Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Bob Crow RIP

It was with great sadness that I learned of the death today of trade union leader Bob Crow. I was with Big Bob on Saturday afternoon. He spoke powerfully and movingly about the 30th anniversary of the Miners’ Strike, at a trades’ council event in Brighton. Afterwards, we chatted and he wished me well with my own little industrial dispute and gave me some valuable advice.

It was his final public engagement and one of his last acts of kindness – no doubt of many – to a trade union comrade.

Bob and I are the same age – 52 – and hearing him speak about the year-long miners’ strike brought it back to me.

Young and idealistic back in 1984 (as opposed to old and idealistic now), I collected money every week for the Hull Trades’ Council to pay for food parcels for the striking miners of Yorkshire.

Also I went to see the miners’ food kitchens in West Yorkshire and wrote a feature about support for the strike, for the Hull Daily Mail, where I was a trainee reporter.

It was a formative time. 

I believe I was the first journalist on the scene when the Humber Bridge was blockaded by the miners – a day I shall never forget.

When the strike was over, the other Hull Trades' Council supported and I were invited to visit the miners at their working men’s club, i recall, in Castleford.

A young miner gave me an NUM Yorkshire membership badge – which I have proudly kept to this day - but wore only for the first time on Saturday at the anniversary event that Bob Crow addressed.

The gift was made in the bar of that cavernous, boozy social club, at some indeterminate time between the bingo and the traditional punch-up, and, although the miner said little to me, I was deeply moved by his gesture.

At our celebration of the strike on Saturday afternoon, RMT leader Bob Crow recalled how one of his predecessors as general secretary had given the miners £150,000 in cash in an old crisps box - to keep it out of the clutches of the authorities to "stick by their friends" in the pits. 

This vital support, he said, later cost his union millions of pounds in legal fees and fines, but no one regretted helping the miners in their hour of need.

He likened the miners’ struggle to that of Nelson Mandela against apartheid in South Africa, turning the “minority view into the majority view”, converting the persecutors into the prisoners, fighting unselfishly because of your “principles and values”.

Afterwards, I told him his speech had been an inspiration to me. We shook hands and then he was gone.

But the spirit of Bob lives. Our fight goes on and on. . .

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Blogger Katrina Malone said...

Great memories, this is really quite moving.

Wednesday, 12 March, 2014  

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