The Western Socialist
Vol. 36 - No. 271
No. 5, 1969
pages 11,10

Historic Words Live Long After Tragedy


"... and in my own mind I rest assured that the historian of the future will drive the knife of critical research into the very bowels of this bogey that has been conjured forth out of the imagination of certain legal luminaries of this city."

More than one historian is about to do precisely that today, says William Pritchard, the man who uttered these words during a historic two-day address to a jury in Winnipeg beginning on March 23, 1920.

"Bill" Pritchard, one of eight men tried in connection with the famous Winnipeg general strike of 1919, is visiting Victoria in connection with the event's 50th anniversary.

At 81, he is still an alert man with a quick command of the English language, and remains very much the old-time socialist and trade unionist, with little use for the moderate views offered today.

He has lived in Los Angeles for 31 years, where he continues to write music reviews for a twice-weekly newspaper and beats the drums for the World Socialist Party of the U. S.

Mr. Pritchard considers Russia a place of state capitalism.

He only knows the NDP by what he has read, but considers it a party promoting "free-for-all enterprise."

He spent many years in Vancouver as a trade unionist after moving to. Canada from his native Manchester, and was invited to Victoria this week by Larry Tickner, general secretary of the Socialist Party of Canada.

He took a short turn at Speakers' Corner in Beacon Hill Park at 3 p.m. Sunday. On Friday, he was given a reception by the Victoria Labor Council.

Mr. Pritchard went to the Winnipeg strike as a speaker and remained seven days. He did not become involved in the bloodshed that occurred when strikers were met in the streets with gunfire.

The strike, which brought all services to a halt in Winnipeg, has often been cited as the turning point for Canadian labor.

Mr. Pritchard said he found it interesting that he was denied permission to quote from the Encyclopedia Britannica during his two-day address to the jury, but that the crown was allowed to quote from the Bible.

"I wanted to quote parts pertaining to Marx, but the trial judge felt the contributors to the encyclopedia were possibly too sympathetic to their subjects," he said.

His long address was published in a 200-page paperback version later by the original strike committee. He said scholars today are offering as much as $18 a copy.

"Maybe I should have insisted on royalties at the time," he says with a knowing wink.

Despite the eloquence of an address that filled the courts with lawyers, Bill Pritchard was jailed 12 months with several others. One man was sentenced to two years in penitentiary.

The address, he said, brought him immediate offers, including one from A. J. Andrews, the man who prosecuted him.

"He said he would try to get me out early and get me started studying law," Mr. Pritchard said.

He declined the offer and went to jail, where his fondest memories are of teaching an Italian prisoner to read and write and of producing a Gilbert and Sullivan musical.

Today he spends much of his time with other memories. But not entirely. There is still time for writing poetry and dropping such little thoughts in conversations:

"There has to be something wrong with things as they are now, because everyone is always complaining about them.

"And by the time one wrong is cured they find the cure has laid the grounds for a dozen other ills."

Daily Colonist, Victoria, B.C., July 29, 1969