Help to build this part of the rebel road by sending details & photographs of buildings and specially named rooms in your area to Mark Metcalf at firstname.lastname@example.org or tel: 07952 801783.
The Unite Cardiff office
The Eastbourne Centre
Marx Memorial Library and Workers School
Buildings of the labour movement
The Red and Green Club, Milnsbridge
Bolton Socialist Club
The Jack Jones House Unite building
The Mark Ashton Education Room, Unite Belfast Office
Two of the rooms in Unite’s Cardiff office honour former trade union stalwarts - Arthur North
& Tom Jones
.Arthur North MBE (1923-2008)
Socialist, trade unionist and war hero, we will always remember him
Arthur North who became one of the best known trade union officials in Wales was actually born under the name Stelios Xionis on the Greek island of Kefalonia in 1923. Both his mother and father had both tragically died by the age he was five. At that young age he was then taken to Cardiff by his Uncle Spiros who ran a ships chandler’s at the city’s docks. Unfortunately after all his earlier traumas within a couple of years his Uncle Spiros also died. His wife later remarried and the family assumed the name of “North”, hence Arthur North.
During the second world war young Arthur was a rear gunner in a special opps RAF squadron. Flying in Halifax and Wellington bombers Arthurs operations dropped equipment to partisans behind enemy lines. They also frequently dropped special agents behind enemy lines on trips lasting 18 hours. Incredibly Arthur completed 35 tours of duty, with each tour duty having an attrition rate of 12% Arthur certainly led a charmed life. In fact on one occasion when he had tonsillitis and couldn’t fly the entire squadron was lost during a mission.
After the war, Arthur started to work on the docks. He was quickly recruited by the TGWU and became an activist and full time official in 1949. Arthur became an expert in the agreements covering the dock industry and became a member of the National Docks Board. Arthur worked at both Cardiff and Barry District offices. In his time at Barry he was key to organising and winning excellent terms and conditions for the members employed in the petro-chemical industry. Arthur finished his career as A District Secretary for the Barry and Port Talbot area and eventually retired in 1988, having served 39 years as a full time T&G official.
In retirement Arthur remained heavily involved with the Union playing a key role in the T&G retired members section. He lived to see the merger of Amicus and the T&G into Unite and was a keen supporter of the new union. People will remember Arthur as a quiet man of the utmost integrity. A man who’s life was the union, and a man who helped thousands of working people along the way.
.Tom Jones (1908 – 1990)
known affectionately as ‘Tom Spain’ or ‘Union Tom’.
Tom Jones gave a lifetime of unselfish service to his community and trade unionism in Wales. After becoming a miner at aged 14, Tom endured the General Strike defeat of 1926 that cut the miners pay and increased the hours they worked. A strong advocate of the Labour Party he worked hard to increase the socialist presence in North Wales before the Second World War.
When the elected Spanish Government was overthrown in 1936 by the forces of General Franco, Tom volunteered to take up the fight against fascism and joined the International Brigade. He fought, he miraculously survived being executed, was captured, tried and sentenced to death, a sentence later commuted to thirty years imprisonment. A trade union and labour movement campaign finally secured his release, but only after the British Government was forced to pay a £2 million release fee.
Tom Jones pictured in the Spanish Civil War
After a short spell working in the manufacturing industry,
Tom became a full time officer for the Transport and General Workers Union in 1945 and three years later he became the Union district secretary in the Wrexham area. In 1953 he replaced Huw T Edwards as the TGWU Regional Secretary for Wales, a post he held until the early 1970s. In 1972 Tom brought the work of uniting all Welsh trade unionists into the Welsh Trades Union Council to its conclusion. He chaired the inaugural meeting on 23 September 1972. After being awarded an OBE and CBE, Tom was honoured by the Spanish Government when in 1974 they made him a Knight of the Order of Loyalty.
Glyn Conolly, education officer (left) & Keith Jones (Tom's son) in the Tom Jones suite
Mark Metcalf is currently writing a book on Tom Jones for Unite members. Keep an eye out on Book of the Month for details.
