Chapter 14 - Obituary

Issue date
19 Aug 1997

Chapter 14

obituary

Jimmy Airlie, who died on 10 March, aged 60, represented the Amalgamated Engineering Union on the General Council from 1990 to 1992. He was a member of the Congress General Purposes Committee before serving on the General Council and returned to the GPC in 1992. He was chair of the Committee at last year's Congress.

Born in Renfrew, he worked in the Clydeside shipyards before undertaking his national service as a military policeman with the RAF. Upon his return to the shipyards he became a shop steward and then convenor. He came to public prominence in the early 1970s as one of the leaders of the Upper Clyde Shipbuilders Occupation which saved the yard from closure.

Following the dispute he became a full time official at Upper Clyde moving on to the post of assistant divisional organiser in 1979 and national executive councillor for Scotland in 1983. He remained on the union's executive until late last year when he took early retirement. Amongst his responsibilities for the union was that of being their chief negotiator with Ford.

Doug Grieve, the former general secretary of the Tobacco Workers Union, died in early December. He served on the General Council from 1973 -1983 and was chair of the Trades Councils Joint Consultative Committee from 1981. He was general secretary of the Tobacco Workers Union from 1970 until the union's merger with TASS in1986. Following his retirement he continued as one of the principal organisers of the trade union brass band festival held each year in County Durham: a festival which he helped to form whilst with the Tobacco Workers Union.

John Horner, was general secretary of the Fire Brigades Union for quarter of a century from 1939 until 1964. Born in 1911, he served in the merchant navy from 1927 until 1932 when, after a period of unemployment he joined the London Fire Brigade. He was elected general secretary of the Fire Brigades Union in 1939 and, through the integration of the wartime Auxiliary Fire Service,within a year had increased the union's membership from 3,500 to 66,000. Membership fell back to 11,000 after the war but by then the national fire service had been established and the union had won considerable respect. Following his retirement from the FBU John Horner was elected Labour MP for Oldbury and Halesowen and remained in the Commons until 1970. He died on 11 February, aged 85.

Sir Harry Nicholas, served on the General Council from 1965-67 and was acting general secretary of the Transport and General Workers Union from 1964 -1966, during the time that General Secretary Frank Cousins was a member of the Labour Government. The son of an Avonmouth docker, Harry Nicholas worked as a clerk with the Port of Bristol Authority before becoming a full time district organiser with the Transport and General Workers' Union in 1936. In 1940 he was promoted to national organiser, later becoming national officer, and then, in 1956, assistant general

secretary. In the same year he was elected to the Labour Party National Executive. In 1968 he resigned as the Transport and General Workers' Union assistant general secretary on becoming general secretary of the Labour Party - a post he held until 1972. He was awarded the OBE in 1949 and was knighted in 1970. He died on 15 April.

Ted O'Brien, who died on 22 March, was a member of the TUC Printing Industries Committee from its formation in 1975 until its abolition in 1990. Born in Wapping, he spent the whole of his working life in that part of the printing industry known as Fleet Street. He held a number of posts at chapel, branch and national level, creating a reputation as a formidable negotiator whilst London machine branch secretary of NATSOPA. Following the merger of NATSOPA and SOGAT, he became a national officer in the new SOGAT 82. He had a reputation as an effective organiser and campaigner providing support for a range of labour movement causes and demonstrations.

Dick Pickering was representing the TUC at a meeting of the European Union's Economic and Social Committee when he died of heart attack on 10 October 1996, aged 54. He started work with Manchester City Council in 1967 and soon became a shop steward representing the city's refuse collectors. He held the post of branch secretary, regional council member and regional executive committee member before being elected to the Executive of the General and Municipal Workers Union in 1976. In 1983, he became chair of the Executive and of the union's Congress. In 1990 he was re-elected as the chair and national president of the union, which had by then become the GMB. He served on the TUC General Council from 1985 until his death and was closely involved in health and safety matters leading the General Council's campaign on repetitive strain injuries.

Les Sillitoe, general secretary of the Ceramic and Allied Trades Union from 1975 to 1980, died in October 1996 aged 81. He joined the CATU as an employee of Campbell Tile factory in Stoke-on-Trent and during his 50 years as a member of the union served in a number of posts before becoming general secretary. A veteran of the Normandy Landings, Les Sillitoe was also active in local politics. He served on Stoke city council for 36 years; was Lord Mayor in 1981-82 and was a long-serving justice of the peace as well as a Freeman of the city. He was awarded the OBE in 1976.