Socialist Worker

Gerry Kelly, 1951-2021

Issue No. 2743

Gerry Kelly

Gerry Kelly

Born to a Roscommon tailor Gerry grew up in Balsall Heath, Birmingham. He left school at 16 to work in the building industry.

He was a teen rebel on issues of Irish nationalism and workers’ rights and joined the SWP forerunner, the International Socialists (IS).

In 1971 he started organising on the Woodgate Valley council housing site.

He built a strong UCATT rank and file.

Gerry took these workers to join picketing at Saltley Gates on 10 February 1972, helping to win the miners’ strike.

He also led a dispute with employer Bryants that won members a 50 percent pay rise.

Gerry was blacklisted out of the trade in following years, receiving compensation in 2016.

Meanwhile he took time to do A Levels and left IS. Gerry moved to attend the Polytechnic of North London in 1977, and threw himself into student politics.

He later worked as a guard on London Transport then served as a criminal solicitor’s clerk in Hackney.

Belatedly Gerry became an excellent English teacher. He hated the OFSTED school inspectorate but they had to give him “outstanding” grades.

He also loved teaching at Arsenal football club’s youth academy when run by a personal hero of his Liam Brady.

He was active in the NUT teachers’ union in Waltham Forest, in east London, and was a regular speaker and entertainer at NEU union national conferences.

At his last gig he played a wonderful collection of Irish rebel songs. Gerry also wrote songs for The Fred Hampton Appreciation Society band.

Gerry died in Homerton hospital on 15 February.

A popular, talented working class fighter has left the stage.

Our deepest condolences go to Gerry’s partner Sue O’Shea, his son Brendan, siblings Ann, Cathy, Maggie and Tommy, plus Brendan’s mum Chloe.

Nick Grant

Read Gerry Kelly on Building pickets - 1972 and the workers' revolt here and on 1972 - the rank and file was the key to winning here

Article information

Tue 23 Feb 2021, 10:49 GMT
Issue No. 2743
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