Harry Leslie Smith
By Kathy Bole
Last night I had the privilege of attending the memorial for the “oldest Rebel” Harry Leslie Smith. I had been lucky enough to correspond with Harry about my admiration for him and what he was doing for all of us in the future generations. He taught me how to muster myself up to fight for others and he is what keeps me going even when I can’t leave my bed.
Harry was loved by thousands all over the world. He was, dare I say it inspirational, for his common sense and his sense of duty for those who are voiceless. I was saddened by his death. Angry that he left with so many people needing to hear his warnings of us returning to the types of injustice he and others fought against.
When I got to the Conway hall, the queue was already building. As I wrestled with my trusty scooter, I chatted with one of the people next to me who turned out to be one of publicists of Harry’s books. As I glanced around, I was impressed to be one of the older people waiting to get in. Someone might have thought it was a queue for some new up and coming poet, not the memorial to a plain speaking Socialist from Yorkshire.
I had no idea what to expect. I got to the door and to my horror realised that there was a list I should have been on. When the young man waved me in, I said who I was and that I had spoken to John (Harry’s son). The young man, I was speaking with smiled and said, any friend of John’s is more than welcome. I was led through the entry hall being handed a copy of Harry’s book “Harry’s Last Stand.”
The steward, one of many from Unite found me a spot near the front, made sure I was comfortable and could see from where I was positioned. I mentioned that I had a gift for John and he said, “I’ll just go and grab get him for you.”
I had mentioned to John through Facebook messenger that “I hoped I would meet him in person” but looking at the throng coming through the door, I wasn’t so sure. I felt a touch to my arm and turned to see John Smith. He hugged me and I presented him a Disability Labour t-shirt and gave our heartfelt condolences.
I asked if we could put a permanent memorial for Harry on our website. Which John had agreed to. We hugged again and we chatted for a few minutes. So surrounded by many many activists, journalists and young people, we remembered Harry for what he did throughout his life and what he tried to teach us about standing up for what’s right.
I will always remember the brief conversations I had with Harry on messages sent personally to me through social media. That’s the type of person Harry was, interested in other people’s lives, humble and wise. He had razor sharp political insight and a flare for writing, an easy to read style that certainly kept me and many others engaged. He has left big shoes to fill. But hearing his son’s eulogy, I do think he will do an excellent job, backed up by all of us who valued his message and will heed his warnings. We all have to carry on Harry’s legacy. In the words of Harry Leslie Smith we need the Tories to “keep their mitts off of our NHS”, Fight for the refugees in camps all over the world and be Human beings spreading humanity to ALL people.