Socialist Worker

Ken Orrill 1931–2006

Trade unionist and member of the International Socialists

Issue No. 1993

My father Ken Orrill died on 10 March, aged 75. He died after a long fight against cancer, possibly asbestosis from working as a heating engineer.

My father was a member of the International Socialists, the forerunners of the Socialist Workers Party, an engineering shop steward and secretary of the South Wigston Tenants Association.

He was one of the Leicester engineers who were part of the massive wave of workers’ struggle of the late 1960s early and 1970s.

I always remember SWP founder Tony Cliff recalling being asked to do a meeting on a Saturday morning – he never did meetings on Saturday mornings.

But when he was told it was a meeting of engineers in Leicester, he responded, “I do meetings anytime for engineers.” This filled me with such pride.

I can remember the scorn which my father had towards Hugh Scanlon from the Labour left, who sold the “social contract” under Harold Wilson’s Labour government and set back the cause of the working class for years to come.

My father was also part of the fight against the Fair Rents Act of 1972. One of the first demonstrations I can remember him taking me on was the Clay Cross protest, where the authorities threatened to jail councillors for refusing to implement the act.

My father was a true internationalist and at the age of 60 he embarked upon a degree at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London on politics and religion in Indonesia.

Although he and many of his comrades didn’t remain politically active, they still met to discuss politics and to try to interpret events.

He told me that one of his greatest achievements was that he was able to talk to intellectuals and workers alike. He stood in a fine tradition of self educated political workers.

We will miss his arguments and discussion.

Article information

Sat 25 Mar 2006, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1993
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