Obituary: Harry Gratton

We learn with deep regret of the death in Paignton of Comrade Harry Gratton at the age of 82. Although for the last twenty years or so he had been “out of the swim” he was an active member for many years.

His father was among the first to join the Party. When, in his teens, Harry asked him about his views, he was told to “go and find out about them”. This he did and joined the Party not very much later.

Harry Gratton was not his real name. He was drafted in the Merchant Navy in the 1914-18 war. Granted compassionate leave for family  reasons, he changed his name and went to Dublin. There he worked first as a photographer’s assistant and later on his own, lodging with a Party sympathizer. He was detained for questioning several times as a suspected deserter (Southern Ireland was part of the United Kingdom then). Once a guard recognized him as a navy man by the way he folded his coat to use as a pillow, but did not give him away.

Everyone who visited our 70th Anniversary Exhibition at Head Office or read that special issue of the S.S. will remember photos taken at the 1921 and 1922 Annual Conferences. These were Harry’s work. He enjoyed telling how he offered copies to members at a shilling each, money to go to Party funds. When no-one took up the offer, he was in two minds: upset that no-one was prepared to pay (a shilling was a lot of money in those days when the SOCIALIST STANDARD cost 2d) but relieved because he couldn’t really afford to print them free.

During the heavy unemployment in the early 1930s Harry (with no previous experience but plenty of self-confidence) applied for and got a job as a carpenter on a building site. From this he progressed to master carpenter and then builder in his own right. After being secretary of the old Dagenham branch he moved to Devon about 25 years ago and continued building houses until failing eyesight forced him to retire. Comrades in Jamaica remember with pleasure the trip Harry and his late wife Jean made there at that time.

Modest in his own requirements, he always generously responded to appeals on behalf of any Socialist cause. To the end he continued in efforts to convince friends and acquaintances of the correctness of our case. A knowledgeable Socialist, his fund of stories of the old days were endless. His kindness and sense of humour made him a wonderful companion. We shall miss him sadly.

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