.The Eastbourne Centre
The Eastbourne Centre is Unite's purpose built hotel and conference centre situated on the main promenade. With stunning views from all of the air conditions public rooms and many of the 130 bedrooms, most with private balcony, the Centre offers convenience and comfort.
The mural (in seven sections below) is on the wall in the restaurant and is dedicated to the workers of all lands. The plaques commemorate the building of the centre and the painting of the mural.
.Marx Memorial Library and Workers School
Named after Karl Marx, the 19th century German philosopher, economist, sociologist, historian, journalist and revolutionary socialist, the Marx Memorial Library was founded in 1933.
arxism contends that there is a permanent struggle between the owners (the bourgeoisie) of production and a labouring class (the proletariat). Only by conquering political power can the latter end exploitation by establishing a classless society based not on profit but on ‘from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.’ As such, every person will have educational opportunities to help them achieve their highest potential as well as a job to give them the opportunity give their best efforts back to society. In return for their labour, all citizens will have nothing less than the complete satisfaction of their material and cultural needs.
Marx, one of the most influential figures in history, Marx published numerous books during his lifetime, the most notable begin the Communist Manifesto (1848) and Das Kapital (1867-1894). Marx was exiled to London in 1849 and lived there till his death in 1883. The east wing of the Marx Memorial Library (MML) was used as a coffee house in the 19th century and Karl Marx’s Working Men’s Association held meetings there. The Russian revolutionary, Vladimir Lenin, also edited his paper Iskra on the premises between 1902 and 1903.
The MML is dedicated to the advancement of education and learning in all aspects of marxism, labour and working class history. The Library has 46,000 volumes in the lending section including a huge selection on the Spanish Civil War, Socialism and the British Labour Movement. The reference collection has an extensive holding of journals dating back over 150 years. In recent times, the MML, which is currently hosting an exhibition on the print workers dispute at Wapping in 1986-87, has been reapplying itself to developing working class education. There are regular lectures and evening
classes on Marxism, political economy for trade unionists and art and revolution. There are plans for distance learning courses. The MML also sells a range of books, badges, t-shirts, posters and postcards.
“Marx is important because he describes the nature of capitalism, produces an analysis of how profit occurs, what capitalists do with it and also what the workers’ response should be in terms of solidarity and changing society so that the products of our labour are put back into society instead of into private pockets. That is why the library is so important as workers come here through their trade union branches and can learn so much more about their history and those of other workers
Quote by Ann Field, Unite member and MML general committee member.
Membership of the MML costs £20 for individuals and £50 for trade union branches.
37a Clerkenwell Green
London EC1R 0DU
.Buildings of the labour movement,
by Nick Mansfield
Foreword by Tony Benn, published by English Heritage
Interest in labour movement buildings has grown in recent years. This excellent book, written by the former director of the People’s History Museum in Manchester, is to be commended for bringing alive the built culture of the oldest labour movement in the world.
Although too many buildings have been lost over the years, there remains a range of communal buildings of the early 19th-century political radicals, Owenites and Chartists, through Arts and Crafts influenced socialist structures of the late nineteenth century. There are chapters associated with the hidden history of radical ex-servicemen, rural buildings such as the Burston Strike School and clubhouses of idealistic socialist cyclists. Buildings associated with key labour history events such as the Manchester Mechanics Institute, the birthplace of the TUC in 1855, are also included along with an outline of recent struggles to preserve buildings that stand as powerful symbols of a better future and working-class heroism.
In the foreword, the late Tony Benn, wrote: ‘Though many buildings have been lost over the years, the book outlines the recent struggle for their preservation, and details many that can still be visited. The rich photographic records of the English Heritage Archive have been used to help trace some of what has been lost, and English Heritage should be congratulated for supporting this record of labour movement buildings. I am delighted to champion the project.’
.The Red and Green Club, Milnsbridge
Formerly known as the Socialist Club, the Red and Green Club is one of the oldest labour movement clubs having opened in 1892. Having recently come close to collapse, the club is becoming popular with local trade unionists, socialists, environmentalists and community activists as well as providing a venue for musicians, bands, poets and writers.
