Our local Party lost its oldest member recently. Ron Merson died on June 7th at the age of 100.
He was born in Lincoln in 1918 but grew up in Northumberland and went to the Royal Grammar School, Newcastle upon Tyne. He remembered the first Labour Party meeting that he attended, in Morpeth with his mother – the speaker was Ramsay Macdonald!
His family lost their money in the depression and he recalled having a visit from the doctor to deal with some childhood illness. As he was leaving Ron’s mother asked him not to return, as they couldn’t afford what would have been just a routine visit. That sort of incident, followed years later by the setting up of the National Health Service, in the teeth of fierce opposition from the medical profession, was enough to turn thousands of people, like Ron, into lifelong supporters of the Labour Party.
He leaves a message in his own words “Whatever the Labour Party does, and whatever mistakes it makes, we should never forget the dept of gratitude we owe it for ridding us of that sort of humiliation.”
He won a scholarship to Cambridge where he studied Modern Languages. During the war he served in the Pioneer Corps taking part in the landings at Salerno in 1943 and witnessed the eruption of Vesuvius in 1944.
One of his favourite stories was when in 1945 he went in to see his colonel. Scrawled on the wall behind his desk he saw “For f***s sake think of your country. Vote Labour.” The colonel could easily have had it painted over but he hadn’t. He was happy to leave the message. Ron said that at that point he realised Churchill would lose the election.
After the war he became a teacher, finally becoming head of the newly formed French department at Alsager College.
He had a long and happy retirement, travelling widely in Europe and the States. He claimed that the last branch meeting he attended was the Costa Blanca ex-pats branch! But he didn’t actually join Labour until 1992 when he lived in Wistaston. When asked why, he said “Because no-one asked me”. There’s a lesson for all of us. But it was a privilege to listen to the memories of someone with such longevity, and remind ourselves of why we joined.
He died after a short illness and leaves 2 daughters, three grandchildren and 2 great-grandchildren. His funeral will be held at Crewe Crematorium on Wednesday 26th at 1.20 pm, with family flowers and contributions to The Red Cross.
Many thanks to party member Peter Kent for writing these words and a special thanks to Ron’s family for the picture of Ron and for their blessing for us to write about him and his life.