Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Obituary: Terry Burton (1939-2013)

My friend and colleague over many years Terry Burton, who died on August 4th aged 74, was a veteran socialist and trade unionist activist, in the last generation who did not get the chance to go to University but instead picked up his huge range of knowledge from reading books and political activism.

Born in Tunbridge Wells, Terry was in the last cohort to do national service — in the RAF from 1958-59. Terry embarked on a life of political activism. He was a member of CND in its first wave and also active in the Committee of 100. In the 1960s he was associated with the left-wing libertarian group Solidarity.  He worked in a range of jobs including a British Rail ticket clerk, but eventually settled in the NHS. He worked at the Prince of Wales hospital in Tottenham in the 1980s and when that closed transferred to the nearby St Ann’s Hospital.

A trade union activist, Terry was involved with NALGO and later UNISON. In 1990 he found himself elected as Secretary of Haringey Trades Union Council as Communist Party activists withdrew following the collapse of the Eastern Europe states.I worked with Terry as Chair of Haringey TUC over two decades and found him to be a most efficient and diligent officer, qualities not so readily available as all that in any area of society.

Terry was usually a Labour voter until the New Labour period. In 2001 he stood unsuccessfully for Haringey Council as a candidate for the short-lived Socialist Alliance. He later joined the Green Party. He often attended LSHG seminars. He was a long-time resident of the Broadwater Farm estate in Tottenham, having already been there for some years at the time of the 1985 riot. Visitors to his flat found a scene rather different to media images of the area. Stacked with books and papers, Terry would frequently be immersed in a detail of the progress, or otherwise, of a left-wing party in an election in some part of the world.

Beset in recent years by poor health, Terry had Parkinson’s disease and typically became active in the Parkinson’s Society. Terry however continued to get out to such events and meetings as he could, and was present at a recent Trades Council public meeting with Owen Jones in Tottenham, with the speaker assisting him in his wheelchair. He is survived by his wife and long-time friend Inga.

Keith Flett

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