Saturday, November 23, 2013

Obituaries: Campbell McEwen and Harry Walters (1996)

Obituaries from the October 1996 issue of the Socialist Standard

Campbell McEwen
Members throughout Britain will be saddened by the death at 65 of Campbell McEwen. Many will remember him for his forthright contributions at our conferences during the last 30 years.

Campbell became interested in working class politics when in his teens, and his first serious political act was to register as a conscientious objector. He appeared before the tribunal and, without any assistance, argued his case so convincingly that he won a rare full exemption from military service. Not bad for an 18-year-old!

A spell in the Communist Party soon brought disillusion and Campbell's courage (or foolhardiness, he had both aplenty) was shown when he and his lifelong pal Eric Darroch chose to leave the CP, not by simply dropping out, but by going along to their branch to present their reasons for resigning, and there they were denounced in the standard CP phraseology of the period. Soon after this, Campbell encountered the Socialist Party at the old Glasgow Workers Open Forum and he joined the party in 1953.

His job record resembled those often attributed to adventure-story writers by their publishers, but his loathing of wage-slavery ensured that he never settled at anything. He was a railway porter, tram driver, salesman, clerk, tally-man, trade union organiser, telephone operator, etc, and had a fund of hilarious and sometimes sobering stories to tell about all of them.

About 15 years go Campbell had a serious illness and life-saving surgery was necessary. Towards the end of last year cancer was diagnosed but this time not even prompt surgery could save our comrade. At the cremation a large turn-out of members heard comrades Donnelly and Darroch deliver valedictory addresses befitting a staunch materialist.

Campbell McEwen's contribution to the party was a generous one, and he spoke in his own uncompromising style at outdoor and indoor meetings for many years. He was a larger-than-life character and we will miss him. We extend our deepest condolences to his family.


Harry Walters
Harry Walters, a long time member of the old Paddington branch and its successors died in July after a long a long illness, at the age of 82.

It was not until 1946 when he was aged 32 that Harry joined the Party. Characteristically in registering as a conscientious objector during the war without holding a Party card he had made the task of facing the tribunal that much harder but he had been loath for it to be thought that becoming a member was in any way motivated by it being to facilitate his avoidance of joining the killing machine. His time in jail in this context substantiated the fact that he truly was a man of principle. Contrary to the popular sentiment about COs, Harry was no namby-pamby weakling. Indeed, there was a famous occasion when a mid-week Hyde Park meeting arranged by Paddington Branch was being broken-up by thuggish opponents and his still remembered pugilistic skills saved the day.

Harry was a painter by trade and worked many years at the Elstree Studios, painting scenery for films where he built up a formidable reputation as a UCATT shop steward, never compromising the interests of his workmates out of political considerations as was often the case with his Labour and Communist Party opposite numbers.

Harry had a remarkable flair for handling and conveying scientific ideas and became very well read in anthropology and kindred fields. Sound as a rock on Socialist essentials, he never lapsed into any kind of dogmatism and was prepared fearlessly to get into the thick of debate at all levels. I shall  never forget when he went along to one of the New Left meetings at their Oxford Street venue with its audience of 500 chaired by the shamefully biased Raphael Samuel. It is true that Harry's argument was going to require his full quota of time plus a bit. When, after only about two minutes, the chair signalled time Harry, who had only got as a far as the ice-age, was thrown off his stride and said surely he had not gone over the limit. Mr Chairman, he appealed, how long have I been speaking? A voice from the back of the hall answered, ten thousand years! And brought the house down in laughter.

Party members attended the funeral at Golders Green Crematorium at which Comrade Grant gave the address and Comrade Easton played IWW songs on the organ.
ESG

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