John Maher was born in Cappamore, County Limerick, but came to
John, also known as John Lowery, worked on building sites most of his life and was a frequent shop steward on the jobs he worked on. The Kilburn branch secretary of the Transport and General Workers Union (TGWU) for more than 30 years, for a long period he was employed by
John Maher was described in a range of ways by those who knew him. Many described him as a “gentle giant”, no doubt because he was about 6ft 6in with hands like shovels yet exuded gentleness. For many, he was “a man of principle”, who “believed the world should be fair”. He was so popular that, after retirement his first pint of Guinness on each visit was free for life at
An Irishman who believed in a united Ireland and a Communist who believed in international solidarity and peace, ‘Big John’ was as likely to be at the annual Bloody Sunday marches as protests against the Vietnam war, nuclear power, the Iraq wars or NHS cuts. He also campaigned over construction workers’ deaths and was one of the first to be on the picket line at the infamous Grunwick strike in Willesden in the 1970s. He worked to set up the Joint Sites Committee in
Vic Heath, a friend for more than 40 years, recalled a topping-out ceremony at a Barbican tower block in the City in 1968: “Normally, the directors climb onto the highest point and have a glass of wine. As usual the flags were laid out the night before. They had a
John Maher died on July 31th 2011 after a long illness, aged 81.
Sources: include GS personal knowledge;