Wednesday, December 07, 2011

RIP Wally Edwards, Labour and Co-operative Party stalwart 1923 - 2011

Yesterday was Wally Edwards' funeral at the Church of the Good Shepherd in Norris Green.

It was very well attended by hundreds of Labour Party and Co-operative Party members along with Wally's family.

The eulogy concerning Wally's political life was given by Councillor Martin Cummins and was very well written and delivered. So much so that I have asked him to send it to me so that I could put it here and leave it as a permanent memorial to our dear friend.

Peter Dowling commented to me as we were leaving the funeral that Wally "always played with a straight bat". Who could ask for a better epitaph?

This is what Martin had to say

Brother Wally Edwards – A Eulogy

Sisters, Brothers how will I find the words to express the depth of gratitude  that we owe to our wonderful Brother Wally Edwards for a life time of service to his beloved Labour Party, the ideals of Co-operation and to us his brothers and sisters gathered here today to celebrate his life.

I was 22 years old when I found out that I had a brother. It was Wally himself that told me. The first words he said as he shook me by the hand when I joined were: ‘Welcome to the Labour Party, Brother’

When Wally called you Brother, or Sister, he did not mean these words in a ceremonial sense or indeed figuratively. He believed, with all of his soul, that when we join the Labour party we become part of a family whose rich, majestic ancestry binds us together in a lifelong struggle for social justice and which compels us to unconditionally strive to achieve : ‘From each according to their ability, To each according to their need’

People have asked me how long our Brother Wally was in the Party. I tell them he was in our family long before I was born, others will tell you that he was there before their parents, or even their grandparents were born. It is said that on Mount Sinai when the Good Lord was handing the commandments to Moses he ran out of stone tablets. Turning around he saw Wally there and he wrote the 11th Commandment on Wally’s heart. Looking down Wally read the words emblazoned on his heart. They read:

‘Thou shall be socialist ’

And our Heavenly Father placed his hand on Wally’s broad shoulders and said:

Whatever they do to these, the least of my brethren  ... they do unto me.’

When I was told that Wally had completed his work on this Earth I felt the same acute sense of loss I experienced when I was told of John Smith's passing. It was as if something fundamental, something irreplaceable had been lost.

What I find profoundly sad is that I will probably never be able to reach for a book about the life and times of Wally Edwards, Man of Labour, the international best seller and required reading for all Party members.

And so it rests with us, his family to pass on his legacy by word of mouth. What, brothers and sisters, will we tell future generations?:

I will tell them, in the words of another,   that our Brother Wally was a natural, a born counterpuncher with a whip quick mind and a fine musician’s instinct for stringing words together.

Our brothers Jimmy Woods, Phil Rowe and Liam Moore will tell them that as a young man Wally’s mettle was forged at a time which saw the nationalisation of the Bank of England, of civil aviation, of the railways, of  telecommunications.  That he saw the creation of the National Coal Board which supplied 90% of the nation’s energy needs. That he bore witness to the establishment of the National Health Service, the nationalisation of canals, road haulage and electricity and of the iron, steel and gas industries for the common good.

Our Brother Nick Croft will tell of the fact that Wally served under 5 Labour Prime Ministers and that at annual conference in 2008 he received the prestigious merit award and he will speak of the tears we all shed when he was honoured with the award of Honorary Presidency of West Derby Constituency Labour Party.

Our sister, Sheila Murphy and colleagues at Region will tell them that Wally was a legend, a man of great integrity and unquestionable loyalty who always listened to other people’s point of view and who never judged those who had different opinions to his own.

Our Brother John Mooney will tell them about the day in 1997 when Everton were playing their last game of the season against Wimbledon, a match they had to win to avoid relegation. When John got to the ground the cash gates were closed. Forlorn and  ticketless he made his miserable way home only to bump into Wally who insisted that John take his ticket for the game. Gratefully declining John wished this true socialist farewell and went on his way a much happier man particularly when he found out that his brother had watched Everton sensationally avoid relegation.             

Our brother , Dave Hanratty will tell them of his skill in the boxing ring and that his twinkle toes and dulcet tones were enjoyed by  thousands who saw him sing and dance with the Pirrie Players in order that in his words ‘the old folk could keep their feet tapping’. (The Pirrie Players – 25 women, Wally and Alex, I wonder what the attraction was!)  and of  how he and his right hand man Alex, both well into their 80’s at this time, were fondly known as the Over the Hill mob as they topped the bill singing Match stick men and match stick cats and dogs  at Karaokes nationwide.

