Goodwin Harold

Harold Goodwin

Harold Goodwin (centre in pic) was born into a Jewish East End family in Hackney. His father was an insurance salesman and a Labour Party member. His mother, possible surnamed Zynkin, came originally from Novgorod, in Russia and was a part time tailoress. More impressively, she was an active member of the Hackney Social Democratic Federation, a suffragette and a founder member of the Communist Party. According to Harold, it was a “very political family”. In time, the family moved from Stepney to Hackney, on to Stoke Newington, and then, in 1936, to West Hampstead. 

Harold was sent to join the JLB (Jewish Lads Brigade – part of the Boys Brigade) but, as he laconically put it, it was "not to my taste". So he joined the Communist Party’s own children section, “The Young Pioneers” in Stoke Newington, going with them on camps to the Isle of Sheppey and to somewhere located outside Reading.

Before World War Two, Harold was an apprentice in the building trade, then adopting his slogan “have tools, will travel". Just before the War, he joined the Merchant Navy, sailing out of Liverpool. Harold well recalled, in particular, the high respect Liverpool sailors held people like Leo McGree (see separate entry) in – both those from the Protestant and those from the Catholic tradition. Harold recalled that because of the Catholic church teachings many sailors were hostile to the Communist Party but, when it came to Leo McGree, even “they would not tolerate one word being said against him”. Harold stated this was because of McGree's reputation for not only looking after the well-being of sailors and fishermen but also their wives back in port.

Harold was also a regular visitor to the Communist Party offices in Liverpool, when in port and regularly spoke with the great Liverpool Communist organiser, Frank Bright, who regaled Harold with stories about his time on the Moscow Soviet and his help in beating sabotage in the mines of the newly established Soviet Union.

After the War Harold returned to the building trade, working in the British Film industry at Pinewood, Isleworth and Shepperton studios, building sets. At this time, he rekindled his friendship with Alfie Bass (1920-1987) the actor, who was the "quintessential cockney character" in 60 films including the Lavender Hill Mob set in Battersea. Bass was certainly a Daily Worker supporter, and may well have been a Party member according to Harold. (Ed: Harold is not by any means on his own in thinking that Alfie Bass was a long-term Communist Party member. Aubrey Morris, another east end Jewish communist of the 1930s, writes in his autobiography, Unfinished Journey, that Bass was one of his contemporaries.  Many participants in Unity Theatre, which Bass was long associated with, recall his support for the Party, the 1960s Morning Star certainly interviewed him in the context of his support for the Party and, finally, Alfie was also a frequent visitor to the social scene at the Highgate home of the Communist Party’s Seifert family.)

As a member of the building trade, Harold was an active member of the Woodworkers Union ASW, NATKE (the cinema technicians union), and later UCATT.

Harold arrived in Uxbridge in the early 1950s and soon became active in the local Uxbridge Communist Party. The Party met at the Mission Halls, Uxbridge. However Harold was often allocated into a workplace branch of the Communist Party. He was also active in Hillingdon Trades Union Council and for many years lead the high profile Hillingdon Pensioners Association.

He was joint Chair of the famous West London Brunel University Trade Union Conference held in the 1970s and 1980s; the first Conference was held as part of the Local Economic Development Authority (LEAD) project in 1976.

Harold, I believe, had a very special disdain for Party members (and others) who considered themselves to be "intellectuals" and therefore above the mundane hard graft of Party and trade union work!

In later years Harold retired from Towers Avenue, Hillingdon to Hayes, but remained active in the pensioners’ movement while remaining a VERY committed and LOYAL Communist. He died on December 14th 2014. 

Michael Walker

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply