The first time I met Bob Crow, he came to my home town of Barking in East London to speak out about the BNP’s election campaign. I was just getting active in the RMT and to me, Bob was still very much the celebrity-like figure he was to so many. He was someone I admired and after hearing his impassioned speech, I was inspired.
I had a lot of contact with Bob over the next few years as I progressed within the union and I always found him to be pleasant and efficient. In 2013, I was honoured to be awarded with the RMT’s Award for Youth, which Bob presented to me at the union’s AGM. That’s when I really met Bob. He greeted me with a warm hug and a kiss, which he would do on all of our subsequent meetings. He was not a celebrity – he was just a very likeable bloke. When Bob spoke, he did so from his heart, so the kind and complimentary words he used to describe me will stay in my heart forever.
Everyone had an opinion on Bob Crow and a lot of people hated him. The same hypocritical, right-wing media and feckless politicians who yesterday called him a ‘baron’, who was ‘putting a gun to the head’ of London, today led the way in paying tribute to this great man. He was a great man. He was strong, fearless and successful – you would definitely want him on your side in a fight. He was all these things and so much more.
He was always available on the end of the phone. He always asked how you were and always listened for the answer. He cared about your problems and always did his best to find a solution. He knew everyone by name. He always kept his word. If he said he would be somewhere, he was there. Bob helped my RMT branch so much with our campaign against ticket office closures. Only in January, he stood with us, in the pouring rain to join our demonstration. He never let me down.
I recently described Bob as ‘sweet’ to a group of people who had never met him and I was met with bemused stares. Bob was far more complex and deep than his public image. He was funny and he was considerate. When he spoke about his partner or his family, his bright blue eyes lit up and he beamed with pride. Bob made people so relaxed and at ease. I was never afraid to say anything to him or challenge his opinions because he didn’t judge – he would simply explain his side and usually he was right.
Bob worked tirelessly to help the union’s young members. He was approachable, friendly and always there with a keen ear or valuable advice. He took us under his wing and was something of a father figure to many of us. That’s why he was our ‘Uncle Bob’ and that is why we can’t believe what has happened. Through tears, I am struggling with these words – these meaningless combination of letters and punctuation that could never begin to describe the devastation and sense of loss I am feeling. There are no words that do this man justice.
My favourite memory of Bob was a group of us singing and laughing in our hotel bar. During the day, he wore his suit and he did what he did best at our conference, but on that night, he was just Bob. He could switch off and relax, away from the public eye and endless criticism. He sang and he told jokes. He looked to his beautiful partner with such love and in that moment, I saw the real Bob Crow.
Today we have lost a legend. A light has been switched off and the world will be ever be a darker, emptier place. But a light so bright as Bob deserves to live on. His legacy must be the continuation of his hard work. We must continue to organise and grow. We must face every day and every challenge in the Bob Crow way – with determination and without fear. My friend today said that Bob Crow was like Marmite. Well I fucking love Marmite!
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