Socialist Worker

Will Fancy 1933-2009

by Colin Fancy and Barry White
Issue No. 2171

Will Fancy, who died on 29 July aged 76, was a life-long socialist and trade unionist.

He joked that the high point of his career was during the strike wave of the early 1970s when the Daily Mail described him as “the most dangerous man in Britain” – “for that week”, he would add dryly.

Will’s father was a lorry driver and his mother a factory machinist. He was the first of five children.

Deciding at 17 that “collective action was necessary”, Will joined the Labour League of Youth, signed his family up to the Co-op and formed a trade union in his sixth form.

Disillusionment with Labour led Will to join the Socialist Review Group, the forerunner of the Socialist Workers Party (SWP).

John Palmer writes, “I have fond memories of our years together in the Socialist Review Group and the International Socialists.

“I always liked his dry wit and easy manner with those with whom he debated ideas.”

In the early 1960s he began working for Lewisham council. It is his work in the Nalgo union, now part of Unison, and the rank and file Nalgo Action Group (NAG) that Will is best remembered for by his comrades.

Geoff Woolfe recalls, “During the London Weighting dispute in 1973-4, Will was instrumental in getting the Nalgo branch to organise to make sure the workforce supported industrial action.

“It was touch and go. The branch’s old guard was hostile to real trade unionism and without his efforts we would have failed to get branch support for the action.”

Will was one of the first NAG supporters to be elected to the union’s ruling body in 1972.

In March 1974 he chaired the national rank and file conference in Birmingham, which drew together activists from across the trade unions.

Enid Khan, a NAG supporter in Leicester, recalls, “I always had such admiration for Will. His views were always rational and thought-provoking.”

With the unions’ defeats in the early 1980s Will became a full-time union secretary, fell out with his comrades in the SWP and left the party.

He retired at 60 and followed his partner Julie to Bristol.

The final words must go to NAG activist Paul Bream, “Will was authoritative without being domineering, knowledgeable without being arrogant.

“Everybody recognised Will’s commitment to fighting for a society that served the interests of working people.”

Will is survived by Julie, his three children, 11 grandkids and a great grandson.

60 years of socialist campaigning: A celebration of Will’s life will be held on Saturday 21 November in Bristol. Contact for details

Article information

Tue 29 Sep 2009, 18:27 BST
Issue No. 2171
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