The Keeping of Friends

February 9, 2016

I first met Bob in 2002 at the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in London with Paul Kenny & Steve Pryle of the GMB. My next meeting with Bob was in 2004 at the SIPTU conference in Cork.He asked me how the Jim Connell Festival was taken shape and the rest his history. From then on, Bob was a stalwart of the Jim Connell Festival with an unfaltering attendance and unwavering support.

It was an unforgettable experience and indeed honour to march alongside this titan of Workers rights and to hear the great man speak. Bob’s speeches raised the audiences to high alert and ignited a fire in our bellies to make the world a more just place for Everyone. Bob sang the Red Flag with such gusto, conviction and passion that the hairs would literally stand on the nape of your neck and you believed that a fair society was a possibility and it was our duty to make it happen. Once Bob’s oratory duties were dispensed with, he’d often take to the stage to blast out Sweet Caroline which would signal the party proper was about to start and this Eastender sure could sing !!

Bob didn’t drive (claiming to be environmentally friendly!) so I was nominated as his personal chauffeur around Ireland. Most of the time this involved us getting very very lost around the rural roads of Co. Kerry which all added to the spirit of the journey. We used this time to discuss workers issues locally and globally as well as a spot of theoretical debates ( not forgetting his beloved Millwall). We were on a road heading somewhere and that was the only fact we could be certain of! Its fair to say Bob was no great Map reader but it was always an adventure being in his company.
2015 marked the first year of the Jim Connell Society without our greatest supporter Bob. While his loss was keenly felt by all, we were so proud to be able to unveil our monument to the Workers Champion “Bobs Seat”. We are very grateful that Nikki was able to attend and see the love and appreciation we had for “her Bob”. Sitting on Bob’s Seat you can almost hear his thunderous oration ringing around the Loughcrew Hills where Jim Connell first mastered the art of poaching. Truthfully we can only honour half of Joe’s Hill’s famous Maxim ‘Don’t Mourn, Organise’ as he has left a huge void in our hearts and we miss him greatly.

The Jim Connell Society, all of our supporters and friends hold Bob dearly in our hearts and treasure the time in his company. Bob was more than a inspirational Union Leader he was a great Friend to all and that’s what we miss the most.
This poem was one of my late father’s favourites and it seems appropriate to conclude on:

Life is sweet because of the friends that we have met,
and the things in common we share,
We want to live not because of ourselves,
Its because of the people we care,
Its giving and doing for someone else
and all of life’s splendors depend,
And the joys of the world will be fondled all up,
Its because of the keeping of friends.

Tommy Grimes
PRO Jim Connell Society