Forest of Dean & Wye Valley

Archive for the ‘Obiturary’ Category

Obituary: BART VENNER: “THE QUIET MAN”

In Obiturary, Uncategorized on November 7, 2017 at 6:41 am

The Crematorum, near Cinderford, was packed to capacity for the funeral of Bart Venner at the beginning of August. Indeed many of those who came to pay their respects to Bart were unable to get into the building.

Many of us knew Bart through the Labour Party, which he always served faithfully and well.  But there was more to Bart than this. Although not a Forester by birth, his dedication to the Dean gave him the right to regard himself as one.

He came here back in the ‘fifties to take up a training course at the old Parkend Forestry School. And he worked for the Forestry Commission all his working life.

A QUICK REPLANT:

One story told about his forestry work was of a visit to the Dean by the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh. They planted young oak trees in the plantation beyond Speech House. When they departed, the trees were promptly dug up and taken away as souvenirs. Forestry Commission workers, including Bart, were called out hastily to plant replacements… no names, no pack drill, of course.

Norway spruce were also planted, and, despite a bout of appalling weather in the early 1960s, they also survived as a testament to Bart and his fellow Forestry workers.

Another story from his young Forestry days dated back to the last war, when soldiers used trees for firing practice, peppering the trunks with lead. When the trees were felled for timber, merchants were advised to use metal detectors to check for “lead poisoning” before applying a chain saw to the felled tree trunks.   .

A LABOUR STALWART:

Bart’s allegiance to the Labour Party was engrained in him, like the lettering in a stick of rock.  He held a number of offices within the  Party, including as councillor on the District Council   It’s worth noting, as well, that he was always a  good friend to the Clarion, taking a quiet interest in our paper, and even contributing to its columns.

PEDALLING AWAY:

Bart’s other interest was reflected in his membership of the Forest’s cycling club, and his fellow members were well represented at his funeral. Bart had asked that mourners should attend the event dressed in “something colourful”, and his fellow cyclists came along dressed suitably in their lycra cycling gear.

Those who knew Bart always had a sense of affectionate respect for him. Tributes included the fact that he “was a thoroughly nice chap” and “a true gentleman.” He will be particularly missed by his family.


MEDIA WATCH: STOP PRESS: THE “CITIZEN” BECOMES A WEEKLY

by a Clarion correspondent

So our long-established local evening paper, the Citizen, is ceasing to publish on a daily basis and now will be coming to us on a weekly basis instead.

This should come as no surprise to its readers. It’s happened before in towns and cities across the country as our local press has been cut back, to meet falling sales, and (more important to publishers) cuts in advertising revenue. A number of cities have suffered as their local daily papers have become weekly papers. In many places even local weekly papers have been axed, in a cull of the local press across the UK.

CHANGE IN OWNERSHIP:

For many decades the Citizen and its sister paper, the Cheltenham-based Echo, were owned by the Daily Mail group, which also controlled other local papers throughout the country. The Citizen tended to reflect the business-orientated views and coverage of the Mail group in its pages. But then, a few years back, the Mail decided to sell off all of its interests in the local press – and the Citizen and Echo both passed into the hands of the Mirror group.

A change in the tone of the papers was soon apparent. But, it seems, economies still had to be made. The first, took place when publication of the Citizen was moved out of Gloucester altogether – to the Echo offices in Cheltenham.

Shared facilities didn’t stretch as far as combining the two titles into one paper, however. Perhaps the new owners decided that was a step too far! But it was a far cry from the days when our Citizen managed to produce local editions for the diverse areas in its catchment area – such as the city of Gloucester, the Stroud Valleys – and, of course, the Forest of Dean.

“HEART THROB OF THE COMMUNITY”:

Once upon a time local newspapers represented the heart throb of the local communities where they were published. They were bought eagerly when they appeared on the streets or in the newsagents. Some older folk may remember when daily papers (local and national) would include a “Stop Press” column to be filled with any “breaking news”, as we call it today, just as the paper was about to be roll on to the presses. Others would run to two or more editions.

Those days have, of course, long since gone. And newspapers have had to move with the times. They are no longer just in competition with each other but also with other, more immediate, sources of news such as television or on line, on the ‘web.

But our local press still, or should, perform a function. It keeps members of local communities in touch with each other. It can ferret out the minutiae of local life or provide a platform for local issues and debate.

In the Dean, we still have the Forester, not to mention the “freebie”, the Review (both, incidentally, now owned by the Tindle group), both of which appear weekly and are published in the Forest. And both still maintain a reasonable coverage of local affairs.

WHAT ABOUT THE CITIZEN?

