The abiding memory of Ernie Greenwood, who died aged 82, is that his anecdotes concerning people or incidents invariably ended with an astute aside accompanied by a deep chuckle, his huge frame gently shaking.
This was so with the most dramatic event in his working life when, while taking pictures during the Wapping print dispute, he was run down and dragged under a policeman’s horse. He ended up pleading only a slight – but in fact very painful – injury, claiming that while in the army he had worked with horses in Italy and so could avoid more serious injury by knowing what the horse would do next with its hooves.
Born in Wood Green, north London, his politics were fired early when he heard JBS Haldane, who famously popularised science in the pages of the Daily Worker.
Ernie became a socialist and a member of the Communist Party, active in campaigning from his base in Hackney.
Ernie was said by many to be "a good comrade," the simplest but best kind of socialist accolade.
His causes ranged from helping organise youth camps and campfire singing, to housing for all, peace and anti-racism.
He went abroad, to Palestine at the war’s end, which was a difficult time for those with sympathy for the indigenous peoples.
Post-war, he worked in heating and plumbing and later boasted of keeping his tools clean and ready in case he had to return to the trade.
His interest in photography took him into two separate spells at the Daily Worker, first during some of its halcyon days and then in the Thatcher years of the 1980s, when the paper had changed its name to the Morning Star.
With his long-time friend Pat Mantle and Alex Apperley, he photographed those dramatic times.
Ernie became father of the Morning Star NUJ chapel in very difficult times for the paper and its workers both politically and financially.
His vast experience and calm negotiating stance in trying to balance the needs and rights of the journalistic staff with the need not to endanger the paper’s future and thus its vital role in the labour movement’s struggles played a large if unacknowledged part in keeping the Star alive.
Later, in his Anglesey home, his interest in photography led him towards science, astronomy and telescopes, where he became skilled in building the instruments and lenses.
Farewell then to a gentle giant and good comrade.
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