Obituary: Vic Heaven
For over forty years the socialist cause has been kept alive in Bristol by a trio of members with a happy collection of names—Force, Flowers and Heaven. Our small era came to an end when Vic Heaven died on 22 April, aged 81.
Vic joined the army as a boy trumpeter in 1914; political maturity came a decade later. In 1925 he became a socialist and gave his war medals to his children, saying “Here, you can have these begging irons as toys, they’re only fit for standing on the pavement with and selling matches”. A nice sense of proportion made him keep and cherish the eleven medals he won as an amateur footballer.
Soon after joining the Party he teamed up with a Comrade Howell. Heaven and Howell used to delight in walking around Bristol and calling out to the navvies digging trenches “when are you blokes going to realise that you’re being exploited?” The night before Howell died of cancer he threw a party and Vic was pleased to play the piano as Howell sang the Red Flag for the last time.
I first met Vic in 1935, when I was studying for holy orders and was walking through Bristol with my vicar. Heaven was there, selling the Socialist Standard, and he put the case to us. After hearing it, the vicar intoned pompously, “young man, you are 200 years before your time”. With his lightning tongue Vic flashed “old man, you are 2,000 years behind the times!” My religious belief evaporated.
Later Vic became a civil servant with the Ministry of Labour, and this cramped his public propaganda work. Nevertheless, he was pleased to have advised every conscript who passed through his department during the second world war of the alternative to fighting for capitalism.
On retirement Vic kept a beautiful cottage garden and, amid the pear trees, he would talk socialism with all his visitors. “The world’s first socialist candidate, Clifford Groves” holidayed there; and “Fellow Worker White”, so-called because anywhere, and without warning, he would shout “fellow workers!” and gather an audience to hear the socialist case.
Our sympathy and gratitude go to Vic’s four daughters, who looked after him in his latter years.