I wouldn’t call Bruce a friend, more an acquaintance that are so important to one’s life. He was important in the long past. He was a very noticeable youngish man, I’m guessing in his early to mid-thirties. He was very articulate, embarrassingly so, with his posh accent and high level of education. In fact he stood out mostly because he was amongst us, a lot of East End, working class Cockney employees.
In some way, although I would have never admitted it at the time, he could be intimidating. His quick grasp of any situation, along with a ready verbal diatribe at the drop of a hat. In conversation, on a one to one basis Bruce was quite amiable and even charming.
He told me that, he had nothing but contempt for the rich, wealthy and privileged and believed in the old 1903 French version of syndicalism. I freely confessed, to never had even heard the term before and he educated me into the finer details of Karl Marx – his views about the redistribution of the country’s wealth and the power of the unions. It did make sense to me at that time, and I confess I was attracted to the idea of joining the Communist Party. I thought, with people like Bruce and his articulate way of communicating, we working class people could change the country. And especially the inappropriate disproportionate sharing of the country’s wealth and future. For then as now, the established hierarchy of workers being told by seniors of rank what to do, works. But unfortunately some senior people had delusions of grandeur.
Even though I was a Foreman plumber at that time. I made a point of never talking down to anyone. Bruce was employed as a carpenter, obviously had spoken to plumbers in my team, and I assume they reported that I was not like the other managers. Where unusual jobs came up and an operative was out of his depth, I was only too happy to get my tools out and work with them until the job was completed.
Perhaps that was one of the reasons Bruce talked to me. I always treated him with respect. Over several months Bruce’s own General Trades Foreman named John S. was rude and aggressive when speaking to Bruce. It was quite inappropriate the way he was treating Bruce and I did caution John S. that Bruce might make a formal complaint to the Union Convenor. My caution went unheeded and if anything John increased his belligerence.
One morning whilst I and some of the men were in the local cafe, Bruce sat beside me. He asked if I could tell him anything about John S. and his background. I explained that as far as I knew John had no real knowledge of the building trades and he was also frightened of Bruce’s educational standard. Perhaps that was why he was being so discourteous and unpleasant
It did all come to a head, when Bruce involved the UCAT (Union of Construction and Allied Trades) Steward. Unbeknown to me or anyone Bruce had kept written detailed and meticulous notes of all the confrontations over the months. I was told later that at the Managers preliminary meeting, John relied on his position as the boss and told a pack of lies about how difficult and uncooperative Bruce had been to him personally. When they were both asked to produce any evidence and/or witnesses, John’s case rapidly fell apart. On the other hand Bruce put paper after paper forward.
The actual hearing date was set, and John had to temerity to ask if I would appear as a witness for him. I refused point blank and was told that I should be ashamed of myself and that no other Depot Foreman would ever work with me or have them as a colleague again. I found that statement quite amusing and told him that he was a gutless bully who knew nothing about respecting men.