Cecil, Cyril, Dick, or more commonly Dickie Bond, was a leading member of the Communist Party in Uxbridge, the Electricians Union and, later, the Pensioners’ Federation. Born in Cowley, Uxbridge on Good Friday, 13th April 1900 he lived in a small cottage in Clements, in Cowley.
His father, who could not read or write, was a farm labourer toiling long hours in the fields for low pay for a farmer called Richardson. His mother worked in the kitchens of Cowley House for the Countess of Essex. Dickie recalled sitting at the back step of the House waiting for the left-overs his mother could spirit away. “When I came home from school I used to wait and see if she had brought any scraps from the kitchen … that was how it was, that’s why I am a socialist."
He attended the Hillingdon Road School and greatly enjoyed it. At the age of 12, his family moved a few miles down the road to Uxbridge.
In his early years Dickie frequented the Friends’ Meeting House and it was here he meet sympathetic educated people. Dickie considered the Quakers a "very intelligent people" and his socialism grew from the altruism which he became exposed to. In his youth, Dickie was a very keen sportsman, and in particular cycling, at which he was proud to represent the British Workers Sports Federation in the Moscow Workers Olympics of 1929 and again at the Paris Workers Olympics in 1930. The Federation had been established in 1923 out of some locals of the earlier Clarion Cycling Club, Labour Party sympathisers and trade union officials. Its goal was international unity and peace through sport.
Dickie recalled that during the general strike of 1926 how he use to act as a cycling courier between Uxbridge Strike Committee headquarters at the Uxbridge Labour Hall in Villiers Street and the TUC strike committee headquarters at Southall Labour Hall (where a young Sid Bidwell, later the local MP, was also active). Dickie stated that Southall was always the strongest area trade union wise because of the commitment of the railwaymen. He recalled that the Uxbridge strike committee was lead by a “fine man” called Tom Dubberley the local NUR leader.
Politically, Dickie Bond had originally joined the Uxbridge Independent Labour Party (ILP), which he recalled had about 20-30 members. The Uxbridge ILP held open air meetings at the traditional Saturday night meeting and speaking spot by the pump at the back of St Margaret’s church, Uxbridge; Dickie recalled speakers such as Fenner Brockway entertaining the crowd. A policeman would often be present at these open air meetings to take the names of speakers, and when he was asked for his name on one occasion he replied “That book must be full of my name”. There was also a small branch of the Social Democratic Federation in Uxbridge run by Albert Notley (a life assurance salesman) and a Mr Barr (a watch repairer).
Once he became unemployment, Dickie became active in the National Unemployed Workers Movement and was secretary of the Uxbridge branch; he was involved in a Hunger march from Southall Labour Hall to Hyde Park with banners stating "Work or Full maintenance". The march started with 30 or 40 mostly from Hayes and Southall but picked up groups of unemployed along the way… "We shouted to passers by join the march … joins the march and some did".
Dickie was also involved in the Uxbridge League Against Imperialism (LAI) (Reginald Bridgeman head of the national LAI was the local Labour candidate).
In 1929 Dickie joined the Communist Party (after his visit that year to Moscow to participate in the Workers Olympics of 1929). Until his death, Dickie was a regular seller of the Daily Worker, and later the Morning Star, outside Uxbridge Underground station, “The Star is my Bible”, he would say.
During the Thirties, Dickie found it hard to secure long term employment as an electrician because of his political views he was regularly victimised and blacklisted " when ever they got to find out who I was I was sacked, It was the same where ever I went". He was awarded the TUC Tolpuddle medal for recruitment in 1934 (a medal which he continued to wear on his jacket lapel until his death).
One of the many who turned out to defend the East End against Mosley’s fascists at Cable Street on October 4th 1936, Dickie mobilised many of his union members to attend Cable Street. At one point, Dickie himself found himself and 20 to 30 other anti-fascists cornered by a large police presence, eventually being baton-charged and deliberately forced into a large underground lavatory where they were locked in by the policemen.
During the Spanish Civil War, Dickie helped with collections but, like a number of AEU and ETU members, volunteered to recondition and construct motor cycles (many of them motor cycle ambulances). The work, at Hayes Labour Hall in Pump Lane, was led by Sid Bennett and John Mansfield (both Fairey Aviation apprentices).
