Farewell Comrade Eamonn

September 25, 2011 at 1:05 pm (Brum, good people, Jim D, socialism, solidarity, SWP, workers)

Eamonn Lynch, a long-standing member of the SWP in Birmingham, died last Tuesday.

I cannot remember the last time I spoke to Eamonn, or even exactly when and where I last saw him. In recent years it was obvious that his health was not good and he seemed to have become prematurely aged (he was probably about them same age as myself); I also got the impression that his vision had deteriorated. Whenever and wherever it was I last saw him, my recollection is that he didn’t see me. And, to my bitter regret, I didn’t go over and say hello.

Not that we’d ever been close friends, but we’d known each other well enough to share the occasional chat, joke and drink over a period of about thirty five years. He’d appeared as a member of the IS/SWP in Birmingham sometime in the mid-to-late seventies, just after I’d been expelled from that organisation. He was a printer (whether professionally trained or self-taught I do not know) and ran the printshop in the SWP  bookshop that existed in Birmingham in the seventies and early eighties. He was unfailingly good-humoured and friendly and on the relatively few occasions that we discussed political differences it was without the rancour or self-righteousness that all too often, even in the seventies and eighties, tended to characterise such discussions, and which these days seem virtually par for the course.

I suppose I got to spend most time with Eamonn during the 1984-85 miners’ strike, when he was the only SWP member in Birmingham (and possibly, anywhere else) to be involved in the Miners’ Support Committee and its support and fund-raising activities in the first six months of the strike. The official SWP ‘line’ at the time was to publicly ignore these committees, and in private, to sneer at them and their work as “left-wing Oxfam” and “the baked beans brigade.” Eamonn never openly criticised his organisation and would not be drawn on any discussions about its ‘line’, but his very presence at the Committee meetings and fund-rasing events made it obvious that he didn’t agree with the ‘line.’ I can clearly remember the almost palpable pleasure and relief that came over him when, six months or so into the strike, it became apparent that the ‘line’ had changed and the SWP began to involve itself in the work of the support committees throughout Britain (though, typically, with no accounting for the change).

After the strike our paths crossed less often, but we would still meet from time to time at political events, demos and in the ‘Prince of Wales’ pub in Moseley (a favourite haunt of Birmingham lefties). For a while he ran a little one-person printing business and I was able to put some work his way. But new technology put him out of business sometime in the late eighties and I don’t think he ever had paid employment again. I would still occssionally see him in the street, as he lived near where I was working at the time. He was still friendly, but something had changed: he seemed a bit vague, a bit distant and gradually, with the passage of time we didn’t have a lot to say to each other once the small-talk ran out. For all his bonhomie, he always struck me as a rather lonely figure, and that loneliness seemed to increase over the years. To be honest, towards the end, he also looked as though he was rather down on his luck.

To the best of my knowledge, Eamonn remained a member of the SWP to the end, though not terribly active in his last years. There was a dogged loyalty about Eamonn that I suspect kept him in the organisation even when he didn’t agree with it on certain issues. In the words of James P Cannon (in ‘Notebook of an Agitator’) , he was:

 “…a friend and partisan of all good causes, always ready to circulate a petition, help out a collection or get up a protest meeting to demand that wrongs be righted. The good causes, then as now, were mostly unpopular ones, and he nearly always found himself in the minority, on the side of the under-dogs who couldn’t do him any good in the tough game of making money and getting ahead. He had to pay for that (…) but it couldn’t be helped. (He) was made that way, and I don’t think it ever entered his head to do otherwise or live otherwise than he did.

“That’s just about all there is to tell of him. But I thought (…), that’s a great deal. Carl Sandberg said it in this way: ‘These are the heroes then – among the plain people – Heroes, did you say? And why not? They gave all they’ve got and ask no questions and take what comes to them and what more do you want?’ “

8 Comments

  1. Siobhan Williams said,

    Hi

    My name is Siobhan and i’m Eamonns sister,what a lovely piece to write and you have him down to a tee,his funeral will be on the 29th Sept at Woodlands Creamatorium,Coleshill,B46 1DP,Time 11am.
    Everyone has said what a very nice and kind person he was which i can only agree with

    Siobhan xx

  2. Jim Denham said,

    Thanks for that, Siobhan. To be honest, I was rather worried about writing anything about Eamonn (two n’s, then – I’ll correct the original post), for fear of upsetting close friends and family.

    His long-standing friend Tina Roe told me about his death.

    I’ll do my best to get to the funeral, but if I can’t, please be assured that I’ll be there in spirit and thinking of this lovely person, who I wish I’d got to know better.

  3. Dave Williams said,

    Dear Jim

    I’m Eamonn’s older brother Dermot . Thanks for the wonderful words you have written . Although I’m a little worried that that I won’t be able to match them at his funeral tomorrow .

    It’s gratifying to me and the rest of his family that others remember him and take the time to commemorate him .

    If you do make it please make sure you make yourself known to me and the rest of Eamonns family

    Fraternal greetings ( Do people still say that ?)

    Dermot

  4. Jim Denham said,

    We gave Eamonn a good send-off. It was great to meet some old (in every sense) comrades and also members of Eamon’s family, especially over a few drinks in the pub after the cremation.

    I learned from friends and family (Sioban and Dermot, especially) about the stoic bravery with which he’d faced his terminal illness, and how it was (mercifully) a much shorter affair than anyone expected. It was also good to learn that friends had been with him right up to his last day. Perhaps he wasn’t as lonely as I suggested above.

    Dermot and Sioban also described at the service, how, when they’d visited his flat to clear things up after his death, neighbours had described what a kind, helpful and considerate person he’d been. Just how I remember him.

    Farewell, comrade!

  5. Poumashash « Poumista said,

    [...] Comrade Eamon Lynch. [...]

  6. Darren said,

    A nice post. Fair play to you.

  7. Pete Stonehouse (formerly Pete Hoult) said,

    I was very saddened have just learnt that my former business partner and friend, Eamonn, died over two years ago. He and I set up that small printing business together in the mid 1980s, in premises at the rear of Key Books in Digbeth. I left the business in 1989 or 1990 as I needed a more dependable income: a lot of offset lithographic businesses were struggling then, due to the advent of fast copiers. We kept in contact for a few years but lost touch as I became fully occupied with a large and growing family. I did make several attempts over the years to reconnect, to no avail. More recently, searching the internet, he seemed to have left no digital trail. It was on latest of these such searches that I found this obituary.

    I had always imagined that we would meet up again: he was such an knowledgeable and engaging conversationalist. A kinder man I never knew and although we were always head to head in our arguments about politics, his extensive knowledge of written science fiction and zoology meant we would never run out of things to talk about. I am truly shocked that I will never be able enjoy his company again.

    Having missed news of his death and subsequently his funeral; I would be delighted to have a pint or two with any of his family, friends or comrades, to raise a glass to this clever and gentle soul.

  8. Jim Denham said,

    Pete I’m glad you finally found out about Eamonn, even though it was sad news. Your email seems a kind of vindication of this blog, and I’m pleased we were of some small service.

    Do you still live in or near Brum? If so, I’d be happy to meet up sometime to “raise a glass” in memory of our friend and comrade.

    jimcftu@gmail.com

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