My friend Jack Dash

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My friend Jack Dash

Post by Uecker_seats » Wed Jul 31, 2013 4:15 am

Back in 1984, when I lived in London for just over a year, almost 14 months, one semester in college, the rest of the time "slacking" (sometimes with the help of Carlsberg Special Lager, in the greenie meanie can with the crown on it!) anyway, I befriended this gentleman, he was truly one unique character:

Jack Dash (23 February 1907 — 8 June 1989) was a British communist and trade union leader, famous for his role in London dock strikes.

Born in Southwark to a family which was often in poverty, Dash left school at 14 to work as a page boy at a Lyons Corner House. He later became a hod carrier for a bricklayer, and worked in other jobs for short periods in between which he was unemployed. He enlisted in the Royal Army Service Corps and served for two years; he also became a professional boxer, fighting about a dozen bouts.[1]

Dash joined the Communist Party of Great Britain in 1936 and also joined its front organisation, the National Unemployed Workers' Movement. He found a long-term job as a docker and a member of the Transport and General Workers Union and the National Dock Labour Board. Dash prided himself on having been involved in every London dock strike from 1945 to 1969, stating that all but one had been worthwhile; the exception was an inter-union dispute. He was regarded by some as a firebrand and an agitator and was vilified as a bogeyman by the conservative media in the same manner as Derek Robinson and Arthur Scargill would later be. Dash, who was interested in poetry and would quote Samuel Butler or Robert Browning in his speeches, was often invited to address prestigious bodies: he spoke at 40 student meetings, and opposed the motion 'This House would outlaw unofficial strikes' at the Oxford Union debating society.

Jack Dash was the outstanding rank and file leader of his generation in the London docks. Between 1959 and 1972, the wages of dockers trebled. After a life-time of struggle Jack retired to become an official London tourist guide and devote more time to his other hobbies of writing and painting. In retirement, Dash became an advocate for pensioners' rights. He was commemorated by the naming of "Jack Dash House", a municipal office building on the Isle of Dogs. Built by the London Borough of Tower Hamlets in 1990 to honour the London dockers Communist leader, it houses local council offices and the Jack Dash Gallery which holds regular exhibitions of contemporary art from Britain and all over the world.

Jack Dash died in London in 1989 at the age of 82. His autobiography Good Morning Brothers!, published in 1969, was a testimony to his work as a militant trade unionist and his lifelong membership of the Communist Party. In it he said that the only epitaph he wanted was: "Here lies Jack Dash / All he wanted was / To separate them from their cash".

Keep in mind this was in the heart of the cold war, and Communists were very un sheik, especially to liberal college students from the midwest. I had many fascinating conversations with this man in East London, in different pubs, many which the touristos never visited. He was one of the most unselfish men I have ever met, and had a very good heart. He was also on the cover of Newsweek magazine, not too shabby. Over more then several pints of IPA one afternoon at the Goose and Firken, he wanted my cool John Lennon button, and said he would give me one of Karl Marx for it! I gave Jack the button as a gift, and we had some good laughs, and afternoon turned to early then late evening where were were joined by some "birds" later on, and the good times continued! Some of the mementos I returned with to the good old USA after that was a Union Jack sleeveless T-shirt, that shrunk and became tattered by the end of my college career, and a "Adolf Hitler World Tour" concert style jersey, with tour dates on it, with both USA and England marked "cancelled". How completely politically incorrect by today's standards. That disappeared one night my graduating year during a party. The T shirts are gone, but the memories of my friend Jack live on!