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Death of Bob Bickerdike at 89

category cork | miscellaneous | news report author Sunday June 14, 2009 10:42author by John Jefferies Report this post to the editors

The death occurred on Friday night at his home in Youghal, Co. Cork of veteran peace campaigner and socialist activist Bob Bickerdike at the age of 89 years.

Regular Indymedia readers will recall that Bob featured here after receiving the "Working Class Hero 2009" award from the Cork May Day committee last month in recognition of his many decades of struggle on behalf of and with working people and his lifetime involvement in the peace movement.
Bob Bickerdike in 2004
Bob Bickerdike in 2004

To quote from Ray Hanrahan's report in Indymedia from the 2009 May Day events in Cork:-

"Bob was born in Co. Leitrim nearly 90 years ago and his early experiences during ‘the hungry thirties’ and his early working years as a circus entertainer convinced him of the necessity and desirability of a socialist revolution for humankind. He spent a portion of his adult years as an emigrant in Britain where, as a working man and trade unionist he was involved directly in many workplace struggles, and where his lifelong passion for opposition to war, nuclear weapons and imperialism was given focus and space for action. He settled in Youghal in the 1970s and there raised a family and re-connected with socialist activity in Ireland. As a stalwart attendee of anti-war events and marches at Shannon until quite recently, he has been a beacon of inspiration for many activists in Cork city and county, and it was a privilege to share his company and to attest to his continuing burning desire for a better tomorrow for us all. Salud Bob!"

Bob was a leading figure locally and nationally in the National Association of Tenants Organisations (the other NATO!) and for many years travelled the country

Bob was very frail when he received his presentation and the "Working Class Hero" title. He was very proud of it but as always was truly modest about his own role in the long struggle to build a better life for people. He stood for election to Youghal Urban District Council on a number of occasions and was an elected town councillor during the 1980s. He was totally opposed to the double taxation of service charges and played an active part in that campaign. As a result of this Bob was jailed by his own town council when he was almost 70 years of age but refused to be bullied by officialdom.

I'm sure many people will want to record here their own memories of Bob but mine is of him sitting in the rough grass beside the apron of Shannon Airport as he refused to get up at the order of a garda who had a large German Shepherd straining at the leash during one of the many protests against the presence of US military and CIA aircraft and personnel and the violation of Irish neutrality in which Bob was a fervent believer.

As I write I have no details of Bob's funeral arrangements but as soon as I get this information I will post it online below.

Related Link: http://www.indymedia.ie/article/92159

Bob speaks at the Cork Hiroshima Day vigil in 2004
Bob speaks at the Cork Hiroshima Day vigil in 2004

Bob Bickerdike (right) protests against US warships in Cobh 2006
Bob Bickerdike (right) protests against US warships in Cobh 2006

author by John Jefferiespublication date Sun Jun 14, 2009 12:30author address author phone (086) 3004573Report this post to the editors

Bob's funeral will take place in his adopted home town of Youghal on Tuesday next, 16th June. There will be an 11am service at St. Mary's Collegiate Church (Church of Ireland) which is in the centre of the town (off the North Main Street). Bob will be buried afterwards in the church grounds of this historic medieval church.

See link below for map of Youghal (No.20 is location of St. Mary's Collegiate Church).

Related Link: http://www.eastcorktourism.com/maps/map2.htm
author by Contaminated Crowpublication date Sun Jun 14, 2009 22:05author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Bob also played a part in the campaign against the proposed Merrill Dow factory in Killeagh, Co. Cork, from which I remember him fondly. Ni bheidh a leitheid aris ann.

author by Margaret O'Regan. - SWP.publication date Mon Jun 15, 2009 10:54author address author phone Report this post to the editors

One of the activities in Cork City that I remember Bob attending was the demonstration outside the o2 shop in Patrick Street a few years ago. Bob, in his eighties, marched with us in a circle for a full hour in the scorching heat. We were protesting at the o2 mast erected in a residential part of Mayfield.

I also had the privilege of being present when Bob received his 'Working Class Hero' award from Cork Mayday Committee this year. He made a marvellously uplifting speech about a future socialist Ireland and world. Despite his frail appearance, his voice was strong, and, of course, his command of the English language, and the articulate way he spoke, was electrifying. He was a natural orator.

