Grace, Albert c.1912-1968

Albert Grace

A short biography of anarchist docker and electrician Albert Grace

Albert Grace was born on the south side of the Thames in London and at an early age became a docker, working mainly in and around the cold stores. He entered the anarchist movement in the late 1920s working with Mat Kavanagh and with Wilf McCartney in the unemployed movement. Later on he worked with the young Albert Meltzer in support of the Spanish anarchist movement from 1936.

He left the docks in the mid-1950s, and took up a second trade as a skilled electrician, first working in London then as a result of constant victimisation, in the West Country where he worked in Bristol for a time., subsequently working in various other parts of west and southern England in various large contracting jobs.


Albert, back row third from left, with electrician colleagues. (Click for bigger version)

For a time he lived at Farnborough, near Bath, and then finally moving to Swindon. In 1952-3 he was active in the production and distribution of The Syndicalist, an anarchist monthly aimed at industry which was edited by Philip Sansom and Albert Meltzer and others. He was a regular supporter of the anarchist platform at Hyde Park every Sunday and he was always ready to support any propaganda activities , particularly in the docks and other industries, where he felt that anarchist propaganda should be concentrated.

He was extremely active in the unofficial dockers’ committees involved in the dock strikes between 1945-1961. He was close friends with docker militants like Bert Aylward, Fred Morel, Harry Constable and probably knew Ernst Schneider. During this period he was a member of the Transport and General Workers Union. In an article written by Charlie Pottins on Communist Party surveillance of Trotskyist and anarchist militants there is mention of Dennis Goodwin, a CP organiser in the docks to Betty Matthews of the Party’s London District Committee in 1954 on one Brace (sic) “ associated for a considerable period with the Anarchists” and a member of Central No1 Branch of the ETU (Electrical Trades Union) . “ He is now said to be working in the docks having left the electrical industry and is in touch and probably working with Constable. He is said to have contact with our lads on the various contracting jobs when he was in the electrical work and was always prepared to have a go with us but always expressed a narking criticism of the Party” ( letter 18th June 1954).

With the arrest of seven Liverpool and London dockers on conspiracy to strike charges in 1951, Albert was heavily involved in the strike of 8,000 dockers in protest. He brought a contingent of dockers to demonstrations outside the Old Bailey on a daily basis. Eventually the seven were released . In 1967 he was involved in the short lived anarchist paper Ludd produced by Mike “Digger” Walsh with a run of several thousand during the dockers’ strike distributing it outside the docks in the early morning with Walsh and others. He was greatly respected by other dockers in London and was probably the lone anarchist docker.

Walsh worked closely with Albert in the electrical industry in Bristol and the West Country and warmly recollected “ the help and advice that he gave the up-and-coming generation of “sparks””. He particularly recalled when he was sparks job steward when a contracting company was installing electrical work in the reactor core at Hinckley Point around 1960. During long battles and bitter negotiations some of the highest pay and best working conditions on a major construction job were won.

He often worked and engaged in militant activities whilst in ill-health. Like many working class militants of the period he was shy of writing or speaking on general propaganda platforms, whilst being keen to distribute and support propaganda. He had many friends in the working class movement outside of the anarchist movement, and introduced many for the first time to anarchist papers and other publications.

A family man, he was the father of several sons, two of them, Peter and Michael, named after Kropotkin and Bakunin. He died on April 14th 1968 at the age of 56 in Swindon following an unsuccessful operation on December 20th, 1967. His cremation was attended by a large number of activists among electricians and other building workers.

Nick Heath
Sources: Obituary by Joe Thomas in Freedom, May 25th 1968.
Lobster 96: http://www.8bitmode.com/rogerdog/lobster/lobster31.pdf
Photographs kindly provided by Angela Grace

Posted By

Battlescarred
Apr 26 2012 22:22

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Angel Grace
Apr 18 2013 20:19

Just reading about my Grandfather in this article has made me realise how much I am like him.

I am also a founder of a small group of people who will fight against Political brainwashing of slander on the jobless, disabled, and the unemployed!

