Socialist Worker

Dave Ellis 1947-2016

by Nick Ruff
Issue No. 2511

Dave Ellis (right) and striking Huddersfield caretakers receive solidarity from Unison members

Dave Ellis (right) and striking Huddersfield caretakers receive solidarity from Unison members

It is with sadness that I report the death of Dave Ellis on Friday 8 July due to cancer of the oesophagus.

Dave became seriously ill just six weeks ago and died at Kirkwood Hospice on Friday morning.

He had just celebrated his 69th birthday and was still working as a caretaker at Kirklees College in Hudddersfied.

Dave had been an active trade unionist and socialist all his life and was previously a union convenor at David Brown's Tractors.

He came to work as a caretaker at Huddersfield Technical College (as it was known then) in 2001 and quickly became a Unison union activist and steward.

I first got to know this great man when in 2005 he led a 14 week strike of his fellow 18 caretakers for equal pay. Dave was on the picket line every morning at 4am having walked four miles from his home.

He toured the country building solidarity and raising money for the strike. Dave famously had his Christmas dinner on the picket line in 2005. He didn't share a brussel sprout with the supporters who joined him!

Dave later became a member of UNISON's national FE committee and it was in this role that he attended the national conference just a few weeks ago to move a motion on pay on the committee’s behalf (rightly so as he had recently shut the college during Unison's strike over pay).


Dave for many years had lit up conference with his passionate contributions and his understanding of working class struggles and why we had to fight to defend workers against the bosses.

When Dave addressed conference this year he did it despite obviously being seriously ill and conference was stunned at his deteriorating health.

Despite his illness Dave refused to travel from Brighton to London on a train in solidarity with his comrades in the RMT who were striking on the day.

Despite being seriously ill he choose at great discomfort to himself to travel by bus for three hours to London.

Dave was a lifelong Labour Party member, but his hatred of Tony Blair and the Iraq war led to him joining Respect and the SWP.

Dave stood as a candidate for Respect in the council elections. He was a committed anti-racist and anti-fascist and never missed a mobilisation against the far right.

Dave was proud of the fact that he had lost his teeth when seeing the National Front out of Huddersfield in the 1970s when they attempted to set up their national office in the town.


After the election of the Tory-Lib Dem coalition in 2010, Dave decided that he had to rejoin the Labour Party believing it was the best way to kick out the Tories. He was devastated by the Tory victory in 2015 but was inspired by the election of Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the Labour Party.

Dave loved the Durham Miners Gala as he had given everything he had in solidarity with the great strike of 1984-5. Dave sadly missed Saturday's gala which he was desperate to attend.

Dave was the most principled person I have ever met, and on his death bed he was fighting the case for fairness for the hospital staff.

Dave left us with a classic Dave statement: when asked by a member of staff at the hospice if there was anything that he needed he informed her that he had no idea as he had not died before.

Dave never took a penny expenses from the union stating it was the members’ money.

The labour and socialist movements have lost one of the true greats.

Dave leaves behind his children Michael and Tracy, his grandchildren Aiden and Josh and his great grandchild Chester. Our condolences go to all of them for their loss.

RIP Big Dave.

Article information

Tue 5 Jul 2016, 17:04 BST
Issue No. 2511
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