So, what of the Citizen? In September, the paper announced its decision to go weekly. In explanation of the move, it declared: “We still have a loyal print audience but the majority of the people who read the Citizen and the Echo do so just once a week.

“Daily readership is coming more and more from our website Gloucestershire Life and our digital audience – not just on the site but across social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter – is showing amazing year-on-year growth. And our digital advertising revenues are growing at the same rate.

“In making this change, we’re acknowledging and reacting to how our readers behave.”

Thus says the Citizen spokesperson. She doesn’t explain, though, why the Citizen plus Echo couldn’t use these rising profits from its online activities to cross-fertilise a daily print edition of its papers. Neither does it give any figures on possible loss of jobs involved in the switch from a six-day a week publication to a weekly.

Of course more and more newspapers are adding “on line” editions to their print versions. The Daily Mail on line edition is particularly successful. But it should not be at the expense of print editions.

When Caxton developed the printing press in the Middle Ages he revolutionised communication. It allowed the emergence of newspapers from the 17th Century onwards. Not immediately, maybe, but over time they became the major source of communicating news, opinion, debate, and so much more.

It would be a pity if yet more printed newspapers are superseded by the more ephemeral on line alternative when it comes to communication.

 

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obituary: Fidel Castro: 1926-2016

In Obiturary, S. Richardson, Uncategorized on April 24, 2017 at 12:15 pm

“HISTORY WILL ABSOLVE ME”
by Sarah Richardson

Fidel Castro’s death in November last year was an event which made me remember and reflect on my time in Cuba. I have been interested in Castro, and the Cuban Revolution, since 1986 when I went on a brigade there with the Cuba Solidarity Campaign. The experience impressed me deeply and helped to shape my outlook on life.

Castro was born into a wealthy farming family in Oriente Cuba in 1926. He grew up to become a young idealistic lawyer, much like Nelson Mandela whom he later much admired.  However, after several setbacks and a clampdown by the authorities he came to believe, like Mandela, that change would only come through armed struggle.

In 1952 a right-wing army general, Fulgenico Batista staged a military coup in Cuba. The country had become a playground for rich Americans with casinos, prostitution, bars and drugs.  Money was siphoned off overseas and little profit went to ordinary Cubans.  Castro recruited a group of revolutionaries to storm the Moncada Barracks on July 26 1953. The attempted coup failed and the leaders, including Castro, were imprisoned.

After his release in 1954 he travelled to Mexico and formed the 26th July movement with his younger brother Raul and Ernesto “Che” Guevara. They landed their boat, the “Granma” with around 80 revolutionaries  on the coast of Cuba in 1956. After three years of fighting from their base in the Sierra Maestra mountains, the rebels won and Fidel Castro was proclaimed President in 1959.

AMERICAN HOSTILITY:
Although initially non-aligned, Castro was rebuffed by the US when private property was nationalised in Cuba and Marxist-Leninists appointed to the Government, notably Che Guevara. Then in 1961, the CIA backed an invasion of Cuba by Cuban dissidents and exiles at the Bay of Pigs. It failed.  But probably the biggest test for Castro’s leadership was the 1963 Cuban missile crisis. By then, Castro had made trade deals with the Soviet Union, notably that the Russians should take most of the island’s sugar harvest in the wake of the US embargo.  In return Kruschev wanted to site nuclear missiles on Cuba, 90 miles from the coast of Florida.

This sparked a major diplomatic incident between America and the USSR. Those who lived through this time remember thinking that it could mean the end of the world. Fortunately a peace deal was brokered and agreed, the weapons were removed from Cuba and an uneasy truce began. The CIA continued to mount attacks on Castro’s life throughout his time in office – which were eventually turned into a book and a film, “634 ways to kill Castro.”

POSITIVE REFORMS:
Domestically, during the 1960s and ‘70s, Castro established the positive reforms which improved living conditions for ordinary Cubans and made the Cuban model desirable internationally, particularly among countries in Africa and Latin America. Universal free health care and education were established as well as subsidised housing.

As well as strengthening relations with the Soviet Union, Cuba supported many leftist and democratic movements worldwide. Sadly, Che Guevara was murdered by the CIA in Bolivia in 1967 when he was supporting the struggle there.  Castro was a leading figure in the non-aligned movement and sent 40,000 troops and medical staff to Angola in the 1960s which helped the country gain independence. In Latin America, Cuba supported the revolution in Nicaragua and the war against the Contras (who were also CIA backed) from 1979 to 1990. It’s unfortunate that, like Cuba, Angola and Nicaragua have retained the same presidents for several decades – Dos Santos in Angola  and Ortega in Nicaragua.  Perhaps less controversially, Castro supported the leftist governments of Evo Morales in Bolivia, Hugo Chavez in Venezuala and Rafael Correa in Ecuador. As one young Cuban remarked, “when Fidel came to power we were a pebble in the ocean. Now everyone knows about us.”