Our sister Pam Thomas and our brother Courtney Owen will tell them of his encyclopaedic knowledge of Labour Party rules and the humility and compassion with which he would offer advice and guidance to calm stormy waters at passionate disputes during meetings which would surely have disintegrated into chaos were it not for his benign intervention.

Our brother, Pete Mitchell will tell them about last year when Wally, aged 87, was campaigning in the local Government elections. Pete received a call to tell us that Wally was going to be arrested for breaching electoral policy. We rushed to the polling station to find a bunch of Lib Dems shouting about the fact that Wally was unduly influencing voters with what he was wearing. We turned around to see Wally’s cheeky grin peeking out from behind a Labour party rosette the size of Big Ben. He then spent the rest of the day rallying our flagging teenagers with the words: Come on sisters, brothers only another six hours to go.

His brothers Tony Jennings and Phil Knibb will tell  of the Friday afternoons  they spent with him over a beer shortly before he passed on when they spoke of politics and the old days  and of how much Wally said it meant to him to be in the company of old Comrades. And of how he would then break the reverent silence with a chuckle saying: ‘Pity I wont remember any of you tomorrow’

Our brothers Jimmy Woods and John Volleamere will tell them that the very ink that wrote these words flowed through his veins:

 To secure for the workers by hand or by brain the full fruits of their industry and the most equitable distribution thereof that may be possible upon the basis of the common ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange, and the best obtainable system of popular administration and control of each industry or service.’

Brothers, sisters this is a sad day but it is also a day filled with hope and pride. A flame never goes out if you use it to kindle another. Looking around this Church I can see so many flames kindled by Wally Edwards. To those who say we will never see his like again I urge you to re consider. Because we are Wally’s family we will see Wally all around us. We will see him in our Brother Joe Anderson as he lies awake deep into the night worrying about how he can protect the vulnerable from savage Coalition cuts and in the 20 hour working days he puts in with our brother Paul Brant and cabinet colleagues to protect their beloved Liverpool from the Camerons and Osbornes and Pickles of this world. We will see it every time our sister Roz Gladden visits a nursing home or a care home or a day centre as she valiantly seeks to defend the elderly and the sick from the ravages of Government policy which targets the infirm and the impoverished whilst the rich languish in yet more bonuses.

We will see him every time our brothers Steve Rotheram, and Stephen Twigg, and our sisters, Louise , Maria and Luciana  stand up for us in the Commons to do battle against the want, squalor  disease, ignorance and idleness hurled with  callous indifference against our people by the Coalition benches.

And brothers, sisters Wally will be there every time we pick up the phone or knock on a door canvassing for our party, shoulder to shoulder with our brothers and sisters who represent us in the Council chamber on the path, God willing, to a new Labour Government which will see compassion replace contempt, justice replace inequity and humanity replace a number on a Capitalist spreadsheet.

To Wally’s immediate family I offer on behalf of the Labour Party, our sincerest gratitude for your grandfather, your uncle, your brother, your dad.

To our Wally I say God Bless you Brother …. May you rest in Peace Comrade.


Anonymous said...

How sad to hear of Wallys passing, i can remember when i was a young candidate in the early 80s in what was then an unwinnable ward ( in the current Wavertree constituency) , He told me that this is when you'll learn most about people and whatever the result you'll be a better person for the experience- how true that was .

scouseboy said...

I am proud to have known Wally for 28 years, served under him as junior whip when he was cheif whip.
I never knew Wally to have anything but kind acts, he was a very humble man who could see good in everyone. RIP comrade

keva coombes said...

I am very sorry to read the news of Wallys death and sorry I only read it after his funeral.To me Wally was amongst the very very best of that generation.Never personally ambitious for the wrong reasons I still remember discussing with him the legal options available when the employers wages cheque bounced twice.As the District Labour Party and Trades council was the employer the idea of his suing the party was rejected in a nano second.Had he been less loyal Liverpool would have been much poorer and thousadns of people are unaware how much they owe to him and others of his political generation.If some of his boxing skills continued into his political activity any blows Wally landed did hurt but were always above the belt .Inow live a reclusive a life as is reasonable but Wally will be in my memory as a totally decent caring man-even his flaws originated in not wishing to hurt and his life was much to be proud of. Btw he did get most of the wages but not from the employer Keva Coombes

Margaret Massi said...

We have just found your website and are extremely moved by your observations about our `special`
Dad and Grandad Wally Edwards. Yes we could tell you many a story of his lifetime. We can only say that he was an imspiration to us all.
We shall be in touch when next in Liverpool.

margaret(edwards)massi said...

We have just found your website and were very moved by your comments and observations about our Dad and Grandad Wally Edwards.
He was an inspiration to us all - a truly good and honest man. He often said to us "if you are a good Socialist you are a good Christian"