The funeral of Willie Carolan, Glasgow UNISON steward, communications activist, housing, credit union activist, internationalist and partner of NEC member Jane Carolan is being held in Glasgow today. Here we print the moving obituary to Willie in today's order of service.
Willie Carolan (16-01-50 - 27-02-14) was a trade unionist and a socialist who never betrayed his fundamental belief in his class or his fellow workers. Born to catholic parents in Townhead, he attended, St Mungo’s Primary School and St Mungo’s Secondary. Like many bright Catholic boys, he had to have the Greek and the Latin. The Latin however inspired a life long passion for roman history, that became an obsession when he retired from work.
Like lots of intelligent working class children, he went to school knowing how to read and write and do his sums. And got so frustrated by his experience of primary school, he asked his teacher in infant class, “Please Miss when do we get teached?"
Mungo’s Academy never enthused him and on leaving he rebelled by refusing to taking up a university place to go travelling. Later he would have nothing to do with the school, binning the old school tie he was given for his 40th. But he knew that he wanted to go to university and did so, starting at age 22. He achieved a 2:1 in History and English. He knew that he was part of a lucky generation, lucky in a way that his parents could never have hoped to be. Willie had a grant and his fees paid.
And in university vacations he got another education. There was still heavy industry in Glasgow that still needed summer labour, so Willie worked at the Glass works where he was in a union. And the union message was strong. And the senior shop steward was a communist who told him a very long time ago, "For the politics read the Morning Star – for what is happening in capitalism read the Financial Times."
Did he need that message about the Star? The first time he was expelled from the Labour Party was for trying to raise a motion on Pinochet’s coup in Chile at Springburn CL. It wasn’t the last. Three expulsions from the same party must be a record.
And when he was expelled about signing the nomination papers for an anti Iraq war candidate against the official Labour one he was proud of it. But for a long time he was proud of the Labour Party he belonged to. And served it well, as a branch chair in Queen’s Park, in Central CLP and in Glasgow District Labour Party, where he was the Nalgo workplace branch representative.
No one ever doubted Willie’s loyalty to his trade union, Nalgo then UNISON, on the Housing Stewards Committee and Glasgow District branch. His efforts were focussed on his workplace, first in Parkhead, later at Baillieston.
Though he played a part at Scottish level and at NDC, his heart was in representing his members and in thwarting Housing Management, from his days when Peter Gillen was the manager and negotiations was conducted convivially over a drink or two, to standing up against the outrageous transfer of Glasgow’s housing stock.
He was also for a long time a member of the branch equals opps committee and a committed campaigner for a women’s right to choose, while also filling the post of “Pubs officer” in more ways than one. Like a lot of Housing Stewarts he was a signed up member of the bank of John Doyle. Housing was the job that put the money in the bank every month. The trade union was his vocation.
Willie was intelligent, witty and loved a laugh. He loved Glasgow Celtic and the Baltimore Oriels. He loved Helen and Tommy and Michael and Molly and Gabe. And he was proud of his title as “Mr Willie”.
He liked a night in the pub with good company or a glass of good wine and good grub. And without a doubt his second home was in Spain, having a long tapas lunch in the sunshine.
Willie was much much loved and almost unbearably missed. He leaves a hole at the centre of the universe.