BREAK UP OF SOVIET UNION:
In 1989, Gorbachev began reforms  which would lead to the break up of the Soviet Union in 1991 and the end of  the special relationship with Cuba by the end of the 1990s. Castro stepped down as President in 2008 due to ill health, and his brother Raul has led Cuba through some cautious changes, notably the reopening of of the US Embassy in Havana in 2015, Obama’s visit to Cuba in 2016 and the beginning again of direct flights between the US and Cuba.

When Castro died, everyone agreed that he had made a mark on history – his detractors that he repressed opposition and free speech, supporters that his struggle for an egalitarian society in Cuba superseded this. When I visited in 1986, the links with the Soviet Union were still in place. I was staying in an international camp with those from other European countries as well as young Cubans.   In our brigade there was a young miner and a miner’s wife. The Miners’ Strike had finished the year before. We had many conversations with Cubans, and their understanding of international issues, despite never leaving the island, was deep and reflective.  I was impressed by their knowledge and understanding of the Broadwater Farm Riots, which had recently taken place in London.

We visited the prison where Castro had been placed after the failed Moncada coup. The island where the prison was had been re-named “Isle of Youth” and it welcomed students from around the world, including Angola and Mozambique. We sang and danced with some of these students . We helped to build homes on a building site and in the evenings listened to political talks and sang “The Internationale” together, each in his or her  own language.

There was very limited choice of products in the shops and Committees for the Defence of the Revolution (CDRs) were flourishing. These encouraged people to spy on their neighbours and report “un-revolutionary” behaviour. I am more critical of Castro’s Cuba now than as an idealistic 25 year old. However, I would agree with the final line in Simon Tisdall’s obituary on Fidel  (Observer, 27 November 2016): “For the most part, Castro, iconic figure of the left, was on the right side of history”

SARAH RICHARDSON

 

OBITUARIES: TANIA ROSE

In Obiturary on March 9, 2016 at 1:25 pm

tania_roseA friend of the Clarion

Tania Rose, daughter of Morgan Philips Price, has died at the age of 95. She had a long life, and a fulfilling one. She was married to artist Walter Rose and outside her attachment to politics and the lengthy parliamentary career of her father she developed other interests that took her on parallel paths.

She was born in Germany during those turbulent pre-Hitler years of the Weimar republic. Morgan Philips Price was there as a reporter on events for the Daily Herald (then edited by George Lansbury). He’d married Lisa Balster, secretary to Rosa Luxemberg, and Tania was born amidst the political chaos that marked the rise of Nazism.

Later she was to edit her father’s reports, which were published by Pluto Press in 1996 under the title ‘Despatches from the Weimar Republic’ (And later reviewed in the Clarion).

RETURN TO BRITAIN:

With the rapid rise of Hitler and the Nazi Party, the family returned to England. Philips Price re-engaged himself in politics, and finally became MP for the Forest of Dean constituency in the 1930s (defeating the incumbent, a member of Ramsey MacDonald’s “National Labour Party”).

Philips Price was to remain the MP for the Forest right through to the mid-1950s – the longest serving member for the constituency. As for Tania, in 1943 she married William Rose, an American who’d joined the Canadian Black Watch regiment to fight the Nazis during the war. After the war ended Rose settled in Britain with his new wife – and it was then that Tania found herself embarking on a new career.

NEW DIRECTIONS:

With her husband she co-scripted a number of films, including Genevieve, the Ladykillers and It’s a Mad Mad World. Probably her best known collaboration though was Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, released in 1967, and starring Katherine Hepburn, Sidney Poitier and Spencer Tracy – in its day, a ground-breaking and timely production.

Sadly, perhaps, this film script collaboration ended when she and her husband divorced. But Tania remained active, serving on the Race Relations Board and then the Commission for Racial Equality. She finally retired in 1980, but carried on writing – including a couple of pieces for the Forest Clarion in 1996. She also wrote a biography (Twas Brillig) – and edited her father’s reports from Germany.

As her health deteriorated, she was given what she described as a “grace and favour” apartment in Tibberton Court. She continued to support the Clarion though her contacts lessened as her health waned.

Her funeral took place at the Forest Crematorium on October 22nd.

OBITUARY: JOAN LEVINE: thinker, campaigner and activist.

In C.Spiby, Obiturary on January 30, 2015 at 1:28 pm

One of the universal symbols of peace is the white dove.

When I met Joan Levine she seemed to me an ordinary little old lady, a tiny sparrow of a woman.

