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Obituary Tom Kilburn

It is with indescribable loss and a feeling of utter wretchedness that I announce the death of my dearest friend and comrade of sixty two years Tom Kilburn always known for some reason lost in the foolishness of youth, as, black Tom.

I first met Tom when I was searching for answers in the turbulence of the sixties. I was a fresh faced youth of fourteen ,Tom was slightly older and already was fluid in the Marxist-Leninist twang I thought was the source of all wisdom. I had found him in the musty Peoples Bookshop on Westgate Rd, Newcastle . He was already an experienced member of the YCL Young Communist League I was keen to become one. He was a real prol, an apprentice fitter turner in the giant arms manufacturers that took up so much of the higher reaches of the Tyne. He came to communist meetings smelling of diesel, in his boiler suite and donkey jacket.

Later through the whirlpool of argument, postures, and the clash of identity and titles we parted political company he for Trotskyism, me for anarchism though we never left social company and the same circle of friends . Toms impact on the youth scene is powerful and unlikely, a youth of deep seriousness he nonetheless struck an imposing intellectual presence. This was a time when argument art, music, science, was aspired to, even among your average beat, or mod or in Toms case chique scruff, he struck the posture of the well read ,witty, eccentric which was well accepted among the youth movement which dominated the toon.

Tom was from the Jewish Gateshead community and probably single handedly infused the Geordie dialect with expressions such as snorra and meshuga he was something of an expert on Jewish religion and little-known points of theory. So much so in fact that when the mood took him he would grow his sideburn and hair down on his distinctive Jewish features purely to engage in argument with random rabbis and the towns circle of Jewish men agreeing to toss over this or that, he was of course an implacable atheist.

Tom was enthralled, for a decade and more by J.Posadas and the International Bureau of the 4th International, as was I, indeed I was become a member of its Central Committee RWP while Tom gorged on Posadas’s theories and speculations. I led a split of its northern branches and later returned to anarchism, Tom remained with ‘the Party’ until he found the monolithic centralism too much to stand. Although he never strayed too far from the general thrust of Trotskyism he damned the ‘infantilism’ of my anarchism, my non materialistic drift to Buddhism, and my eternal damn optimism. For Tom not only bought into the human catastrophe of climate change he believed we bloody well deserved it.

Tom cursed the most in his last years the Hull city where he spent so much of his final years as the senior shop steward at the Birds Eyes factory. But once strolling along to the shops I was regaled at every turn by people who not only knew him but thanked him for doing the hedge, walking the dog, getting the shopping in, and generally being a centre of the community.

Tom loved the outdoors, camping under the stars, loved to walk for miles, at home in howling gales and blizzards, loved the rugged coastline, the rocky Craggs, had the spirit and endurance of an arctic explorer.

He also had the most rich and wonderful of folk voices. He was rich in the northern border traditions, in the Irish west coast traditions, in the industrial raw music of the Tyne pits and seamen’s hearty shanties. His voice, deep and rich like the wind over the moors, he knew many of the famous folk stars of our lifetime particularly the Carthy ‘s and the Waterson and Ian Manuel, and many others.

I have not yet taken in that he is gone, how can a man, so big, such an imposition, such a presence ever be gone. How can he be gone, gone where.

The wittiest, funniest, most intellectual, kind and generous man I have ever known, and proud to say he was my lifelong friend, the greatest comrade a man who hope for, I will treasure his company forever.

I’d say Fairwell comrade till we meet again, but I’d hear his voice boom Douglass, there’s that bloody anti materialistic mystical nonsense again, so I’ll just bye, it was a privilege the best 62 years of our lives.

David Douglass