Obituary: Percy Young

Percy Young died on the 12th of August, after being ill for a little while.

His name never appeared in the Socialist Standard; he never spoke in public or wrote articles, or was an officer of a Branch. But be joined the Socialist Party in 1906, and with his death a link with the beginnings of the Socialist movement has been broken.

He was a brush-maker: not a factory operative, but a practitioner of a craft which has almost died. He made his brushes in the little shop off Walthamstow High Street and sold them on a stall in the market; on fine afternoons, with the shop door open, you could see him sitting with his twine and his can of pitch and watch his hands working with the deftness of a lifetime’s use.

His father was a brush-maker too. His father belonged to the Social-Democratic Federation, from which the Party sprang; he had a shop in the High Street, and “kept away custom” by having copies of “Justice” fastened to the window. And there were others in the family. Percy’s brother, Byron, was a prolific outdoor speaker for Socialism—a Liberal candidate threatened to horsewhip him once—until he went to Australia in 1920.

He had seen many changes: the decline of his own craft, for example. Last Christmas he was given a copy of “The Day Is Coming,” and sat reading it half the night because it describes Mile End Waste at the end of the 19th century—stalls, quack doctors, cheap merchandise and S.D.F. speakers. He remembered it: used to go there as a boy to help his father sell brushes.

There must be many who knew him by sight but never by name: a little bird-like man with a little white moustache, always with a cap which he raised when he spoke to a lady. He had known hard times, and was always concerned for others’ welfare. He gave generously to Party funds whenever he could, and loved to listen to a Party’ speaker re-affirming the things he had held to and done his best for all his life. He had humour, too: a quiet mirthful chuckle which gave him an unexpected elf-like look.

We are sad that Percy has gone; he, like the times and the people with whom he was a link, will be remembered continually.

R. C.

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