A co-operative has been formed to buy the building, which has a remarkable history. Its opening ceremony was conducted by a leader of the 1889 dockers’ strike, Tom Mann, (see under plaques section) who spoke to a meeting of 300 people.
From the beginning the club was based on bringing together trade unionists and socialists. The club was later affiliated to the Independent Labour Party and Kier Hardie spoke at a meeting there in 1893. In 1906 Emmeline Pankhurst spoke on women’s suffrage and two years later the club formed the Milnsbridge Socialist Brass Band.
Financial support was provided for disputes such as the miners in 1921 and the engineers the following year. In 1927 the US was condemned for the execution of anarchists Sacco and Vanzetti. In the 1930s collections were made for the Spanish Republic. After he became Prime Minister, Harold Wilson visited the club on several occasions during the 60s and 70s.
Changing habits however meant that this remarkable history seemed certain to be lost and the club was set to close in 2013. A small group met and agreed to create a new venture – The Red and Green Club, which was publicly launched on August Bank Holiday Monday that year. They appealed to other people to get involved in their co-operative venture and the result has been a remarkable transformation. Financial support and major investment from rail union the TSSA has allowed for the commissioning of architects and building engineers to draw up refurbishment plans.
A business plan has been developed, including a canalside café and bar as the club backs on to the Huddersfield Narrow Canal. Nearby Slaithwaite and Marsden have become popular destinations and there is no reason why Milnsbridge cannot join them.
Many individuals who have become members at a cost of £10 a year have also made donations, including one person who made out a £2,000 cheque. A committee has been elected and there are a growing number of political and social events. There has been a steady increase in attendances. On May Bank Holiday Monday 2014, the club hosted an all-day musical event. There was also a film showing, a practice run for what will become a monthly event at the club. The healthy attendance included a number of people who were making their first visit to the club and who subsequently joined.
Included amongst the members are a number of Unite members including local GP Hester Dunlop of Colne Valley Labour Party. The club is being used as the regular meeting point for the area’s ‘Keep Our NHS Public’ campaign in which Hester is active.
Hester, who is a member of the club’s steering group, said: “We are testing out the notion to see if there is an audience for people to come to a club like this. It is a big undertaking but we have got a number of people with skills in engineering, electronics, architecture, business, arts and entertainment. Considering we started with just 3 people then I am confident about the future success of the club. I would like to invite other members of Unite to get involved.”
The club’s chairperson is former local Labour councillor and transport campaigner, Paul Salveson, who said: “It is about finding a niche not just for ‘the left’ but the wider community and organisations who are interested in something a bit different. Our model is the Hebden Trades Club, which has been successful in attracting audiences for a variety of events for many years now. The support of trade unionists and the trade union movement will be essential for our long-term future and anyone interested in getting involved should get in touch.”
Red and Green Club, 42 Bankwell Road, Milnsbridge HD3 4LU
For more details contact Paul Salveson on 07795 008691 www.facebook.com/redandgreenmilnsbridge
.Bolton Socialist Club
The origins of Bolton Socialist Club date back to 1886 when a branch of the Social Democratic Federation (SDF) was established and soon grew rapidly during a bitter engineers’ strike the following year. Then in 1888, Tom Mann, arguably the greatest British trade unionist ever, was persuaded to assist Bolton SDF. The first Socialist Club was opened and became an important social, cultural, educational and political centre. There were subsequent moves to two other locations before a permanent home was found in Wood Street in 1905.
Mounting debts meant the Club teetered on the brink of extinction on a number of occasions in the late 70s and 80s but on May Day 1984 it was reopened with a street party following a march headed by striking miners and nursery nurses. In the 31 years since, Bolton Socialist Club has survived thanks to the dedicated work of its members who in 2002 raised £10,000 for health and safety improvements.
In 2005 a month-long festival helped celebrate the centenary of the Club in the wake of which many new members were recruited. In the decade since, Club members have revived past political and cultural activities and during an era when labouring people are under attack from a system that prioritises profit over people they’ve helped keep alive a local fighting, radical tradition that promises a better future for all.
