Paying homage to Tom Maguire
Tom Maguire (1864-1895) was born of poor Irish parents on The Bank of East Leeds. In a short life, terminated in poverty by pneumonia, he became an influential socialist and trade unionist. He was a friend and adviser of the likes of William Morris, was a co-founder of the Leeds Socialist League and the architect of the famous Leeds Gasworkers strike of 1891. Dave Renton has written an excellent short piece about his politics here.
Maguire is, then, someone to be remembered. Or at least that is what you might have thought. In Leeds, the Ford-Maguire society had managed to get a plaque put up to him in the centre of the bus station (an area of Leeds where he lived and worked), which I had often passed and admired. It is not usual that plaques are put up to people who deserve to be remembered, let alone socialists. However, over a year ago, the bus station was refurbished and the plaque vanished.
Today, comrades, I decided to do something about this injustice! I wrote the following email to Leeds City Council (currently run by a 'rainbow coalition' of Tories, Liberals and Greens - and it ain't a pretty sight)...
I am just emailing to enquire about the blue national heritage plaque to
commemorate the Leeds socialist and trade unionist Tom Maguire that used to
be up in Leeds Bus Station. Since refurbishment, it seems to have
disappeared - but perhaps it has been put up somewhere else. It was right
that Leeds should remember Maguire when the plaque was put up, and it is
surely right that our city continues to remember his pioneering role in
representing working class people over a century ago.
I recieved the following reply:
Thank you for your enquiry, which has been forwarded to the relevant department who will reply to you in due course.
Customer Service Officer
Leeds Corporate Contact Centre
But then I got a better reply!
Thank you for your enquiry which has been passed to us by the Council's One Stop Centre.
I have contacted the Tom Maguire Society to see if they have any information about the whereabouts of the plaque and have received the following response:
'A sore point!
I have written to the Bus-station management twice asking after it but
with no reply.
Time is short so I have not followed it up; I strongly suspect they
have shelved it to make way for vending machines :-(.
Anything you could do to provoke a reply from them would be
PS: It was a RED plaque! We were (are) very proud of that.'
and then finally a further email from the council:
I left a message with Leeds Metro and have just been contacted by someone in their offices.
She tells me that they still have the plaque and have every intention of putting it back on display as soon as a suitable spot is found. They also have to wait for a workman to come and put it up.
Let's hope it sees the light of day again soon.
A victory? Lets hope so indeed! If Metro fail to restore the Red plaque to socialist Tom Maguire then that will further show up the consequences of handing over everything to private companies, and it will be an indelible stain not just upon Leeds City Council - but on New Labour's policy of privatisation as well. I will report further on developments.