Born in February 1892, Arthur was the fifth of seven children of a poor family. His father died from wounds received in the Boer War and the authorities decided that, as a single parent, his mother was able to keep only two of her children, the others being placed in care. There he remained from the age of three years until he was 17.
During this time, he contracted measles, which developed into an ear and throat infection that caused life-long deafness that was marked with constantly unpleasant pus but having spent more time in hospital than school but `graduated’ as a skilled carpenter and an avid reader. He spent time in an `approved school’ that is to say a punishment institution for under-age offenders and was a soldier in the First World War. These unpromising experiences to his life led him to become a larger than life figure and a life-long Communist Party member.
A keen supporter of the Clarion Choir, Arthur also made chairs from scratch for the 1960s Midlands Communist Party offices in Well Lane in Birmingham but was by way of being honoured as a self-taught historian with a remarkable ability to communicate ideas. He received at least two honorary degrees, one from KeeleUniversity. Arthur was a keen cyclist into the countryside even into his advanced years, with a penchant for sleeping in hay-stacks and nibbling turnips for breakfast! Allegedly, he sold his heart and kidneys to medical science in 1972 in exchange for a substantial sum of money.
His life-long companion, May, "Old May", as he called her (he was always “Old George”) was a talented pianist and an only daughter. Arthur and she fell in love but she was never to get her father’s permission to marry. By the late 1940s, Arthur was employed at, and allowed to live in, the big expensive house as a handy man and a talented gardener. When May died, she hadn’t prepared a will, so her brother (possibly step-brother) claimed the house and Arthur found himself back again in an institution, surrounded by old people. He hated every minute of it. Then May’s heir put the house up for sale and sent Arthur a letter telling him to go and tidy up the surroundings, cut the grass and water the plants, so as to increase the attractiveness of the property to potential purchasers.
This was too much for Arthur who knew there was never any affinity between "Old May" and her heir. That afternoon, instead of carrying out his instructions, Arthur visited this person and, with a pair of scissors, committed an act of violence that led to his arrest for murder. He was found guilty and sentenced to ‘life’ imprisonment, not that life meant very much at his age. Arthur became the oldest prisoner on record in Winson Green jail at the age of 88 years and served six years before dying in August 1986 in the prison hospital.
Sources: Handwritten notes for an oration – Frank Watters – 1st September 1986; `Being Frank’ (1992) by Frank Watters; GS personal knowledge.
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