But I soon realised that Joan was a formidable thinker, an immensely important local campaigner and a tireless activist. And she had for much of her adult life been active in the Communist Party.

cpb_flagThroughout her life she fought continuously for justice and human rights in the name of the voiceless and the poor of the world.

FACTS AND EVIDENCE:

I discovered that her world view was built on the meticulous gathering of facts and evidence. File after file organised by topic – “campaign against the arms trade”, “Palestine”, “nuclear power”, “Yugoslavia”, “Trident submarines”, “Iraq”, and so on. Together they represented a register of the many concerns which shaped her life.

The files held clippings with references and notes, sections highlighted, paragraphs under-scored. There was endlesss campaign correspondence, newsletters and briefings. Most revealing were letters of frustrated replies from successive MPs. From Paul Marland and Diana Organ to our current MP, Mark Harper. How dare this little old lady from Coleford hold us to account with her endless facts and sound moral reasoning?

Joan’s husband, Maurice, fought in the Spanish Civil War. She spoke of her husband’s commitment with quiet pride, yet would only do so when invited. To her it seemed the most natural thing in the world.  To Joan a life of holding the powerful to account, of fighting for the rights of the many, was just as natural.

DEBATE WITH ACTIVISM:

I remember that Joan was often the last to speak during meetings. It was then that her formidable mind revealed itself.  Her incisive views always made our wandering debate seem like mere waffling, but she was never condescending.  Instead her logic enabled the rest of us to catch up, while she moved on to propose an action. To her, all debate was pointless without action and, in her heart, Joan was all about activism.

So together we stood in the rain. We marched around US military bases under grey skies and paraded past the Houses of Parliament in the largest march in British history. Joan and the late Ralph Anstis got themselves thrown out of the Co-op collecting signatures for a petition against the invasion of Iraq. And, with the late Wendy Corum, Joan was a key part of Forest of Dean CND. She campaigned for pensioners’ rights. But more than anything she was against war.

iraqbadgeCND:

I am sure that you all know the purpose of CND. Joan’s archives reveal that this campaign is the one she saw as the most pressing. And rightly so, in my view. While the Cold War may be over, Joan was acutely aware that the world still has more than 15,000 nuclear missiles. What could be more despicable than the targeted killing of millions of innocent civilians in nuclear war?

Joan remained an activist for as long as she was able. This little sparrow may have flown. But her legacy is the sum of all the good she did in her own time, and the new generations she inspired, of which I am proud to have been but one.

CARL SPIBY
a version of this was read by Diana Gash at Joan’s funeral

OBITUARIES: John Hale & Bert Stapleton

In Editorial, Obiturary on July 3, 2013 at 12:44 pm

 JOHN HALE:

We were saddened to hear of the death of John Hale last month. He would have been 90 in June, but his health had been in decline for some time.

Jan Royall declared that he had “given extraordinary service to our community”. Most of us will remember his work as secretary of the Bream Health Forum which came into being in 1987, and worked hard to improve health service facilities in the Forest. Later it was to widen its scope to become the Forest Health Forum.

Health matters were always of prime concern to John. He took an active part in the campaign to save Lydney and the Dilke hospitals from closure, when they were threatened with closure in 2006., together with other local health facilities. Thanks to a sustained and high profile local campaign to “Save Our Services”, our two community hospitals were saved from closure – and John Hale was active through the campaign.

BERT STAPLETON:

Bert Stapleton, an active member of Lydney Labour Party and one-time local town councillor died after increasing poor health. He hailed originally from Devon where he worked on the railways, and was an active trade unionist. After retirement from his job, he came to live in Lydney, where he took an active part in local affairs.

He was a regular reader of the Clarion, but after the death of his wife, his health began to deteriorate and he was unable to participate in local affairs. But as far as he was able he maintained an interest in the affairs of his adopted town.

Obituary: WENDY CORUM – a free spirit

In Obiturary on March 13, 2013 at 12:59 pm

Alison Rennie remembers an old friend

I only knew Wendy for the last third of her eventful life, but she often told me of earlier times. Her family were strong supporters of the co-operative movement and were Communists. Wendy joined the Communist Party early in her life, but when the party split she changed her allegiance to the Ecology Party, now the Green Party. She studied at Art College in Cambridge during the war and worked in a munitions factory. After the war she took a teachers’ training course and taught in London for many years. Her colleagues report that she was a good and enthusiastic teacher, especially in arithmetic – a subject that she had always found difficult, so she was able to understand her pupils’ problems!

She also studied music at evening class and joined the Workers’ Music Association. She attended their summer schools at Wortley Hall in Yorkshire every year. When she retired she decided to devote her time to composing music, but she had many other interests.

