Andy Birchenough died last week just under two months after a diagnosis of stomach cancer. He was 47.
Andy was a member of the SWP for 30 years. For most of that time he was in Nottingham and his contribution to building revolutionary socialism in the district was unparalleled.
His clarity and straightforwardness in just about any political argument meant that he could talk to anybody about our ideas and how we should put them into practice.
Andy was always sensitive to the position of others, and his unfailing grasp of what oppression means allowed him to always encourage and never patronise people whatever their circumstances or background.
Always striving to seize on the key issue, Andy was often crucial to our understanding of a world gone mad and he influenced many comrades who have gone on to play leading roles elsewhere.
Andy was a consistent class fighter who took on racism and sought unity to undermine all divisions inside the class. He was a natural in united, mass activity whether it was the Anti Nazi League, Socialist Alliance or, more recently, Respect.
His reputation as one of the most effective union activists in the city was earned by his leadership in numerous strikes, walkouts and protests at county hall in his role as a Unison union steward and convenor.
Basically a shy man, Andy won the lasting respect of his workmates with his persuasive and consistent application of the Marxist tradition, so that everybody knew where he stood, whether the issue was war or working conditions.
He fought to politicise and raise the confidence of those he worked with.
Of course Andy’s ability to put the wind up management only increased his popularity.
The esteem in which Andy is held by those workmates – even two years after he left county hall – is indicated by the proposed hire of a coach to take them to his funeral.
Andy first felt ill in July as he finished his first year as a qualified teacher during which he had been involved in the campaign against academies.
His funeral instructions included that it should be a celebration of his life, that the Internationale must be sung and that all priests must be shot on sight.
That the illness got him so quickly is a tragedy for his family, for his parents Enid and Michael and his brother Alan.
Andy found great happiness during the last five years with Carey, and together they have three children, Mia, Matthew and May to add to Andy’s eldest daughter Sarah.
Their sheer delight in each other was a joy to see.
The fierce pride we all have in how Carey has coped so well in such appalling circumstances is matched only by her pride in Andy’s courage.
The many callers and visitors to his bedside will know just how deep both his socialism and his love for Carey and his children were.
To lose him is a huge blow to the political life of Nottingham’s left and an irreplaceable loss to those who loved him so dearly.
Andy Birchenough our comrade and friend will be greatly missed. We won’t forget him.
Funeral, Thursday 19 October, 1.15pm, Mansfield crematorium. Gather at Fiveways pub, Edwards Lane, Sherwood 5pm onwards.No flowers. Donations to the Socialist Worker Appeal.
Anwar Ditta, a heroic anti-racist campaigner, died last week.