Alec `Spike’ Robson
Robson was born in 1895, one of 11 children, to a mining family. He began himself in the Gambois pit, near Blyth, aged only 11 years, He was a trapper boy, regulating the flow of air by opening and closing doors and allowing the pony-pulled tubs of coal came up, much harder work than it sounds especially when doing the then standard ten hour day.
Even at the young age of 15, he was a member of the Northumberland Miners’ Association and was on strike in the successful 1910 national dispute for an eight hour day.
At the age of 16, he was invited to join a boxing booth at
He signed on as a stoker on a White Star liner in 1919, not realising that the cargo was 700 British troops bound for
Spike was one of seven men who served prison sentences for organising demonstrations of the unemployed in North Shields on October 5th 1932. A lobby of the Public Assistance Committee meeting that followed the national introduction of the Means Test and severe cuts in benefits.
Over the next few decades, he continued as a merchant seaman, organising ship’s committees on whatever vessel he happened to be on. On his many runs to a wide variety of ports in the world, some political action would always ensure. The painting of slogans on ships from Nazi Germany, the smuggling of anti-fascist propaganda and the organisation of a protest march against Italian ships bound for their war against Abyssinia and the boycotting by merchant seamen of ship lying at Blyth bound for Japan with scrap iron, in protest at their war in China. He was fined £2 – then a considerable sum – for his part in the latter.
Outward bound from Boston in December 1936, he discovered that the ship he was on had a contract to carry nitrate, an essential component of explosives, to Seville, by now General Franco’s headquarters as he propagated the civil war in Spain. The crew held a sit-down strike and refused to sail for three weeks. Then the British consul arrived and the crew were deported to
In 1939, Robson was able to join the “T124x” section of the Royal Navy, a special section for merchant seamen manning mine sweepers and layers, auxiliary ships and landing craft. A notable occasion was when he was on a landing craft dropping supplies to the Yugoslavian partisans in 1943. For four months, he was based in
In 1947, he returned to the Merchant Navy and was elected to the Executive Committee of the National
His seafaring days began to fade in the 1960s and Spike lived to fairly ripe old age, dying in 1979 and remaining a committed member of the Communist Party to the end.
Source: “Spike (Alec `Spike’ Robson 1895-1979) Class Fighter”