Bob is a huge loss - his actions and words will never be forgotten. To his family and friends, I extend my utmost sympathy at his sad passing.

author by Eanna Dowlingpublication date Mon Jun 15, 2009 11:22author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Bobby was an inspiration for generations of activists and people interested in positive developments for their community. Known affectionately in Youghal as "Bobby Presto" in recognition of his roots as a clown and entertainer in the "fit ups" travelling shows, Bobby was self educated, articulate and fearless. His life spanned the period from the Irish War of Independence to the end of the Celtic Tiger and he kept a sharp mind open to local, national and international developments throughout those historic times.

He experienced poverty during his life on the road and he settled in Youghal to raise his family. Bob developed a strong sense of injustice when he surveyed the conditions of workers and unemployed alike. Bobby stood for election successfully to Youghal Urban District Council in the 1980s. He opposed the double taxation of water charges and was jailed because of it. His was a powerful clear voice during the Merrill Dow campaign late in that decade, a jobs v environment debate that split the community. Bobby was able to understand that jobs at the plant would have gone to highly educated technicians with specific pharmacological skills, with few core functions open to the local skill pool.

Well into his 80s, Bobby spoke out against injustice and war. He was one of the early members of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament in Britain in the 1950s and continued to oppose the use of Shannon airport as a US military stopover. He continued to contest local eletions until 2004, when aged 84, he failed to win a seat.

Bobby will be sadly missed by family, neighbours and friends the length and breadth of Ireland and beyond.

We'll not see the likes of him again.

author by Ray - Cork WSM - pers cappublication date Mon Jun 15, 2009 12:25author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Bob's life was an example of active citizenship, an example that will live on to inspire future generations of socialist activists in the Cork region and beyond. I offer my sincere sympathies to his family - our loss in the activist community pales beside the loss of a father, grandfather, and friend. His memory will live forever in our heats - salud Bob!

author by Fintan Lane - Anti-War Irelandpublication date Mon Jun 15, 2009 14:15author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Yes, Bob will indeed be badly missed. He was a stalwart of the anti-war movement in Cork, regularly travelling the many miles from Youghal up to Cork city to attend meetings and events of the Cork Peace Alliance and, later, the Cork Anti-War Campaign. He was also a regular at anti-war demonstrations at Shannon airport and was particularly appalled at the support given by the Irish government to the US war machine.

A kind man with a good heart - his presence will be missed.

author by Fiachra Ó Luainpublication date Mon Jun 15, 2009 14:43author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Bob,
It was wonderful to meet you in Shannon that last time.
You and many other people were such an inspiration to me during the Merrill Dow campaign and your legacy lives on.
Codladh Sámh.
Fiachra Lamb

author by Edward Horgan - Peace and Neutality Alliancepublication date Mon Jun 15, 2009 16:41author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Bob Bickerdike has been an example to us all of the power and wisdom of a non-violence approach to peace.
I remember him on several occasions at peace vigils at Shannon, including one in September 2005 when 10 peace activists were attested at a sitdown at a roundabout. I hope to attend his funeral tomorrow if anyone wants a lift from Limerick. His belief and support for Irish neutrality is even more relevant now in the run-up to the second Lisbon Referendum.

Ar dheis De go raibh anam Bob Bickerdike.

author by Tim Houriganpublication date Tue Jun 16, 2009 11:28author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I also have fond memories of meeting Mr. Bickerdike at Shannon.
We hope to plant a tree in his memory near the airport at some stage during the summer. His spirit lives on, and he will be remembered.

author by John Jefferiespublication date Tue Jun 16, 2009 14:20author address author phone Report this post to the editors

There was a great turnout in Youghal this morning for Bob's memorial service and funeral. The sun came out and glistened over Youghal Bay.

author by Fr. Donal Hussey - St. Joseph's Church, Elko, NVpublication date Tue Jun 16, 2009 17:23author email irlarmy at yahoo dot comauthor address author phone Report this post to the editors

I knew Bob growing up in Youghal, as we all did, by the name 'Presto.' He got that name, I believe, from his interest in photography, and I still remember him for the great activist that he was. Though he was not popular in some circles for his socialist views, he had the courage of his convictions, even to getting elected to the local town council so that he could be a voice for those who did not have any. And certainly, in those days, without people like Bob, many would have been ridden over roughshod without his intervention and innate sense of justice. He did have an enormous amount of energy: he needed it to keep up with all his activities which were often centered in Cork City.
I remember him on one protest againt local refuse charges: again, he did not mind public derision as long as people's consciences were informed.
He also had a most pleasant wife, who run a hairdressing business for many years. I believe, sadly, she may have passed away from cancer some years ago.
We need the Bob Bickerdikes of this world lest we trample on people's dignity.

author by Edward Horgan - Irish Peace and Neutrality Alliancepublication date Tue Jun 16, 2009 22:50author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Today's funeral service in Youghal was a celebration of Bob Bickerdike's life as a peace activist and social activist. He is resting in peace overlooking Youghal town and harbour.
I suggest that we do a tree planting ceremony for him at Shannon, possibly on the weekend of 5/6 September 2009. This will coincide with a peace conference being held at the Park Inn hotel at Shannon on 5 Sept.
We would welcome ideas as to what Bob's choice of tree might have been.

author by treestruckpublication date Wed Jun 17, 2009 00:51author address author phone Report this post to the editors

A solid oak would be my first guess, but it takes a long time to mature. So other suggestions remain to be made.

author by John Jefferiespublication date Wed Jun 17, 2009 09:51author address author phone Report this post to the editors

I suggest a Rowan Tree, grows quicker than oak and produces nice orange or white berries which birds like to eat and humans can eat if heated. The Rowan has always been highly regarded in this country and was believed to have magical powers - used by druids for their staffs and to guard against evil spirits (like the US military presence at Shannon or Shell in Mayo). I'm sure Bob would have been able to say much more about the Rowan tree than I can.

author by Treestruckpublication date Wed Jun 17, 2009 12:27author address author phone Report this post to the editors

Nice suggestion, the rowan tree, also called mountain ash. Yes its plentiful pale red berries look good early in autumn. It grows well in urban surrounds as well as on acidic stony hillsides. In Gaelic it's called An Caorthann.

There was an eco-political magazine about 15 years ago called An Caorthann. Wonder if he read it?

Link: http://iol.ie/~mazzoldi/toolsforchange/zine/whatnext.htm

author by Eanna Dowlingpublication date Wed Jun 24, 2009 18:01author email eanna.dowling at gmail dot comauthor address author phone Report this post to the editors

I have recently come into possession of some tapes of interviews Bob did with Robert Allen a few years back, reminiscing on his life and times. I'm looking forward to transcribing them and publishing them. If anyone has any mementoes, photos or recollections of Bob that they could pass on to add to a tribute, could you please get in touch with me?

As for the tree, I have a selection of native trees in my garden that will need thinning out this winter. There's Rowan, Hazel and Oak amongst others. I would be glad to donate one to be planted elsewhere in Bob Bickerdike's memory. But I'd wait until the winter, until the growing season is done and the deciduous natives are dormant, before planting.

author by Claudette Bickerdikepublication date Sun Jul 05, 2009 01:28author email cbickerdike at imagine dot ieauthor address author phone Report this post to the editors

Bob wouldnt bend in the wind. When he made up his mind nothing would change it. He was tenacious, hanging on reguardless of the outcome. Bob would face a firing squad for his beliefs.He reminded me of a Seqoia tree. Upright, strong and unmoveable. Bob liked all trees and would be tickled pink to think a tree would be planted in his honour. From a tiny acorn a mighty oak came. What a fitting tree for Bob.
On behalf of Bob, I would like to thank all you good people who stood with him through the years and took the time to see him through his final journey to a better place. He was delighted with the presentation to him as the workers hero of the year. A wonderful finale to his life that was dedicated to the working man, the environment, justice and peace. We married in 1963, a lot of changes took place in 46 years but we were always soul mates. Thankyou for your support to myself and my family. Claudette Bickerdike.

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