RIP: ‘His Reverence’ Richard Bashford

May 13, 2016 at 8:53 pm (ex-SWP, good people, humanism, Jim D, reformism, religion, RIP, workers)

Former councillor, Rev Richard Bashford.

Former Labour councillor and miners’ strike supporter Rev Richard Bashford

My friend, comrade and drinking companion Richard Bashford has died. He’d been in poor health for a long while, so it wasn’t entirely unexpected. But it’s still a shock: one more old crony departed; one less pal to consort and jaw with.

Richard was a strange and fascinating character, having been ordained into the C of E and serving as the vicar of Winson Green (one of the most deprived areas of Birmingham) for many years in the 1970s and 80’s, until he was elected as Labour councillor for Quinton – another deprived part of Birmingham, but unlike Winson Green, predominantly white working class. The people there recognised him as a committed champion of their local concerns, and loved him for it. One of his campaigns involved driving racists out of the area, even though it was predominantly white in the first place.

Richard was an entertaining story-teller, especially about himself: he claimed to have been a member of the International Socialists in London in the late 1960s or early 70s and to have departed the organisation over some dispute or another, having poured a pint of beer over the local IS organiser’s head. By the time I got to know him in Birmingham in the early 1980’s, he was a leftist member of the Labour Party and widely known as the “Red Rev” of Winson Green. He’d also set up a Youth Training Scheme in Handsworth/Winson Green, called Greensprings: its aim was to use government money to bring training and employment opportunities to young people, many of whom were from the Afro Caribbean community, and who had been in trouble with the police. This imitative was remarkably successful and turned round many lives; it was also typical of Bashford: ever the opportunist, he decided to use government money in the cause of social justice.

One of Richard’s managers at Greensprings was an ex-Lucas shop steward called Vic Collard – himself an eccentric, opinionated former IS member. Richard, Vic and I – sometimes joined by renagade SWP’er Tina Roe (who added some glamour as well as intellectual rigour to the proceedings) – met virtually every Sunday lunchtime in the 1980’s in various Brum pubs to drink, discuss politics, argue and laugh. They were golden days. Vic died a couple of years ago (but not before recording his account of being a working class member of IS, published by Workers Liberty) and now Richard’s gone. I haven’t seen Tina for a while: the old friendships are being erased by mortality.

A last memory of “His Reverence” (as friends often referred to him):

During the great miners’ strike of 1984/5 Richard was actively involved in the Birmingham Trades Council Miners’ Support Committee and helped set up a public meeting in Handsworth. A couple of striking miners from Maerdy, South Wales, attended, one of whom spoke from the platform. The audience was mainly Afro-Caribbean and Asian, and their support was fantastic, with a generous collection taken at the end. After the meeting Bashford, myself, the two Maerdy boys and a driver crushed into a car, heading for a pub. The Maerdy boys – still excited by the meeting – started expressing themselves in somewhat fruity language, before realising that a Man Of The Cloth was present: “So sorry, your Reverence, we forgot you were here”, one of them bleated apologetically. Bashford bellowed, from the back seat, “Don’t be a jerk: I was in the Merchant Navy!” The Maerdy boys were polaxed. And – by the way – the word Bashford used wasn’t “jerk”.


  1. Jim Denham said,

    The funeral will be on Friday 3rd June 1230pm at Christ Church Quinton b32 1aj and then on to the crematorium and wake at Quinzone Quinton

    Sheila (his widow) has asked for people not to wear black but brighter colours

  2. Dave O said,

    Sounds like a great guy …

    • Jim Denham said,

      He was. We need more like him, just to show the left’s human.

    • cynical said,

      Not in my experience!

  3. winsongreengirl said,

    Bashford was a user, taking what he wanted with no thought for the people he affected by his lechery and greed.

    • Steven Johnston said,

      De mortis nil nisi bonum

  4. Christine Graham said,

    I had the privilege of knowing Richard Bashford in the 80s and he was a wonderful jovial man who had such a big heart for those who were disadvantaged. I have many fond memories of him and of my time in Birmingham while working with my charity HALOW. God bless Richard RIP my dear friend I will never forget you. Xxx

  5. shaun harrison said,

    blimey he could down some whisky when he drank with gerry moore in the cape of good hope
    may he find eternal peace

  6. ann collins said,

    He was the vicar of St. Paul’s, Bordesley Green, NOT Winson Green.

  7. Bordesley Blue Boy said,

    As vicar of St. Paul’s in Bordesley Green I often had a pint with Richard in what is now McDonald’s (The Broadway). A pub full of characters and hard cases, Richard always felt comfortable amongst the working class. He was kind enough to preside of my fathers funeral and many years later when my mother passed away, I asked the funeral director of they could trace The Reverend Richard Bashford- to my surprise they traced him to Winson Green and he was kind enough to to preside over my mother’s funeral, after we met in a pub to discuss her life. He brought the house down with the tales of my mother- a thoroughly decent bloke who you always knew where you stood with him. So sorry to hear he has passed.

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