle.
His commitment to the Morning Star was second to none.
He would often come off a night shift on a Saturday morning, sell the Morning Star in town, get on a train to London for a demonstration, cat nap on the way there and back, and go to work for another night shift on a Saturday night.
The People’s March for Jobs in 1983 was perhaps Dad’s biggest political achievement. Organised by the TUC, Dad as a chief marshal, marching from Glasgow to London, defying a bout of pneumonia to complete the demostration.
This show of strength by the organised labour movement and Dad’s central role although unsuccessful in helping to kick the Thatcher government out that year, marked an important chapter in Britain’s proud labour movement history.
He continued this work as Wolverhampton Trades Council President and AEU district President.
Following retirement and battling chronic ill health, Dad became Chair of Governors at Bilston Community college, promoting the importance and accessibility of education to working class people.
Dad faced up to his health problems as bravely and with as much conviction as he had campaigned for workers’ rights and socialism all his adult life.
He was always grateful for the NHS – something that he believed would not have existed had it not been for the struggle of post-war Britain and the example of the socialist world.
Health workers sustained Dad as long as possible in hospital in the last weeks of his life and ensured him a peaceful end.
He maintained that strength of will and dignity for which he was well known right up until the end and our last conversation was appropriately about England winning the Ashes and his excitement at the Jeremy Corbyn leadership campaign.
A quote that Dad often repeated while I was growing up was from Nikolai Ostrovsky who said:
“Man’s dearest possession is life. It is given to him but once, and he must live it so as to feel no torturing regrets for wasted years, never know the burning shame of a mean and petty past; so live that, dying, he might say: all my life, all my strength were given to the finest cause in all the world──the fight for the Liberation of Mankind”
I’ll miss you dad and the struggle continues…