2010s >> 2018 >> no-1364-april-2018

Obituary: Hugh Armstrong

It is with sadness that we report the death of Hugh Armstrong at the age of 80. A member of Glasgow Branch for fifty two years, Hughie, as he was known to his fellow socialists, was born in the Gallowgate in Glasgow’s East End and grew up in the Gorbals. As a young man he was dragooned into the armed forces to do his National Service, an experience which left him with a lifetime contempt for authority, strengthened no doubt, by an incident where, after a ‘Disagreement’ with a bullying Sergeant Major – the Sergeant coming off second-best – Hughie was beaten senseless by Military Police thugs.

When demob finally arrived, his fellow squaddies decided for some perverse reason to have a whip-round to purchase a present for their Commanding Officer. Hughie not only refused to contribute a penny, but at the presentation he requested, and was granted permission to speak, upon which he emphatically stated that he had not contributed one penny to this travesty.

Hughie was a grafter, and found work as a labourer in the post-war building boom working in various towns and cities in England before returning to Glasgow where he secured permanent employment with the General Post Office.

On a visit to the ‘Barras’ in the early 60s Hughie chanced upon an outdoor meeting of the Socialist Party of Great Britain. It was a turning point in his life, although hearing the socialist case for the first time he was understandably sceptical but curious enough to return, question, discuss and eventually to join in 1966. He became a tireless worker, attending meetings, selling literature and eventually becoming an outdoor speaker. I have vivid memories of Hughie on the platform; not one for fancy rhetoric but putting over the socialist case in a simple but effective way.

One of the less ‘Glamorous’ but necessary party activities was to stick up posters on walls and empty shop windows  to advertise upcoming indoor meetings. This necessitated a team of three people, one to paste, one to post, and most essential, one to act as lookout for the police, who would apprehend you, resulting in a fine. The area they had chosen also happened to be the favoured haunt of some, euphemistically named ‘ladies of the night’ who also had to be wary of the police. Midway through posting, Hughie spotted a couple of beat cops approaching and shouted: ‘Police!’, whereupon the other two members scarpered. The ladies however, assuming despite his diminutive stature that he was a plain-clothes officer, immediately set about him. Propagating the socialist case can sometimes be detrimental to your wellbeing!

Hughie came from a family who loved singing. His sister Patricia sings jazz in a city centre bar, his ex-wife also sang, and their son Raymond is a professional opera singer. Hughie favoured the Great American Song Book which he would perform at the tea-dances he attended, and in 1990 achieved his dream come true when he saw his idol Frank Sinatra perform live at Ibrox Stadium.

T.M.

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