Finley Larry

Larry Finley

Larry Finley was born in Liverpool on 12th July 1909, the son of Edward James Finley and Annie Finley (nee Batch).

His parents had lived in Salford but his father emigrated to Canada to prepare a home and Larry was born while his mother waited in Liverpool to take passage and join him. However, she died in childbirth and the child was brought up in Salford by his father's brother, a Socialist, and his wife, a deeply religious Methodist.

He went to Seedley Council School and also to the Socialist Sunday School at Hyndman Hall in Liverpool Street. There he would become much influenced by Sam Farrow, a local Marxist theoretician.

In 1923, Larry began working at W H. Bailey's boilermakers and pump manufactures in Oldfield Road, Salford. Although he could not afford to take an apprenticeship, he learned his craft of tool making by working his way up through a quick succession of factories over the next few years.

He joined the Salford No. 2 branch of the AEU and became active in the Labour Party League of Youth. He was elected a LLY delegate to the committee of Salford City Labour Party. During the 1926 General Strike, the Salford LLY were driven almost en masse into the Communist Party by the refusal of Labour’s local leadership to allow their banner to be carried on the May Day procession. It had been made by Jack Williams in the cellar at Hyndman Hall and its chief offending basis was that it carried a portrait of Lenin under the caption: 'Our Guiding Star’!

Like so many in the early thirties, Finley was out of work and became active in the National Unemployed Workers' Movement.  When all public employees, including the armed services, all received a major cut in pay, sailors were ordered to take a cut of a shilling per day. But, on discovering that officers had been exempted, they decided not to accept it. On 15th September, 1931, the Fleet at Invergordon refused to sail and meetings were held in barracks and on board. In the face of armed mutiny, the government was forced to retreat and revise the cuts but pressed harder on unemployment benefits. The National Unemployed Workers' Movement led a fight-back. Huge demonstrations were held throughout the country and the severe handling of the unemployed by the police assumed disgraceful proportions.

A typical demonstration took place in Salford on 1st October 1931 and was realistically described by Walter Greenwood in his subsequent novel. `Love on the dole’. Greenwood based his hero, Larry Mearns, on Larry Finley, but much of what he wrote was fictional and not true to the character and intellectual ability of Larry Finley. It is possible though that that Finley and Greenwood had long discussions at Ashfield Labour Club where much of Love on the Dole was written.

The day after the demonstration the Branch Committee of Salford NUWM elected Larry Finley to replace the incumbent Secretary, owing to his incarceration.

Larry met his future wife, Ellen O'Neill, who was a member of the Young Communist League in political activity and they married on 1st April 1935 and were together until she died in 1971.

While Larry was a loyal and long-standing member of the Communist Party, he had a very broad view of political work He was the inspiration behind the Workers' Art Club, which operated from Hyndman Hall. This was a large three storey building in Liverpool Street established by South Salford Branch of the Social Democratic Federation in 1906. During the 1930s, under the influence of people like Larry, the Hall began to embrace a wide range of cultural and sporting activities. This range included the Workers' Film Society, which eventually look over the running of Hyndman Hall. In 1933 Finley and others established a Marxist study class, which included in a two year syllabus classes in astronomy and physics, geology, biology and sociology, as well as a systematic study of the works of Marx and Engels.

Larry eventually got work at Gardner’s in Peel Green, Eccles, where he was rapidly elected a shop steward and representative to the AEU district committee. During the Spanish Civil War, he volunteered for the International Brigade but was rejected due to a leg broken leg at the age of twenty two. His shop stewards' committee supported 'Voluntary Aid for Spain' in the most practical of ways by a group of workers repaiing old and decrepit motorbikes in a brick shed with a borrowed lathe and bench. So many old machines were donated that the back yard of Eccles Trades Council was full of bits but finally six totally reconditioned machines were sent to Spain.

At the beginning of the Second World War, Finlay was released from his job at Gardner's and directed to work at Fords toolroom in Trafford Park. Of the one hundred men in the toolroom there were twenty-five displaced shop stewards! Finley was elected a steward and one day was stopped at the works gate and given notice of termination of employment. The men ceased work but to no avail and Finley moved to London, in May I941. He obtained work at Napiers and was soon elected a shop steward and also played an active part in the large Communist Party organisation in the factory. He became a member of the North London district committee of the AEU.

When his health began to fail, he decided to return north with the intention of preparing a home to which he and his wife could retire. While they were apart, they corresponded at length on many aspects of Marxist theory. But the home he had prepared was abandoned when he learned that Nellie had cancer and would not live long. He returned to London to be with her until she died and then left London to spend the rest of his life in a cottage near Bury. There he engaged in  research in Marxist studies. One theme was labour from primitive communism to capitalism, which he completed one section and another piece of work was on inflation, some of which was published in Marxism Today (before it became a revisionist rag) in May 1974. He died on the 27th October 1974.

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