From the Eastern Daily Press, Tuesday, April 10, 2001
Man who fought for the underdog
Veteran Communist Wilf Page, a
lifelong campaigner for underdogs
ranging from farmworkers to
pensioners, has died aged 88 at
His commitment to trade unionism won him a string of accolades and admirers throughout a life which saw him always relishing a challenge - even when dogged by ill health in later years. Four years ago, on being presented with an electric wheelchair by a local farmworkers' union group, Mr Page said: "I'll never give up campaigning."
That campaigning began when he was inspired to join the Communist Party while in the RAF, which the Catton- bom man joined in 1932 as a pioneer of aerial photography when it switched from glass plate to film. To Mr Page, Communism was "never the big Russian bear, but the community owning the wealth of the community".
He joined the Labour Party in 1945 and became agent to farmworkers' leader and North Norfolk MP Edwin Gooch. But the party did not meet his ideals and he switched back to Communism, even being reflected as a member of the local rural district council on a Communist ticket in 1946. He stood down in 1974. Mr Page was elected to the executive of the National Union of Agricultural Workers in 1969 and later the Transport and General Workers' Union, which swallowed it up.
A heart attack in 1980 halted Mr Page's presidency of the European Federation of Agricultural Workers. To a lesser man it would have ended all campaigning, but not Mr Page, who soon became "totally fed up" sitting at home and decided to "do something for the pensioners". In 1989 he got 10 people together in Norwich for a campaigning committee to improve pensions - a movement which exploded into a regional pensioners' association with tens of thousands of members. Mr Page chaired the county association and was made national vice-president at its first national conference before retiring again from the fray in 1995.
For much of his campaigning Mr Page was helped by his late wife Christina, a former leading member of the shopworkers' union - with the couple becoming a formidable, notable and popular trade union partnership. The couple lived at Overstrand for many years, but for the past five years widower Mr Page was a resident at Halsey House, the Royal British Legion home at Cromer.
Long-time friend Mike Ward paid tribute to Mr Page as "a champion of the ordinary man". Mr Ward, secretary of the Trunch TGWU branch where Mr Page was chairman at the time of his death, said: "He was a big man by stature and big in his presence at any meeting. He was a leader without being bombastic, and would always listen to and respect other views. In return, he was respected by many people regardless of their political backgrounds."
© Eastern Counties Newspapers Transcribed by E.C.Apling, April 2001.
Wilf Page: Memorial tribute [EDP, 5th May, 2001]
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