The Club is thus the oldest remaining independent socialist club in the country. It is widely used for meetings by a wide variety of groups and organisations including Bolton Trades Union Council whose secretary Martin McMulkin, a Unite member of the club, is keen “for any Unite member interested in becoming a member of Bolton Socialist Club to get in touch.”
There are regular events at Wood Street including a music night starting at 8pm every first and third Friday of the month. The club is open on Friday nights for members and friends and from 12 to 2.30pm each Saturday when lunches are usually available. There are guest speakers on selected evenings such as children’s author Alan Gibbons who in late January 2015 spoke with great warmth and humour on American radical John Steinbeck, best known as the author of Grapes of Wrath.
Alan Gibbons speaking with passion on the life of John Steinbeck
The Club’s website page is regularly updated at www.boltonsocialistclub.org.uk
where there is also an enquiry form for anyone considering becoming a member. For more on Alan Gibbons go to www.alangibbons.com
Thanks to Denis Pye for his assistance with the information in this section of Rebel Road. A former teacher, Denis is the author of ‘Fellowship is Life’: the story of the Clarion Cy-cling Club. His pamphlet on (Bolton Socialist) Club and Party 1886-2008 costs £1.
Denis Pye (right)
.The Jack Jones House Unite building, Liverpool
The Jack Jones House Unite building in Liverpool is named after a trade unionist who dedicated his life to improving ordinary working people’s lives.
Born into poverty in 1913, Jack Larkin Jones followed his father into Garston docks. He quickly became a Transport and General Workers Union (TGWU) shop steward and delegate on the National Docks Group Committee of the union. One of his early achievements was when he was awarded the TUC Tolpuddle Medal for union recruitment.
Download & read more information on the Jack Jones House Unite building.
The Mark Ashton Education Room, Unite Belfast Office
The education room at the Unite regional office on the Antrim Road, Belfast was renamed on 19 March 2016 in honour of Mark Ashton. This is the first time in Northern Ireland that a member of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community has been acknowledged outside of the LGBT community.
This article (from 11 September 2014) is reproduced with
the kind permission of the Morning Star, Britain’s only socialist daily newspaper
‘PITS AND PERVERTS’: THE LEGACY OF MARK ASHTON
PETER FROST remembers one of The Sun’s most despicable headlines and how it was taken up as rallying call for working-class unity. It has taken three decades for the BBC and the British film industry to tell the amazing story of Mark Ashton. Thirty years is a long time, indeed a good few years longer than Ashton’s tragically short life — a life cut short by Aids at just 26 in 1987.
Mark, a mercurial young Irishman, was a gay rights activist and a founder member — some would say the founding member — of Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners (LGSM) during the epic miners’ strike of the 1980s. LGSM came together to support the British miners during the year-long strike of 1984-5. There were 11 LGSM groups throughout the country. London was the largest.
The new film Pride is sure to be a great hit. It is already getting rave reviews and goes on general release tomorrow. I loved the film. It made me laugh and it made me cry, but I’ll leave a full review to others. There is a more important story to be told. The film is about two tough parallel working-class struggles. First the fight by lesbians and gay men in the ’80s against homophobic prejudice, street violence and against the horrifying threat of HIV-Aids.
The other battle was that of Britain’s miners to stop Margaret Thatcher and her government killing off their industry and their union. This was a time when Sir James Anderton, then chief constable of Greater Manchester Police, made the homophobic judgement that gay Aids sufferers lived in a “human cesspool of their own making.” On striking miners he was equally crass. He described mass picketing and street demonstrations as “acts of terrorism” and trade unions as “a politically motivated industrial mafia at work.”
He should have been sacked, but Thatcher knew she needed reactionary police allies like Anderton in her battle to destroy British trade unions, starting with the miners.
In this historical maelstrom Ashton was one of the first to realise the connection between two groups both under attack from bully Thatcher, her savage government and her tame and reactionary police.
Ashton told his gay activist friends: “Mining communities are being bullied like we are, being harassed by the police, just as we are. One community should give solidarity to another. It is really illogical to say: ‘I’m gay and I’m into defending the gay community but I don’t care about anything else’.”