She joined CND and Friends of the Earth whilst in London and when she moved to the Forest of Dean she joined the local groups and took an active part in marches and demonstrations, painted posters, wrote letters to the papers and collected signatures for petitions. I first met her when she was collecting signatures for a CND petition to stop cruise missiles. While we were talking, I mentioned that I had just started learning Esperanto. Wendy was immediately interested. During the First World War her father had been in prison for being a conscientious objector, and two of his fellow prisoners were Fenner Brockway and Bertrand Russell. Fenner Brockway was an enthusiastic Esperantist, and told Alfred Corum about the principals and purpose of the language. So Wendy was quite keen to learn it – and we agreed that she would learn Esperanto and I would join CND.

As soon as she had learned enough, Wendy undertook a tour of Europe, staying with Esperantists who welcomed her into their homes. Several of them later came to stay with her in Ruspidge. She also put up some of my Esperanto pen-friends when I was living in a mobile home with no room for visitors.

We went to many esperanto functions, and Wendy was also able to join the Esperanto Choir. In the Forest she joined LETS (Local Exchange Trading Scheme), earning her currency by giving piano and singing lessons, and for about a year she was on the Ruspidge and Soudley Parish Council. She also supported many charities such as the Campaign Against the Arms Trade, Compassion in World Farming, the RSPB and the Woodland Trust. And for the sake of the birds in her garden, she gave up keeping cats. She did her own washing and cooking to the very end, and went foraging in the woods for edible fungi, showing me where to find St. George’s mushrooms in the Spring.

She joined “Forest of Dean Against the Cuts” at its second meeting, but failing health soon prevented her from attending meetings. As she approached her 89th birthday she became ill, but the doctor would not send her to hospital because he suspected she had a virus. Hospitals do not like to admit people with viruses. But the day after her birthday she was rushed to Cheltenham General Hospital’s emergency surgery unit with a blockage in her intestine. She was by now too frail for them to operate, and she died in hospital with her family around her to the end.

A well-filled and useful life has drawn to a close. I feel sure that her last wishes would be that we play her music and look after the planet and the people and creatures who live on it – as she always tried to do.

OBITUARY: Prof. Ray Billington (un-edited edition)

In C.Spiby, Obiturary on December 18, 2012 at 1:58 pm

I am sure many readers of The Clarion have committed political heresy at one time or another, but we’ve never had an official heretic in our Obituary column before.

Locally Ray Billington was, to many, the philosophy Professor, former Labour Party candidate and heretic minister who brought rational inquiry to the Wye Valley with his Tintern Philosophy Circle, which continues to meet each 3rd Tuesday in the month at the Rose & Crown pub in Tintern.

Ray became a Methodist minister in 1952. Between ’58 and ’61 he was Chaplain to the SAS, based in Hereford. In 1970 he stood as a prospective Parliamentary Labour Party Candidate.

Then, in 1971, he wrote ‘The Christian Outsider’. This included his belief that a personal God does not exist, and he was thus tried by the Methodist Conference and consequently defrocked.

Ray became head of philosophy at the University of the West of England in the same year and held that post until 1995. During this time he wrote many books, including a standard text book on the topic of ethics and moral philosophy ‘Living Philosophy: an introduction to Moral Thought’ (1988).

His other works continued to look at faith, but without the supernatural elements while allowing room for some kind of spirituality. These works included ‘East of Existentialism’ (1990) and ‘Religion without God’ (2001). My memory suggests that he particularly made reference to Sartre and the Existentialists more than any other branch of philosophy but that does not necessarily mean he favoured them over say, the Logical Positivists, Plato or Bertrand Russell: his passion was rational thinking itself.

He was the exchange Professor of Philosophy at the University of California in 1984/5 and appeared on BBC radio and had written for numerous publications including such diverse sources as The Guardian (in the Face to Faith column) and the RHS journal ‘The Garden’.

Personally, I remember Ray for his anecdotes and jokes; his encyclopaedic knowledge of philosophers and their philosophies; and his passion. Often he would hit his fist into his hand to drive a point home, particularly when thinking of Thatcher, Bush and Blair and the war on Iraq. To me he seemed to occasionally allude to an anarchist bent politically but his life now was predominantly consumed with philosophy: teaching, reading, writing and, most importantly, sharing it.

He died at the end of September at 82 and is survived by his partner Hatti who used to chair those pub philosophy meetings, and of course the Tintern Philosophy Circle itself who continue to seek enlightenment, just as Ray would have wanted.

Ray Billington’s obituary in The Guardian.

