Socialists and trade unionists in Manchester were saddened to hear of the passing of Vall Midson, who died last week after a long battle with cancer.
Vall was an extraordinary fighter whose commitment to improving the lives of ordinary people knew no bounds.
Her mum was one of six nurses who in 1948 received the keys to Trafford Hospital, the first to be created by the newly formed NHS.
Vall started work in the health service in 1979 and later trained as psychiatric nurse. She believed in a health care for all and would fight to ensure that everyone got the treatment they deserved. Sometimes she would stand outside managers' offices and threaten to go to the press unless they agreed to find beds for her patients.
I started work with Vall in 1987 and from day one I loved her. She was loud, argumentative and a wind-up merchant – she never stopped asking me why Socialist Worker didn't have a lonely-hearts column, a crossword, and a TV guide.
By 1988 Vall had joined the Socialist Workers Party and was a leading union steward in North Manchester. We went on an all-out unofficial strike for four weeks against the impact of nurse regrading.
During the dispute Vall showed just how much bottle she had. After managers had put out a press statement attacking the strike – and suggesting that we were not really nurses – Vall found one of them in the corridor.
She had him by the lapels up against the wall and said, 'Don't you ever say we are not fucking nurses again.' Vall was only just over 5ft tall and he was over 6ft but she didn't care.
She was one of many who toured the country collecting money for the strike. On one train down to London she persuaded the guard to let her collect on the train.
After he made a tannoy announcement Vall raised £600 from the passengers. She then sat down to breakfast with someone in first class who had donated to the fund!
Despite the massive financial support we received we didn't win the fight. Regrading was a national battle and we couldn't persuade enough other branches to come out with us. But we went back to work heads held high.
All the strikers marched behind our union banner straight into the hospital. We went up the main corridor, with Vall at the front, singing and chanting. We loved it so much we did it three times before we could persuade people to really go back.
Vall was never happier than when union members were sticking together. She was always a steward, although her hatred of bureaucracy meant she did remain a trainee steward for over ten years in order to avoid meetings.
Nobody could frighten Vall, neither mangers nor union bureaucrats. That inspired and gave confidence to many others, including myself. Her legacy of fighting back is today spread throughout the NHS in Manchester.
Vall Midson's funeral will take place on Thursday 2 April, 10.20am, Agecroft Crematorium, Salford M27