Stewart Crawford, trade unionist; born November 12, 1948, died July 4, 2000

Stewart Crawford, shop stewards' convener at Yarrow's shipyard, now BAe systems, died at the age of 51 after a nine-month fight against cancer.

Born Alexander Stewart on 12 November 1948, he was the second eldest of three sons. They were born and brought up in Clydebank and Stewart lived almost all his life

in the town that more than most

is synonymous with shipbuilding on Clydeside.

And it was to shipbuilding that he went, after leaving Clydebank High School at the age of 15, to become an apprentice electrician with Yarrow in Scotstoun, Glasgow.

Stewart's introduction to politics as a young worker was largely down to his uncle Bobby McKain, a communist and shipyard shop steward. The two forges in which Stewart's early politics were tempered were, of course, the shipyards, and, as with many of his generation, Vietnam.

Stewart joined the huge demonstrations of the 1960s outside the US embassy in London demanding an end to the war and the USA's aggression in Vietnam. The Communist Party was at the forefront of the anti-US protest movement and it was in that period he joined the Young Communist League. He became the YCL secretary in Clydebank and was elected to the YCL Scottish Committee.

Stewart progressed naturally into the Communist Party of Great Britain and stood unsuccessfully in the early 1970s for the local council as a Communist Party candidate. Clydebank at that time had strong communist representation on the council including Jock Smith, Finlay Hart, Arnold Henderson and Jimmy Reid.

The spirit of internationalism which the Communist Party encouraged led to another important chapter in Stewart's life. Following the US-backed fascist coup in Chile in September 1973, led by that recent visitor to the UK, General Augusto Pinochet, Stewart became intimately involved with the campaign to restore democracy in Chile.

As part of the Chile solidarity campaign, the TUC appealed to British trade unionists to support their Chilean counterparts trapped in Pinochet's murderous riot. Stewart volunteered and the result was that a Chilean exile, an electrical worker and trade unionist, Pedro Gajardo, came to live with Stewart, his wife, Marlene, and their two sons, Paul and Kenneth, in their council flat in Faifley.

In an open commemorative letter Pedro, who now lives in Edinburgh, says of Stewart: ''He did not know me . . . All he knew was that I was a human being suffering extreme human rights in another country and continent and he felt the need to help. From day one he offered me his home where I was considered a member of the family.''

By the late seventies and throughout the eighties, the CPGB was immersed in an internal struggle for control which only ended with its dissolution in the early nineties. Like many others, Stewart's interest in the party, not its cause, waned during that period.

He became an SFA certified football coach with Goldenhill Boys Club and discovered an enduring passion for Partick Thistle. Later he took up cycling and became an enthusiastic member of the Lomond Roads Cycling Club in Clydebank.

Two bad cycling accidents curbed his enthusiasm and he returned to the game of his boyhood, golf. He was a member of the Overton Golf Club based at Dalmuir municipal golf course and a member of the works golf club at Yarrow.

In the past year or so he also

rediscovered, with his new partner, Sharon Thompson, his love of Scotland and fulfilled his lifelong ambition of touring the north of Scotland in a camper van.

It is as a leading Clydeside trade unionist and the convener of shop stewards at Yarrow Shipbuilders that Stewart Crawford will be remembered. Except for a brief period in the 1960s, he worked at Yarrow continuously for 35 years and was a workers' leader for most of that time.

A member of the electricians' union, the ETU, now the AEEU, he soon became a shop steward, then, at the age of 26, electricians' convener and eventually convener for the whole yard with responsibility for more than 5000 workers. He was active on Clydebank and Glasgow Trades Councils and assisted many other organisations, including the Anti-Apartheid Movement, now ACTSA, and CND.

At his funeral, Stewart's friend and Yarrow GMB shop stewards' convener, John Dolan, and the Yarrow Industrial Chaplain, John Potter, paid tribute to Stewart's life and record of commitment to working people and to his humanity and integrity. Scotland's First Minister Donald Dewar MP, who is the local Yarrow's MP, was among the hundreds of mourners at his burial in Old Dalnottar Cemetery on July 7.

As a lifelong communist, it seems an unwelcome coincidence that a man who campaigned against US aggression most of his life should have died on US Independence Day.

Extremely well read and with a deep understanding of history, politics, music, and culture, Stewart knew today's imperialist US bears little resemblance to the revolutionary America fighting against British colonial rule in 1776. For Stewart, July 4 was a date of revolutionary significance: when a small nation fought and defeated a mighty imperial power, just like the Vietnamese did to the US some 200 years later.

So when July 4 comes round again, those of us who knew, befriended, and loved Stewart Crawford will have reason for double commemoration: to the cause of liberty and to a Clydebuilt leader of the working class who gave his life to that great cause.

kenny crawford