The marvellous Mister Mister

IssueMarch 2006
Comment by The Mole

This column feels honoured that Harry Mister - whose death (and life) are, rightly, marked at greater length elsewhere in this PN - was provoked into making his final contribution to the paper by something here to which he took exception. What was published was sent as part of a chatty, personal, longer letter, full of his usual mixture of warmth, exasperation, and bits of 5 Cally Road business.

He would have been amused that the issue he addressed - religiously-based and secular events - cropped up at his funeral. Bruce Kent, acknowledged that the event involved people of varying persuasions - a point much appreciated, coming from a former Catholic priest! But, he finished, in good Bruce style, by pointing out that those not taking his own stance should note how Harry died in January, and yet had a letter in the February issue of Peace News...

Ever active

Sometimes, when someone is said to have been “active until the end”, this can be an euphenism for the fact that they hadn't completely lost the plot in their later years. With Harry it was genuinely true. At the Peace News Trustees meeting in November, Harry got himself upstairs with his two walking sticks, and explained to the meeting how, in his capacity as Secretrary of the Trustees, he had spent months negotiating with an incompetent local council finance department to get some of the building's tenants the discounted business rates to which they were entitled. Negotiations all conducted, no doubt, in his challenging typing.

Even as he was making his final entrance into hospital in January, Harry was telling the porter about the campaign he was involved in to keep that A&E department open. He'd been on a picket there just a few weeks before.

Radio recognition

A fine demonstration of traditional British liberalness on the part of peace activists, or British institutions, or both, occurred the week after Harry's funeral.

A BBC team was at Housmans to interview people for an item on Radio 4's new obituaries programme. The recording was delayed awaiting the arrival of one of the interviewees, CND vice-chair Walter Wolfgang. He was late because he was picketing Broadcasting House, the BBC headquarters (over their lack of balance about Iranian and British breaches of the NPT). The irony was less than perfect, since the good old Beeb had failed to lay on a car to collect him from their picket line.

The most moving part of the programme was a clip the BBC had found of Harry himself, in the archives of the Kings Cross oral history project, which showed the way he looked for the best in everyone.

Having been one of the group which set up PN, his initial involvement was as a volunteer, and he spoke of his straight job in the 1930s: “When war came, the nice firm I worked for decided to go for armaments contracts: I left them,” - a pause - “sadly, because they were nice people.” Everyone who knew him will know the tone of voice in which he said it.

Topics: Radical lives
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