Thatcher, of course, also had the unwavering support of Rupert Murdoch and his awful homophobic and anti-trade union excuse for a newspaper, The Sun. The paper’s headline-writers certainly linked the two groups in what must be one of the most disgusting headlines ever written. “Pits and perverts” it screamed in huge type on the front page. The Sun clearly intended to undermine the striking miners’ cause and ridicule or belittle its support from lesbians and gay men. In fact they ended up having exactly the opposite effect.
The so-called perverts appropriated that headline as the title of a massive fundraising event organised by Ashton’s LGSM at the Electric Ballroom in Camden, London. The concert itself was a huge success — raising £5,650 (the equivalent of more than £20,000 in today’s money) for the striking miners and their families in south Wales.
At the concert David Donovan, from the Dulais NUM, told the 1,500-strong, mostly gay and lesbian audience: “You have worn our badge, ‘Coal not dole,’ and you know what har-assment means, as we do. Now we will pin your badge on us — we will support you.
“It won’t change overnight, but now 140,000 miners know that there are other causes and other problems. We know about blacks and gays and nuclear disarmament, and will never be the same.”
The fundraiser was headlined by Bronski Beat, whose lead singer Jimmy Somerville would go on to form The Communards, a group who would record For A Friend, Somerville’s per-sonal tribute to Ashton.
“Summer comes and I remember how we’d march/We’d march for love and peace, together arm in arm.”
The new film Pride tells a good story and tells it well, but although one of its main themes is coming out of various closets it is sad that one important closet door remains firmly nailed shut. Ashton was many things, but he was first and foremost a communist. He never hid that fact. Sadly the film doesn’t mention what was one of the most important factors that guided and inspired Ashton in all his actions.
I knew, and worked, with Ashton during the miners’ strike when he was general secretary of the Young Communist League (YCL). It is sad, but perhaps predictable, that the BBC has edited Ashton’s membership of the Communist Party and his leading role in the YCL out of the storyline completely.
I was proud to work with Ashton and other communists raising money and support for the miners. We helped to picket power stations and fuel dumps, organised fundraisers, demonstrations and street collections. The savage Thatcher government had sequestered the funds of the NUM which meant that it was pointless for supporters to send donation via the national union.
Instead support groups throughout Britain adopted individual mining communities. Ashton’s London LGSM group twinned with Dulais Valley in south Wales. They had chosen that particular colliery after meeting some reluctance to accept their support from other miners’ groups. Ashton and his LGSM comrades raised an amazing £20,000 for the strikers as well as visiting the Welsh pit village in solidarity and to deliver money, food and others supplies. The alliances which Ashton and his campaign forged between LGBT and trade union groups proved to be an important turning point in the development of LGBT struggles and issues.
Miners’ groups began to support and endorse and participate in various Gay Pride events. Miners Lodge and other trade union banners headed the 1985 Gay Pride rally in London. That same year, at the 1985 Labour Party conference in Bournemouth, a resolution committing the party to support LGBT equality rights was passed.
The issue had been raised and defeated before. This time unanimous support from the NUM won the vote against fierce opposition from many on the Labour Party national executive. In 1988 the NUM was among the most outspoken allies of the LGBT community campaign against Section 28 — an attempt to ban any mention of homosexuality in schools.
Ashton was diagnosed with Aids on 30 January 1987. Just 12 days later pneumonia took his young life. His premature death prompted a tremendous response, not just from the gay community but also from the left and the labour movement in general. Red, pink and rainbow flags and miners’ union banners all fluttered at his impressive Lambeth funeral. His memory lives on in the Mark Ashton Red Ribbon Fund. His name is still honoured in the ex-mining valleys of south Wales and now the film Pride will introduce at least some of his story to a massive new audience.
Go and see it. It will make you laugh a lot and cry a little, but more important it will inspire you to action — and that is the only legacy communist Mark Ashton would ever have wanted.
Peter Frost blogs at frostysramblings.wordpress.com
Many thanks to Greg Sachno for the information and photograph that appears here
See also the Morning Star article on the room dedication at http://www.morningstaronline.co.uk/a-9f38-Honouring-Irish-LGBT-heroes-a-century-ago-and-today#.V1UxM-n2bct