Obituaries: Joe Clarke & Billy Iles
Nottingham Branch members, have suffered a great loss, by the death of our friend and comrade, Joe Clarke.
Joe was the last of three brothers, all dedicated Socialists, and Party members over 38 years, who lived at Burton on Trent. Their role in the Party did not bring them into great prominence, for they were neither speakers nor writers; the work they did was that performed by the persistent plodders, whom the Party could not do without. Selling literature, discussing and exchanging ideas wherever possible, collecting funds to finance Party propaganda, and last but not least, attending political meetings to question and challenge the veracity of statements made by capitalist politicians.
Joe was able to talk quite freely on politics, economics, philosophy, science and space, astronomy, and a subject uncommon, but nevertheless one which he felt to be important: “health culture”. In pursuit of good health Joe took a daily dip in the River Trent winter and summer, during the whole of his adult life, and was a vegetarian. Indeed, he did survive many illnesses in his later years and these were contracted no doubt through cycling long journeys, in all weather, while doing Party work.
Although he was 79 years of age when he died, many of his comrades and friends thought he would go on for ever for he was virile and strong, and carried on his usual activities until his last days.
Men of Joe’s calibre are difficult to replace, but there is no doubt that the work that Joe did for the Party with such great enthusiasm will give inspiration to those left behind to carry on the struggle.
In December a group of members attended a crematorium in Guildford, Surrey, to say a last and sad farewell to an old comrade, O. C. Iles, who had been ill for some time with cancer.
Billy Iles, as he was always known to us, joined the Party in 1911 and was active for years in London as a writer, speaker and doing the routine work at Head Office, until his work finally took him to Liverpool.
He was called up during the First World War but refused to join the army. He managed to keep out of trouble during the war, although he never left London, by taking various jobs on night work at Covent Garden, as a milkman, and the like. He lodged for a time with a woman member, Mrs. Chilton, along with other members “on the run”; later with another member in a flat over Head Office until the war was over. In those days we used to collect the Socialist Standard in loose sheets from the printer and folded them ourselves. Billy Iles made many trips to the printer for this purpose and spent many nights folding so that the “S.S.” could be out on time.
After the war times were somewhat turbulent and meetings were inclined to be noisy. On one Bank Holiday Billy cycled all night up to Hanley in the Potteries, to hold a meeting during the coal strike in 1921.
During the twenties he was secretary to the Editorial Committee and wrote articles over the initials O.C.I.
Owing to the fact that he lived out of London we did not see much of him during late years, but his optimism and steadfast support continued all through the years and he sent many useful organisational suggestions to Head Office.
The present writer will always remember Billy as a lively and humorous companion on many cycling trips in years gone by.
His illness was a heavy burden to his wife as he only went into hospital during his last few days. To his wife, daughter and brother we send our sincere sympathy.
And so has passed away another of the diminishing group of members, who now only number a handful, who actively pressed forward the Party’s principles before and during the years of the First World War.