CARL SPIBY (Tintern Philosophy Circle participant)

So long, Bill: A tribute to Bill Punt

In A.Graham, Obiturary on March 5, 2012 at 1:16 pm

Clarion Editor-in-chief, Alistair Graham, leads the tribute to the socialist, trade unioninst, champion of the pensioners’ cause – and long time Clarion friend of the Clarion.

There must be many folk who missed Bill Punt when he left the Forest some six years at the age of 90. And many folk will have been sorry to hear of his death at the end of last year.

He made many friends – and some enemies, too, as he never suffered fools gladly (as the saying goes). But he was passionate in his beliefs, warm-hearted, and devoted to his family.

Bill was an active member of the TGWU, ever since his days as a tram driver on the streets of London just after the war. He served on the union committee at the New Cross tram depot and then went on to serve on the buses, until in 1961 he became a full-time trade union official at the Covent Garden fruit and vegetable market where he worked until retirement in the early 1980s.

FIGHTING FOR PENSIONERS:

Bill and his wife Lou chose to retire to the Forest, setting up home first in Aylburton and later in Lydney. One of his first moves was to set up a branch of the British Pensioners’ Trade Union Action Association (as it was then called) in the Lydney area – a non-party political organisation dedicated to campaigning for the rights of pensioners. It became a thorn in the side of Paul Marland, then the Forest’s Tory MP – particularly during the campaign against VAT on fuel payments.

LOYALTY TO LABOUR:

Despite implacable opposition to the Blairite policies of the “New Labour” Government, Bill always refused to leave the Labour Party. He saw it as his party, hi-jacked by those who sought to distort or reverse its basic principles. It was this rebellious, stubborn streak which endeared him to some – whilst irritating others!

Bill worked tirelessly through the Labour Party for the election of Diana Organ, who finally beat Paul Marland to become MP for the Forest in 1997. Her election must have owed something to the work of Bill and his fellow pensioners.

Many will remember how he organised trips down to Tolpuddle, to the “Levellers’ Day” events in Burford, or to pensioners’ rallies in London – and how he mobilised us all. It was difficult to say no to Bill!

DISILLUSION:

His disillusion with the Labour hierarchy began in 1997, with the “re-branding” of the Party, the dropping of “Clause 4” from the constitution, and the election of the Blair Government. He saw it as a betrayal of much of what he had he had fought for, for so many years. For Bill, the song “Things Will Only Get Better” was a mockery, and he became a bitter critic of the Government’s policies.

His views were expressed in a piece that he wrote for the Clarion in 2005, shortly before he left us:

“My party right or wrong? Castration of the trade unions? Who could ask for more!

“When will we return to the movement’s maxim, organise, educate and agitate, instead of acting merely as electioneering fodder and trailing behind the dictats of leadership like castrated poodles?”

Bill was a firm supporter of the Clarion and was a member of its editorial group from the very beginning, in 1996. His hard hitting articles and reports – often laced with his own brand of humour – became a familiar part of the paper. And he continued to contribute for some time after he moved to Kent.

He resigned as secretary of the Lydney pensioners’ group in 2001. His wife and loyal partner, Lou, died in the same year.

After living in the Forest for over twenty years, Bill had become part of its very fabric. But he had been born and bred in Bermondsey and as a youth worked in the local Cross & Blackwell factory, before being called up for service in the Army during the last war. Shortly after being sent to Africa, he was taken prisoner, and spent some years in prison camps before escaping during the chaos that followed the Allied advance after the D-Day landings.

He and a mate hid by day and travelled westward by night, avoiding any entanglement with the retreating Germans – until they discovered that for several days they had been escaping through British held territory. “It was then we thought it was time to give ourselves up,” said Bill.

Just one of the anecdotes of a full life that Bill liked to tell us!

ALISTAIR GRAHAM

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

ALICE BATES:

We were also sorry to hear of the death of Alice Bates, a long-time subscriber to the Clarion, one-time editor of  the Pensioner magazine, and an active campaigner in the pensioners’ movement in Manchester.

As her daughter Sylvia wrote, “she was a positive and cheerful person to the end.”

OBITUARY: Ken Coates

In Obiturary on October 21, 2010 at 3:02 pm

IDEAS – AND ACTION

KEN COATES, who died suddenly earlier this summer, will be sorely missed by many who campaigned with him for peace, industrial democracy – and against the humbug and corruption of modern capitalist society.

He was one of many on the left who emerged from the ferment of ideas that had such an impact on radical politics in the 1960s. Many of those who were involved have since fallen by the wayside, or veered to the right, and the cover of respectability. Ken Coates, though, maintained his principles to the end, though he adapted his ideas to the changing times and changing circumstances in the decades that followed.

