|Volume 46 Number 19, August 6, 2016||ARCHIVE||HOME||JBCENTRE||SUBSCRIBE|
The funeral service of Dave Hopper, Secretary of the Durham Miners' Association, took place on Friday, July 29, at the Miners' Hall, Red Hill, Durham, starting at 9.45am.
The funeral and celebration of Dave Hopper's life was a wonderful and dignified occasion imbued with that militant social love characteristic of the best of the working class movement. It was attended by more than a thousand people from the workers' and people's movements, including Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the Labour Party, and several prominent trade union leaders, as well as representatives of the northern region of RCPB(ML). The mourners packed into the historic Redhills Miners' Hall with many sat in the marquee outside as well. The funeral cortège arrived to the very moving Gresford, known as "the miners' hymn", played by the Durham Miners' Association Brass Band. The beautiful wooden coffin was carried inside the hall by the sons and marras - friends and comrades - of Dave Hopper. The service was taken by Rodney Bickerstaffe, former leader of Unison, and friend of Dave Hopper for over 30 years. The eulogies were delivered by AlanMardghum, a marra of Dave's at Wearmouth pit and fellow union fighter, Geoff Shears, who joined with Davey and the DMA as the leader of Thompsons in the very risky undertaking of fighting test cases, Jeremy Corbyn MP, leader of the Labour Party, and Alan Cummings, President of the DMA who had been, with Davey, part of the left discussion forum in the union that had led the 1984-85 miners strike in the Durham area when the leadership at that time opposed the strike.
The memorial service lasted for two hours but passed very quickly with so many wonderful tributes to Dave Hopper, the DMA, and the Durham Miners' Gala. Jeremy Corbyn described the legacy of Davey, David Guy and others as a wonderful legacy for the entire working class and people that is necessary to take forward. He united with this legacy that of the Tolpuddle martyrs, farmworkers, steel workers and all workers. This is something that it is necessary to strengthen, Jeremy Corbyn said, and called on all to work for the better society and future that Davey fought for to the end.
What also came across was not only Davey's socialist principles but his unswerving internationalism and his unwavering spirit of optimism. This was reflected in his stand of never giving in to set backs but instead overcoming the obstacles in the darkest moments faced by the DMA both during and after the strike when the pits had closed. It was this indomitable spirit of the best of the working class leaders that so marked the speakers' contributions and remain in the personal memories of those who knew him in the cause of advancing the working class movement.
It might also be mentioned that this spirit was manifested when he welcomed the comrades from the DPRK's London embassy, showing them around Redhills and discussing with them. This paved the way for contact between the DMA and the miners' and energy sector trade union of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), which Dave Hopper was committed to strengthening in the future.
At the finish of the funeral ceremony, Paul Robeson's outstanding recording of Joe Hill rang out through the hall, followed by the collective and dignified singing of the Red Flag. Under Rodney Bickerstaffe's guidance the ceremony concluded, and all applauded as the hearse and family mourners left for a private funeral in Sunderland.
The evening before, on Thursday, July 28, there was a celebration of Dave's life at Sacriston Workingmen's Club in Durham, which included live music and a buffet. The pervading spirit was that although these are sad times the DMA and the Gala will carry on and flourish. Included among those attending were Alan Cummings, President of the DMA, Jeremy Corbyn and Rodney Bickerstaffe. Jeremy Corbyn gave a short appreciation of Dave Hopper's life and work.