May 2009 - Lessons from driver Morgan

01 June 2013

I SET off from Head Office with a heavy heart on 7 April for an appointment I wished I didn’t have to make. Along with the President Alan Donnelly I made my way to Worthing Crematorium where the funeral of Bob Morgan took place.

 

Bob’s story has been told often in the pages of the Journal, from the tragic accident at Purley and his conviction and imprisonment for manslaughter to his name finally being cleared 14 years later at the High Courts of Justice.

 

Bob was the last man who should have had to face such unjust traumas. He loathed the publicity his case attracted and his relief was obvious when he told me, just a year ago, that ‘it was finally over’. And now, with so little time passed since he was freed of the burden, he has died. He was just 66 when he drowned in a boating accident. He was last seen one late afternoon sailing on the River Medina off the Isle of Wight .

 

It is a deeply sad story, and perhaps the only people who can fully appreciate its tragedy are those who have driven trains themselves. People who know the dangers and the constant challenges of our profession. ASLEF members.

 

As I looked around the packed crematorium I saw driver after driver who had turned up to pay their last respects, united in a common fraternal bond. I was moved by the comradeship that we share. ASLEF is more than a union.

 

But we have never taken an insular view. We have always respected other trade unions and supported their struggles. In this 25th anniversary year of the miners’ strike I have often recalled with pride the generosity, solidarity and friendship that ASLEF members showed for the miners during those dark days.

 

I was charged with taking money we collected each week to NUM offices and often met their inspiring South Wales president, Emlyn Williams. We collected money openly at our depots, but handed it over discretely in the pit villages. Welsh miners had too much pride to accept ‘charity’: but it wasn’t charity we were offering. It was solidarity. We stood by them because they were our own.

 

It is memories like these that caused me to write so angrily in this column last month. It is an insult to the whole idea of trade unions for a so-called sister union to describe ASLEF with terms like ‘club’ and ‘employer-friendly organisation’. And it is a condemnation of the TUC that it can allow such lies to be spread without a word of rebuke.

 

When other unions have the morality, solidarity, history and pride of our union, I will be content to take lessons from them. Until then, they would do well to learn from us.

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