Frank Bright was born on 20th February 1891 in Bideford, North Devon; his father was a blacksmith, one Charles Bright of Llandaff House, Clovelly Road, Bideford. In his younger days in Bideford, Bright was a renowned rower on the local river and a good sportsman in general. A member of the Church Lads Brigade, he rowed for Bideford Amateur Athletic Club, known as the `Blues’.
Bright went to Ynyshire in South Wales in 1911 to work in the Standard Pit. A member of the South Wales Miners’ Federation for 16 years, he became an active member of the Miners Unofficial Reform Movement and later a leading light of the Rhondda Communist Party. During the run up to the General Strike, he stated that "far more important than the fight for wages is the struggle for power"; he was imprisoned during the course of that momentous year, one of several periods of imprisonment arising from his political activities.
He became Manchester District Organiser for the Communist Party in January 1927 and, in August 1930, went to the Lenin School in Moscow, becoming well known as a "diligent exponent of Marxism" and a good platform speaker; the Bideford Gazette was later to note that he had "remarkable ability as an orator". He spent two and a half years as a deputy to the Moscow Soviet.
According to Harold Goodwin, a Communist merchant navy sailor who worked out of Liverpool, Frank Bright had told him how he had used his mining knowledge to help the Soviet authorities combat widespread sabotage in their mines during the 1930s, when he was involved with the Communist International.
In 1935, he became Liverpool Communist Party Organiser and, in 1939, the Lancashire District Organiser, working with two other full-time organisers; Mick Jenkins (who had been active in the National Union of Tailor and Garment Workers) and Bill Whittaker (an activist in the Colne Twisters & Drawers Association) and Sam Blackwell (Manchester AEU).
Bright had worked up a good reputation amongst the cotton workers in Lancashire. But he suffered from poor health caused by pneumoconiosis and returned to Bideford and, from 1942-1943, was the Party’s Organiser for Devon and Cornwall. In 1942 he was concerned and alert enough to highlight the hostility conveyed during local WEA evening classes to the Soviet Union.
Bideford had a "lively" Communist Party branch and was able to garner enough support for Bright to address an open-air meeting towards the end of his life on Bideford Quay, on behalf of the appeal for the British Hospital in Stalingrad. But "a chair had to be borrowed from a shop, he was so weak he could not stand". Bright was to die relatively young only the following year, suffering a "long and painful death" on 15th November 1944, leaving a wife, Ivy. The funeral took place in Plymouth, the oration being carried out by a member of the Communist Party’s EC. A memorial service in Manchester was later taken by Harry Pollitt.
Sources: Bideford Gazette 28th November 1944, Cllr Fred Bailey, in `Broadside’, journal of N Devon Communist Party No10 May 1984, courtesy of Gerald Sables