I attended the Poll Tax protests with my own Mother at a young age and refused to pay it when I was 17 years old. I never made one payment!

Today I am fighting against the Bedroom Tax, and the crazy welfare reform systems (really a tax cut) that has just arrived this April 2013.

Even so I am not affected by the new wrong welfare reforms in place. This could become a possibility for me and many others in the future.

A lot of People do not realise once they have lost their jobs, what will happen to them and their family! But most look down on people claiming benefits right now! I do not!

I am shamed of this Government treating the poor, low income, and disabled people so badly.
Genuine people will be affected.

Also very shocked regards to the 10 Million pounds spent on Margaret Thatchers State Funeral, with all the awful suffering of people in poverty and a recent suicide of a homeless woman in my Town and so many more deaths with A.T.O.S getting things very wrong!

The divide of Rich and Poor will get stronger and soon I sense the working class are very bitter towards people Claiming Benefits right now. Just what this Government want!

Poverty is on the rise as usual!
More suffering is hidden and not broadcasted as it should be told. Only attacks on the poor! Robbing the poor and help bailing out the Banks and not stopping Corporations getting away with not paying tax!

Tax payers are keeping the Coalition of multimillionaires including a Billionaire with spare homes, high wages and expenses! People should be fighting against this, not someone who has lost their job and claiming benefits!

Also I feel we will be saying goodbye to the NHS!

I totally get my Grandfather and he has always said to his family he was never a Communist, and perhaps myself are Socialists

Angel Grace
Apr 18 2013 20:17

Hello, yes we are looking for some to share with you and also his daughter has many interesting things to share. Has an original Freedom paper.

Battlescarred
Apr 18 2013 20:09

Hi Angel. Have you got any photos of your grandad we could put up here with his bio??

Angel Grace
Apr 18 2013 20:22

Just getting used to posting and editing bare with me thanks.

Steven.
Apr 18 2013 21:37

Hi Angel, many thanks for posting here. If you have any more information about your grandfather please let us know - including if you know exactly what year he was born. And as Battlescarred says, if you had a photo of him that would be great

Angel Grace
Apr 19 2013 19:54

Hello Steve, I have two photos from his daughter Isla. I have one of Albert with "sparkys" work collegues which would be good to find out who they may be. And also another portrait. All Scanned so please send me some intructions on how to send them please.

Regards

Angel

Steven.
Apr 19 2013 22:31
Angel Grace wrote:
Hello Steve, I have two photos from his daughter Isla. I have one of Albert with "sparkys" work collegues which would be good to find out who they may be. And also another portrait. All Scanned so please send me some intructions on how to send them please.

Regards

Angel

hi, thanks if you could e-mail them to admin@libcom.org that would be brilliant! Then we can add them to this article

Angel Grace
Apr 20 2013 13:51

Hi I have emailed the photos now.

Steven.
Apr 22 2013 11:32
Angel Grace wrote:
Hi I have emailed the photos now.

now added. Thanks so much!

Battlescarred
Apr 23 2013 08:25

Dear Angel,
I hope you appreciate this poem:

Barcelona 1936
Hugo Dewar (1908-1980)
WOKE one bright morning – not so long ago -
heard the sound of shooting from the street below.
Went to the window and saw the barricade
of paving stones the workingmen had made – not so long ago.
Met a man that morning – not so long ago -
handed me a leaflet, on the street below.
Lean and hard-faced workingman with a close cropped head -
held me for a moment eye-to-eye, then said:
Read it, read it, read it, and learn what it is we fight for, why the
churches burn.
Down on the Ramblas, she passed me on her way,
weapon cradled in her arm – it was but yesterday.
Not just for wages now, not alone for bread -
we’re fighting for a whole new world, a whole new world, she said.
On the barricades all over town – not so long ago -
they knew the time had come to answer with a simple yes or no.
They too were storming heaven – do you think they fought in vain;
that because they lost a battle they would never rise again;
that the man with the leaflets, the woman with a gun,
did not have a daughter, did not have a son?