Dickie recalled the witch hunt of Communists in 1941 lead by Labour Minister Herbert Morrison at the outbreak of the Second World War:
“I was working on Government work as an electrician, in the Liverpool dock yards (Cammell Laird). One of the organisers of my union, Frank Foulkes, a member of the Communist Party member, came to me one day and said `look, Dick, I have been given instructions by the Police, that with your history, if you’re not out of Liverpool in 24 hours, you’re going to be arrested under (Regulation) 18b, for your political outlook. The only thing I can do now is take you to a certain place outside Liverpool (a little cottage that acted as a safe house), where they had all the food and everything for me, if you’re going to have a drink (he gave me money), tell them you’re one of the evacuees from London.’
I was down there about two or three weeks, I could not send a letter to my wife, or send her money, He had to do that. After some weeks, he came down in his car, `you’ve got to do some work’, he said. Russia had come into war from 22nd June 1941 and the whole political complexion changed, so I went back to work as electrician … I would have been arrested, if it was not for Frank Foulkes…. he saved me a lot of trouble". Unsurprisingly, Dickie never ever went back to Liverpool!
One other war time recollection was working `up north’ with a young electrician’s apprentice and Young Communist League member, called Frank Chaplet, later to become the ultra right wing General Secretary of the ETU.
Just after the end of the war, Dickie secure permanent work for the next two decades as an electrician for the London County Council, based at County Hall but looking after local schools and health establishments. He became Chairman of the former London County Council Shop Steward Committee (and remained an ETU member for fifty five years).
After the war he worked with fellow Uxbridge Communist Fred Glitz and left wing Labour councillors to address the shortages of housing and in 1946 helped squatters (many were bombed out families or newly returned solders with new or reclaimed families) to occupy Coaxden Hall, Providence Road Nursery.
Dickie also stood for the Uxbridge Town council as a Communist along with Glitz.
Dickie served on the ETU National Executive Committee and was on the London District Committee, President of North West Region and Chairman of Acton, Hayes and Uxbridge ETU branches.
In the 1940s Dickie became involved with Hayes Trades Council for fifteen years before its amalgamation to form Hillingdon Trades Union Council. He was a member of the London Co-operative Society (LCS) for 22 years, and was Chairman of District 28 of the LCS; he was elected to the London Society’s West Area Education Committee. After the war, Uxbridge elected Frank Beswick as its Labour MP, a man whom Dickie thought a good local Labour MP. Dickie was active in the co-operative youth movement, the Woodcraft Folk, which met at Providence Road School, in the 60s and 70s. Dickie Bond recalled that there were quite a lot of progressive people involved in co-operative movement locally including Mrs Dubblerley (later Mayor of Uxbridge). In later years Dickie was active in the Uxbridge & District branch of the National Association of Old Age Pensioners.
Among his not so well known interests were poetry and folk music, particularly Peggy Seeger and Ewan McColl, his favourite song being “Where have all the flowers gone?” Dickie was inspired to write a Ballad which he was to hear Peggy Seeger sing. It was the Ballard of the Migrant Labourer:
“A building is more than concrete,
It’s also part of them,
Who build but seldom inhabit,
Its also part of men.
Part of the sinew and muscle, the skill of their hands and brain.
Part of their hope in the morning, gone with the evening again.”
His wife Nancy, who died in 1969, was also a keen Socialist, Women’s co-operator and Labour party member. She was a founder member of Uxbridge Labour Party, and on occasions a Labour Council candidate. Nancy was not infrequently attacked by local Tories as a Communist and some inside the Labour Party tried to have her expelled for criticising its policies.
During the Miners’ Strike of 1984-1985, Dickie was charged with two counts of making a street collection without permission of the commissioner and with using a megaphone to obtain money – Hillingdon Trades Union Council raised over £ 6,000 during the strike. Dickie appeared in court for the first time two days before his 85th birthday. He participated along with many from Hillingdon in the Kent NUM Ramsgate solidarity march for the miners. Kent NUM friends picketed West Drayton Coal depot during the dispute (being based in the offices of the Trade Union Support Unit based in West Drayton). After the strike, Dickie noted that: “The strike may be over but the struggle goes on for all of us – the class struggle goes on all the bloody time". Dickie was, from my recollection, a small, well-dressed man, always in a suit and trilby hat, and, even in his later years, possessed a strong powerful voice.
Source: personal interview and Morning Star article 1985
Be the first to comment