His major contributions were to the nuclear disarmament movement, and to the development of ideas on industrial democracy. He helped to establish the Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation and, with colleagues, campaigned for a “nuclear free Europe”. Through meetings and conferences this brought him into touch with many leading campaigners throughout Europe – including some in the emerging Green movement.

Ken also served for ten years as a Labour MEP, using the European Parliament to promote and develop his ideas.

But his expulsion from the Labour Party in 1998 ended his career as a parliamentarian.

INDUSTRIAL DEMOCRACY: In the early 1970s, industry in the UK was facing dramatic change. Changing technology, an uncertain economic climate and increasing competition from abroad meant that workers were not only threatened by changing work patterns but also by the loss of their jobs. Heavy industry, particularly, was under threat, with plants facing closure and mass redundancies.

Ken Coates helped to form the Institute for Workers’ Control (IWC). Through its publications and through conferences, its ideas were spread throughout the trade union movement and beyond.

Many trade unionists were coming to realise that strike action wasn’t enough in the face of factory closures and mass redundancies. An example was in Scotland where Upper Clyde Shipyards were facing closure. A mass “work in” by the workforce led by Jimmy Reid and Jimmy Airlie in 1971 forced an about-turn by the Government which provided funds to keep the shipyards open – at least for a while.

Meanwhile the IWC was developing ideas for alternative production in firms and factories facing closure. Out of this came the plan drawn up by Lucas Aerospace shop stewards, for the production of socially useful goods. Again, it attracted popular support – but not from the management at Lucas!

Attending conferences of the IWC was always an interesting and stimulating experience. Those who attended came from a wide spectrum of the left – with the trade union movement always well represented. For some, the notion of industrial democracy meant (as they say these days) “thinking outside the box”. Others, like Hugh Scanlon and Jack Jones, worked closely with Ken Coates to try to bring democracy to decision making in industry. It involved attempting to create a trade union response that went beyond constant opposition to a recalcitrant and self-seeking management!

WORKER CO-OPS: But the ideas that flowed out from the IWC (not to mention the example of the Upper Clyde work-in) stimulated a new interest in worker co-operatives. Amongst those who was influenced by the trend was Tony Benn, who had been a Government minister. It was he that gave backing to three worker co-ops – at Triumph motorcycles, The Scottish Daily News and Bendix washing machines. Sadly, all three failed (though it’s significant that Triumph survived under private ownership, and today is the only major UK motorcycle manufacturer still in business). But many other worker co-operatives that came into being at the time continue to this day – and more are still being formed as workers attempt to control their own destinies.

Ken’s other contribution was as editor of The Spokesman magazine. This was produced by a small team, including , Tony Simpson, Tony Topham and Ken Fleet on behalf of the Bertrand Russell Peace Foundation.

The latest issue was nearly complete when Ken died suddenly. The front cover is reproduced below. It contains tributes from those who knew him and worked with him – in Britain and throughout Europe – together with a quote from Ken himself:

“I have always believed that true socialism will be made by the people themselves, the real beneficiaries. That was the significant achievement of the Institute for Workers Control, because it encouraged people to work out their own ideas about what might constitute democracy in industry.”

(Ken Coates, June 25, 2010)

GRACE TURNER: An appreciation by Joy Simpson

In Obiturary on June 18, 2010 at 3:37 pm

Joy Simpson pays tribute to her aunt, Grace Turner, who died in January aged 97.

We, the family, could not be sad for Grace when she died peacefully at home on January 9, at last released from the loneliness she had borne since her husband John died in October 2007. They had been such a close couple for over seventy years.

Grace was the youngest of six in the Brain family, and the only one not born in Lydney. My mother was the eldest, and Grace was 18 when she came to help her in the dairy at Ascot when I was born in 1929. In later years we almost seemed to be the same generation, and I stopped calling her “Aunty”.

POLITICALLY ACTIVE:

Throughout her life Grace was politically active on the left, including being involved in the “Cable Street Riots” against Oswald Mosley’s fascist blackshirts.

She met John Turner through the Clarion Cycling Club and they married in 1938. Their daughter Helen was born in 1939, just before the outbreak of the Second World War. In 1940, to escape the bombing in London, they came to stay with relatives in Lydney. Later they moved back to Sunbury on Thames where Roger was born in 1944.

They never owned a car, and continued to cycle everywhere, adding a carrier for the children, until Grace had a terrible accident when her cycle was hit by a car, breaking her arm, leg and collar bones. John was distraught and used to take Royal Jelly (from bees) into the hospital to help with the healing. After that he would only let her ride the tandem with him.

They travelled all over the country and abroad, particularly to Holland where they met lifelong friends Ans and Wietze Postma. They also went by minibus to Moscow, Eastern Germany, Czechoslovakia, and on the way back through Norway. Their activities also included taking part in CND and anti-war demonstrations.

