Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Terry Liddle (1948-2012): SE London Socialist & Secularist

There's a memorial event next month (20th April) at Conway Hall for Terry Liddle, the veteran SE London radical who died in November 2012.

Terry grew up in Eltham, and lived for many years up until his death at 23 Sowerby Close on the Mottingham Estate. He died from a stroke at the age of 64 on 17 November 2012, with his funeral taking place at Eltham Crematorium on 10th December.

His first political involvement seems to have been in the Young Communist League in Woolwich in the early 1960s when he was a school boy at Bloomfield Secondary Modern School in Plumstead. According to his old friend Scott Reeve,  'he went to public speaking sessions led by Joe Bent, an old Stalinist who had a Communist Party speaking pitch in the East Lane market'. This was the start of an idiosyncratic political odyssey that seems to have taken him along the many highways and byways of the English left and libertarian scenes. At various times he was involved with the trotskyist Socialist Labour League,  the Labour Party, the Green party, Socialist Alliance, Solidarity, Social Revolution, The Workers League, the Movement for Workers Councils, the Republican Communist Network and for a while in the late 1960s an exotically named anarchist group called the Eltham Sons of Durruti. Evidentally a serial joiner more than a stayer! He was also very involved in secularism, including the South East London Humanists and the Freethought History Research Group.

I came across Terry a few times through my local radical history interests. Liddle wrote a number of texts on South East London, including a pamphlet on Deptford-born Chartist George Julian Harney, another pamphlet 'A radical history of Greenwich and Deptford' and 'Deptford Infidels', an article for Journal of Freethought History on late 19th century secularism in the local area.

In July 2004 he gave a talk based on his Deptford Infidels research to South London Radical History Group (which I was involved in) at the Use Your Loaf Centre for Social Solidarity (227 Deptford High Street). I also heard him give a similar talk for Lewisham Humanist Group at the Unitarian Meeting House in Bromley Road SE6.

The Memorial Event

The Freethought History Research Group in conjunction with the Conway Hall Ethical Society is organising a memorial meeting for Terry Liddle in Holborn. The event will take place on Saturday 20th April 2013, 2pm to 5pm, in the Brockway Room, Conway Hall, Red Lion Square, London WC1R 4RL.

They say ' All welcome to come and enjoy a few nibbles, a bit to drink and good comradeship in honour of Terry Liddle 1948-2012 In wild, but considered celebration of Terry Liddle’s maverick life of activism, Atheism, Socialism, Animal Rights, Republicanism, Trades Unionism, Temperance (sometimes), Deptford and the World. Bookstall on the day. A couple of speeches, with contributions from the floor and the Workers Music Association: Joe Hill; The Land it is the Landlords’; William Brown; Solidarity Forever; The Internationale'.

Among his poems, Liddle wrote his own 'Death Song':

Terry Liddle

Comrades when I’m dead and gone, no more than dust on the breeze
I beg you grant me one last wish, comrades do this for me please
Raise a glass of the blood red wine or a mug of the barley brew
Bid farewell to your comrade one of the foolish few
Who thought we could rearrange the world, dreamed we could make all things new

Kiss goodbye to my lovers, whose bodies I warmed with lust
My body once warm it is no more, naught but a whiff of dust
Remember how we fought the fight, lost and fought again
How we bound our bloody wounds, how we endured the pain
For we knew that like the phoenix our cause would rise again

The banners are tattered and faded, a paler shade of red
The devices writ upon them now can be hardly read
But we know every one of the words of hope, words of struggle and fight
A dream of a new and brighter dawn after the long dark night
A world reborn in liberty, a world we have put to right

Toilers of field and factory, workers of hand and brain
Will ye not rise like lions, sever the slaver’s chain
Will ye not cast down priests and kings and the money power crew
Remember we are millions and the tyrants but a few
Destroy their rule of exploitation and rebuild the world anew.

So sup your ale my comrades, drink deep of the heady wine
Cherish the sprouting barley, the grapes clustered on the vine
Say farewell to the old world, a world of grasp and greed
A world where poor folk hungered, a world of want and need
Raise a glass to your fallen comrade, who planted freedom’s seed

Other obituaries:

No comments: