Obituaries: Jane Tate & Frank Clifford

A true friend of Ireland

Jane Tate: 20.5.1915.-- 18.12.2002.

Anthony Coughlan and Peter Mulligan pay tribute to an Englishwoman who campaigned tirelesslessly throughout her life for socialism and the cause of Irish freedom

JANE TATE, who died in December at the age of 87, was one of those remarkable Englishwomen who took up the Irish cause and devoted much of their political lives to it. The Connolly Association has been fortunate over the years to have had several such among its members. One wishes there were more of them, and more Irish women like her.

Born in Richmond, London, of a well-to-do middle-class family, she had a natural sympathy with the underdog and as a young woman developed left-wing views in the radical climate of the 1930s.

Her father’s death while she was still a child hit the family finances and forced here to make her living as a secretary. During the second world war she worked in the Foreign Office typing out texts for broadcasts to the Balkans. They were vetted and selected for each country and broadcast at night. This gave her very high typing speeds.

Around this time she got a flat in Guilford Street, London and lived in Bloomsbury for the rest of her life.

Her interest in Ireland was sparked by her friendship with the late Sean Dowling, who had been in the old IRA, had fought with the International Brigade in the Spanish Civil War and had been a rear gunner in the RAF during the war.

In the summer of 1947 the two of them went with other left-wing young people from many countries to work on the international friendship railway in Bosnia, which joined the main Belgrade-Zagreb line. Dowling used his expertise with dynamite, while Jane, as she put it, was a lowly general labourer.

The groups from the various countries used march from their tent to work each day behind their respective national flags. The Palestinians refused to march behind the Union Jack, so Dowling and Jane joined them in marching behind the Palestinian flag. “They did not mind,” she said.

She often recalled the idealism and international solidarity of those days when Yugoslavia was broken apart in the 1990s, in large part by external ‘big power’ interference, and Bosnia was ravaged by ethnic conflict.

After the war she worked with the Nuffield Foundation arranging programmes for fellows and scholars from all over the Commonwealth. Later she worked for University College London.

She joined the Communist Party in 1942 and was known as ‘the red aunt’ to her fond nephews and nieces. She became secretary to Ted Ainley, general secretary of the Association of Scientific Workers, a union that at that time numbered several famous intellectuals among its members. She used sit in on its council meetings and got to know professors J BS Haldane, P M S Blackett, Desmond Bernal and the historian Gordon Childe.

Jane Tate was an active member of the Connolly Association for over 60 years and sat on its executive over several decades. For much of this time acted as the organisation’s national treasurer.

She particularly appreciated the importance of the Irish Democrat and, along with the late Paddy Bond, was its most indefatigable seller. Even in her 70s and 80s, whenever she went to a Trafalgar Square demonstration for Irish prisoners’ rights or a Morning Star fund-raising bazaar or an International Brigade commemorative function, she always brought some Democrats with her. She would offer them to people with her politely pertinacious manner and upper-middle-class accent and invariably had good sales.

She was a woman of wide reading and intellectual culture, a great goer to museums and art galleries and an indefatigable traveller, always interested in meeting new people. On a trip to Cuba a decade ago she met the English literature academic and poet John Labe and they formed a friendship which, despite a severe illness on his part and his living in Cumbria, gave great support to them both, as they shared many intellectual interests. He predeceased her, as did her beloved brother Bob, who was a talented painter.

She had had a heart pacemaker for decades, despite which she kept up an active daily regime and was always game for an outing or an adventure.

This great-hearted and remarkable woman died in St Pancras Hospital after a two-months gradual weakening. She is mourned by her nephews and nieces, cousins and a large number of friends and political colleagues in the Irish national and British left-wing movements. Anthony Coughlan

WE ARE all products of the time we live in, and Jane Tate was a product of a time of war, and the aftermath of war, when the people united to fight fascism’s, and a vision of a better world emerged, with the growth of a new belief in communism.

Jane Tate was part of this time —- a time that moulded the intellect with hope for mankind after a bloody war.

She was introduced to the Irish struggle for freedom by the late Sean Dowling and Elsie Timbleby, both of whom had served in the armed forces, and who had come home to see, that another wrong — namely the Irish question —- should now be resolved.

Jane saw what many saw — that the British people could not themselves be free while Britain held on to its colony in Ireland.

Jane took to the Irish question with an enthusiasm that never wavered for an instant, joining the Connolly Association in the early forties and rising to become the organisation’s national treasurer.

With Desmond Greaves’ political acumen, and Jane’s tight control of the purse, the CA lived through some turbulent times which saw many groups on the left fade.

At every great workers demonstration, and at many trade union conferences, Jane was to be seen selling the Irish Democrat. Ireland is the issue that separates the socialists from the imperialists she used to say.

Her tales of her travels to what was then Yugoslavia building a railway with students from all over the world told us younger ones the meaning of international comradeship.

Jane was the most un-xenophobic person that I ever met and was always open to other cultures. Never shy of looking at new ways, be it different food, music or literature, she had an inquiring mind to the last.

On behalf of the Connolly Association I would like to convey our condolences to Jane’s family and friends. She will be sorely missed by all.

time has passed and another a page has turned in the history of the Connolly Association. Slán go fóil a Jane. Peter Mulligan, Connolly Association executive committee

Campaigner for workers'safety

Charlie Cunningham pays tribute to Connolly Association member Frank Clifford who died recently

LONDON MEMBERS of the Connolly Association mourn the recent passing of a truly remarkable member, Frank Clifford.

Born to a third-generation Irish family, his grandfather, a cattle drover, had settled in London. His father, a docker, lost his leg in an industrial accident and Frank, a brilliant schoolboy, sold newspapers to add to the family income.

An interest in telegraphy led Frank to Standard Telephones, London, where his rebelliousness showed and he became the leading engineering union shop steward, representing more than 1,000 members.

Frank responded to an appeal by Thompsons, the trade union legal firm, which had been seeking energetic trade unionists to study and become lawyers. Frank qualified in the minimum time and began his second career, specialising in work-related deaths and injuries. He became a feared foe of the employers and the first lawyer to secure a £1m damages settlement.

All his life he professed to being an Irishman and was ever advocating Irish unity. He was most generous to the causes and struggles of working people, including the Construction Safety Campaign, to which he gave his time and energy freely.

The Connolly Association and the Construction Safety Campaign were represented at Frank’s funeral on 3 February by Jim Redmond, Charlie Cunningham and Andy Higgins. We extend our condolences to his wife Rachael and all his family, for they will miss him the most. Charlie Cunningham

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This document was last modified by David Granville on 2003-03-10 14:16:59.
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