Howard Cheney: 1914-2005

IssueSeptember 2005
Comment by Harry Mister

Many of us at 5 Caledonian Road - and many other groups working for a better and war-free world - enjoyed the real privilege, comradeship - and challenge - of working with our good friend Howard for the past forty years.

Not for him the public status and esteem that many lesser people sought. For all his experience, knowledge and wisdom, he was always self-effacing and unassuming.

Yet in his loyalty, commitment and caring for the world he was a truly great man. He was great in a life devoted to challenging war, brutality, humbug and stupidity in public life. Working with his wife Margaret for their 57 years of life together, he did the hard graft of door-to-door campaigning and the background chores for the anti-war cause. Yet much earlier he had, at 14, become disabled by recurring osteomyelitis.

By 1936 he was able to attend agricultural college and he joined peace activist groups in Birmingham, something which lead to a radical change of life when he joined the Bruderhof Community's Cotswold Farm. The Bruderhof were pacifist refugees from Nazi Germany - and became refugees again when war-time Britain threatened them with internment. So they, with Howard, moved to Paraguay, where they enjoyed a frugal and pioneering life. They all registered as conscientious objectors before they went.

A hardworking activist

Returning to England in 1946, Howard set up his own farm in Warwickshire and started again his work to restore a war-torn world. Aylesmore Farm was a precursor of environmentalism, balanced farming, fruit and vegetable growing, tree-planting - and a haven for his peace movement friends from the Midlands.

Later he refused to pay war taxes and was made bankrupt. Not deterred, he went on to support Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace and, later, the Green Party. He was a hardworking activist for CND, the Committee of 100, and the Aldermaston marches from 1958 onwards. Imprisoned after a direct action at Faslane, Howard was always a pacifist and always there.

With his family he continued to run the 450-acre farm, and he also gave generous help to a wide spectrum of peace, libertarian and justice organisations. A family man, he also enjoyed a convivial pint with friends who shared his political struggles and hopes.

Unremitting determination

In recent years his disability diminished his outdoor campaigning, but he continued, up to his last days, his outspoken pessimism for the future of the human race and his unremitting determination to do all he could about it. Howard had a simple, but incontroverable political philosophy: humanity is not failing for lack of ideas, it's the human race itself that has to change.

We share with Margaret and their family - Richard, William, Jill and Katy - their sorrow. Howard has been one of the group who have guided the affairs of Peace News, its Trustees and Housmans Bookshop, for a great part of 50 years. Thank you Howard, for so very much.

Topics: Radical lives
See more of: Obituary