Gerry was born in 1947, when I was 18. Whilst she was expecting, I used to cycle down to see if Grace had produced the baby yet!

A HEALTHY LIFE:

Their healthy life included Grace making her own bread until a few years ago. They were mostly vegetarian which, I think, influenced me in making that choice. They very seldom visited a doctor or took allopathic medicine, relying on her own remedies including garlic for minor ailments. She was devoted to her grandchildren and often went to see Gerry and Alice with their three when they were wardens at the Friends Meeting House at Hemel Hempstead.

In 1987, along with my mother, Grace and John, I moved to Lydney, in bungalows near to each other. We were able to support each other and take holidays in Wales. My mother, Lois, died aged 98 in 1997. It had been good for the sisters to be near again. She liked to see my family, too, when they came to the Forest to see me.

Grace had a love of music and we joined the Dean Music Club and shared CDs. She and John were also interested in foreign films, which we enjoyed at the Studio Cinema in Coleford. Until her eyesight deteriorated Grace had been a great reader and we shared books and ideas.

Later, John would get “Talking Books” from the library, which they enjoyed together.

They had been a great team, not above complaining about each other but devoted nonetheless. When John died, Grace lost the will to live. Although she was loved and well cared for by her grand daughter, no-one could replace him.

So it’s the end of an era. Grace was the last of that generation in the family. Although I am the only Quaker in the family, it was her wish to have a Quaker funeral, as she had experienced it when my mother, her sister, died. It gave anyone who wished the opportunity to share their thoughts about her, and drew together family and many friends from many strands of her life.

JS

We, the family, could not be sad for Grace when she died peacefully at home on January 9, at last released from the loneliness she had borne since her husband John died in October 2007. They had been such a close couple for over seventy years.

Grace was the youngest of six in the Brain family, and the only one not born in Lydney. My mother was the eldest, and Grace was 18 when she came to help her in the dairy at Ascot when I was born in 1929. In later years we almost seemed to be the same generation, and I stopped calling her “Aunty”.

POLITICALLY ACTIVE:
Throughout her life Grace was politically active on the left, including being involved in the “Cable Street Riots” against Oswald Mosley’s fascist blackshirts.

She met John Turner through the Clarion Cycling Club and they married in 1938. Their daughter Helen was born in 1939, just before the outbreak of the Second World War. In 1940, to escape the bombing in London, they came to stay with relatives in Lydney. Later they moved back to Sunbury on Thames where Roger was born in 1944.

They never owned a car, and continued to cycle everywhere, adding a carrier for the children, until Grace had a terrible accident when her cycle was hit by a car, breaking her arm, leg and collar bones. John was distraught and used to take Royal Jelly (from bees) into the hospital to help with the healing. After that he would only let her ride the tandem with him.

They travelled all over the country and abroad, particularly to Holland where they met lifelong friends Ans and Wietze Postma. They also went by minibus to Moscow, Eastern Germany, Czechoslovakia, and on the way back through Norway. Their activities also included taking part in CND and anti-war demonstrations.

Gerry was born in 1947, when I was 18. Whilst she was expecting, I used to cycle down to see if Grace had produced the baby yet!

A HEALTHY LIFE:
Their healthy life included Grace making her own bread until a few years ago. They were mostly vegetarian which, I think, influenced me in making that choice. They very seldom visited a doctor or took allopathic medicine, relying on her own remedies including garlic for minor ailments. She was devoted to her grandchildren and often went to see Gerry and Alice with their three when they were wardens at the Friends Meeting House at Hemel Hempstead.

In 1987, along with my mother, Grace and John, I moved to Lydney, in bungalows near to each other. We were able to support each other and take holidays in Wales. My mother, Lois, died aged 98 in 1997. It had been good for the sisters to be near again. She liked to see my family, too, when they came to the Forest to see me.

Grace had a love of music and we joined the Dean Music Club and shared CDs. She and John were also interested in foreign films, which we enjoyed at the Studio Cinema in Coleford. Until her eyesight deteriorated Grace had been a great reader and we shared books and ideas.

Later, John would get “Talking Books” from the library, which they enjoyed together.

They had been a great team, not above complaining about each other but devoted nonetheless. When John died, Grace lost the will to live. Although she was loved and well cared for by her grand daughter, no-one could replace him.

So it’s the end of an era. Grace was the last of that generation in the family. Although I am the only Quaker in the family, it was her wish to have a Quaker funeral, as she had experienced it when my mother, her sister, died. It gave anyone who wished the opportunity to share their thoughts about her, and drew together family and many friends from many strands of her life.