Tributes have poured in from across the trades union and Labour movement following the death of much loved veteran trades unionist and lifelong Socialist Brian Northey who died last Tuesday aged 80. He is survived by his wife Lynn, his daughter Ann, son John and his grandchildren.
Leading those paying tribute to the former AEU, Amicus & Unite full-time official, as well as former Bolton Trades Council President during the 1970s & 80s, Unite the Union colleague and Bolton Councillor, Martin McMulkin said: “Brian touched the lives of thousands of people with his integrity, humour and big heart. Brian’s legacy will live on because wherever people stand against injustice and believe a better world is possible, Brian’s spirit will stand with them and his flame will burn in their hearts”.
“Politically Brian was a committed socialist and played an active part in local and national politics, chairing his local Breightmet Branch and Bolton North East Constituency.
“He never shied away from holding to account local and national career politicians who he believed where not acting in the interest of the working class.”
Bolton Trades Council’s Secretary, Andrea Egan said: “He was a fighter for the working class who campaigned all his life for a better world, and for those who knew him personally he was a great inspiration. He never minced his words, was straight to the point and God help if you were on the receiving end.
“Brian will leave us with a big gap in our lives and for many a big gap in our hearts, but he will always remain in our minds and with us in our fights ahead.”
Writing in The Morning Star newspaper his long-time Labour Party and Trades Council colleague Bernie Gallagher writes:
“He came from a humble background and struggled financially for many years with a young family after being blacklisted for trade union activities. As a consequence, he fought all his life for the repeal of anti-trade union legislation.
“In 2016 Brain was awarded the Award for an Outstanding Contribution to Socialism by the Bolton Socialist Club. In his nomination he was described as ‘The scourge of employers across Bolton and beyond’ as it was said that he always put the members first.
“It is the view of many in the Labour Party, and an opinion shared by many beyond, that Brian was the finest full-time union official the town has ever seen.
“Known simply as Northey to his members and friends who he served with dedication, commitment and passion, Brian’s contribution to improving the life of so many is immeasurable.”
Confederation of Shipbuilding & Engineering Unions (CSEU) General Secretary Ian Weddell said Brian was “…a tireless, life-long campaigner and Socialist. Chair of CSEU District 29 long into his retirement with a keen interest in seeing money from the 35 hour week campaign go to good use in the Alex Ferry Foundation. He was a friend and comrade who will be sorely missed”
Former local (NUT) Teachers’ Union and Trades Council Secretary Tom Hanley said: “Brian was part of the fabric of trade unionism in Bolton for as long as I can remember.
“His dry sense of humour, often accompanied by tales that might have provoked defamation claims if repeated, lightened many a post-meeting pint. But his energy and commitment to trade unionism was immediately evident (I think it led to his being blacklisted during Thatcherism). He was active in most campaigns for workers rights throughout his working life and beyond, and was never afraid to get stuck in where necessary.
“I will miss him, value the time I’ve spent with him, and celebrate his great contribution to improving the life of so many by his unswerving commitment to building a world which serves the many, and opposing always the powerful few who stand in our way.”
Fellow Breightmet Labour Party colleague, NHS Ward Sister Marlene Stringfellow said:
“I first met Brian in 2016, when I joined the Labour Party. He was still the Chair of the Breightmet ward at that point. Brian was most welcoming and encouraging – and although I knew him only for a relatively short time, he certainly made a huge impact.
“During the 2017 leadership contest, I came to appreciate his commitment. He always made himself available as we campaigned locally, despite his health beginning to to fail at that point. However, I came to recognise that he was a colossus and clearly respected by many with his unflinching socialist ideals.
“He often had a twinkle in his eye, as delivered his colourful speeches. He became very dear to me, and will be greatly missed…..”
There are many other tributes and kind comments on our Facebook page.
Brian’s funeral will take place at 1.00pm next Tuesday 17th November at the West Chapel, Overdale Crematorium , Overdale Drive (off Chorley New Road), Bolton BL1 5BU
Members of the Trades Council and Brian’s other Trades Union and Labour Party colleagues are being asked if they wish to, and are able to get there, to stand outside the West Chapel from 12.30pm onwards in a socially distanced show of respect for Brian and of solidarity with Lynn and other members of his family at this sad occasion. Please note masks are to be worn throughout.
We think Brian would also want all his comrades and friends to heed the famous words of Joe Hill and rather than mourn is passing to instead step up their organisation and effort to achieve all the things he himself devoted his life to fighting for.