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Remembering Blair Peach: 30 Years On

Discussion in 'General' started by dalsingh, May 3, 2009.

  1. dalsingh

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    Jun 13, 2006
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    Remembering Blair Peach: 30 years on

    23 April 2009, 12:00pm

    A friend and colleague remembers Blair Peach, killed by a member of the Special Patrol Group in Southall during a demonstration against the National Front (NF) on 23 April 1979.

    Blair Peach was born in New Zealand in 1946. After earning his degree at Victoria University and periods of work as a fireman and hospital orderly, he arrived in London in 1969.
    From that year until his death on the streets of Southall on 23 April 1979, he worked at Phoenix School in Bow, East London. He was a dedicated and brilliant teacher who was much appreciated by his pupils. As one of them wrote, after Blair's death:
    'He was a different kind of teacher. His interest in his pupils was not confined to the schoolroom but extended into their homes, where he would visit and give advice and practical help whenever he could.
    He was a man of high ideals, but ideals are no good if they are not put into practice. He always practised what he preached. At school he instituted a special class to help those children who had difficulty in reading and those classes were extended into the school holidays. He did this because he cared about these children and wanted them to be free thinking adults who would not be pushed about by the system. I know I will never forget him and he will always be remembered as a friend of the people.'

    The 1970s represented a ferment in education to the young teachers in East London, particularly those organised within the East London Teachers' Association, the local branch of the National Union of Teachers. As a loyal and committed trade unionist and socialist, Blair Peach was at the centre of debate. As the topics ranged from democracy in schools, the participation of the local community in education, the abolition of wage differentials amongst teachers, the run-down of local public services like hospitals and council housing, Ireland, South Africa and solidarity with other trade unionists like the Shrewsbury building workers - Blair was always leading, contributing and doing the often tedious and infrastructural work associated with the struggles over pay and conditions that is the daily bread of trade unionism. In the last year of his life he had been elected as the president of East London Teachers' Association.
    There was a particular electricity about Blair's spoken interventions. He had a stammer that sometimes interfered with his delivery. Yet his personal courage was such that his words and arguments always emerged, forged through a determination that you could feel was willing his voice forward. All his colleagues knew the words would come, and waited through his struggle for articulation, and even if you disagreed with his arguments you felt so close to him and proud that you were debating with such a brave mind.

    What concerned Blair Peach more than anything was the growth in organised racism in East London all through the '70s. He didn't just speak out and condemn the rise in the influence of such fascist groups as the National Front and British Movement during those years, he organised against their poison whether in the classroom, trade union meeting or the street. He hated racism with all his being and was the first to mobilise himself and others in any action which combated it. He was an active organiser within his South Hackney and Shoreditch Branch of the Anti-Nazi League, was frequently involved in standing firm against racists with the Bengali community in the Brick Lane neighbourhood, and successfully campaigned to stop the Inner London Education Authority allowing schools to be used for evening meetings by fascist organisations.

    ........continued on site

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  3. Randip Singh

    Randip Singh
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    May 25, 2005
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    Was very sad and shocking when he died.
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