WHAT APPEARS BELOW is a eulogy given on May 12, 2000 on the life of our fallen brother, Shem Hogan of the Transport and General Workers Union (T&G), United Kingdom. Shem was a Regional Industrial Organizer with T&G. He serviced and organized the Imerys plants in Devon and Cornwall. He spent the last months of his life fighting for union rights in Sylacauga, Alabama and educating his British sisters and brothers about the vicious union busting undertaken by Imerys in the U.S.
The measure of any human being is not what one says, but one does on behalf of others. We knew Shem only a short time. But it didn't take us long to determine just what kind of human being Shem Hogan was. He was a true internationalist in the finest tradition of trade unionism.
We will honor his memory by continuing our struggle. In the words of our trade union anthem, Solidarity Forever, "we shall build a new world from the ashes of the old."
EULOGY - SHEM HOGAN
Church of St Augustine of Hippo
12 May 2000
Dear Friends, Colleagues, Brothers & Sisters, we are assembled here today to pay our respects to Shem Hogan, a man who had such a profound effect on the lives of each and every one of us gathered here this morning.
I know that for many of you your journey to St Austell began either yesterday, or at dawn this morning, from your homes in Ireland and throughout the UK. Shem knew that you would be here and I thank you on his behalf.
None of us can imagine the distress and heartache that has to be borne by his wife Pat and their children Clare and Mike at the loss of a dear husband and father. We send out to them our love and commiserations. We remember also the heartache and despair felt by Shem's mother and father (Kitty and Jimmy) who are here with us from their home in Ireland, along with Shem's sister Helen and his brother Tom. Unfortunately his other sister and brother, Kay and Declan are unable to be with us. Our thoughts are also with them.
It is a blessing that his extended family and friends were all with Shem during his hospitalisation and that Pat was with him when he died.
I know that when Shem asked me to speak to you today, he wanted us to particularly remember the good times. He wanted us to identify and to count together, the blessings that life had bestowed on him. For my part, I want to also recall the blessings and joy Shem's life brought to each and everyone gathered here for today's farewell.
Shem was a quiet man, definitely not an exhibitionist. His measured tread, his analytical evaluation and assessment of any problem was very impressive. If that description, however, suggests that he was detached - nothing could be further from the truth! His heart went out to those in trouble . nothing was too much trouble for Shem Hogan if there was one person in need. In fact, there are many here today who will bear witness to that truth.
Those admirable characteristics came to Shem from his Mum and Dad as he grew up in a very happy family environment in Carrick-an-Suir, Co. Tipperary along with his brothers and sisters - Helen, Tom, Declan and Kay. These family values and his in-built concern for others stood him in good stead throughout the rest of his life.
Shem's childhood was a very happy one. Not only did Shem say that, but so do his Mum and Dad and his old School Teacher, Mr Tom Nealon, who recalls a delightful and studious young boy. He well remembers Shem as a keen member of the "Carrick Swans" for whom he played curling and football.
Like so many young men who live in rural areas - indeed just like many young men here in Cornwall who cannot find work and for whom the Armed Forces offers some quite remarkable opportunities - Shem too followed in the footsteps of his Great Grand-dad and four of his uncles and joined the R.A.F. when he was 17 years old.
Up until then Shem's life had been very happy and he probably thought that things couldn't get any better - but they did!
Shem was posted to South Wales where he met a beautiful young 16-year old girl called Pat Williams. What's more he met Pat's parents Griff and Grace who are here with us today. They welcomed this handsome blue-eyed Irish lad into their family and cared for him as though he were their son.
Well Shem couldn't get the sound of wedding bells out of his mind and he and Pat married in 1971. After the wedding they left Wales and went together to Shem's first RAF posting in Germany. When they returned from Germany to Ireland they caused a bit of a stir on their arrival back in Carrick-an-Suir because they brought with them a little blue mini they had bought in Germany. Those were happy times! Which were later to be made even more happy with the arrival of their daughter Clare in 1976 and their son Mike who arrived in 1979
Shem had served in the RAF for seven years. When he was de-mobbed he started work at British Aerospace in 1975 and immediately joined the TGWU. Right from the very start it was obvious to his workmates that Shem would make an excellent advocate and was therefore quickly elected as a TGWU Shop Steward. There were a number of unions at British Aerospace now BAe systems and they formed an active "Combine Committee". Shem had the respect of the Combine Committee members and was consequentially elected to serve as the Combine Secretary and Chair .. a high honour indeed! Shem was tireless in his efforts to try to achieve the very best for the workers represented by the Combine Committee.
It was no surprise to anyone therefore that Shem worked flat out throughout the 35 hour a week campaign. It is widely accepted that this campaign was the most successful Trade Union campaign in recent years. The workers knew that it was absolutely essential that there be no let up in this campaign and the organisation that Shem led at Filton in Bristol was the key to their eventual success. Shem believed in this justifiable crusade which was designed to ensure that families could spend more of their precious time together.
Shem's awareness that workers worldwide are often simply divided because of national loyalties or linguistic difficulties troubled him. He would not ever have claimed responsibility but the facts reveal the truth that much of the now firmly established links with workers in Airbus - which is the European Consortium building civil aircraft on behalf of France, Germany, Spain and the UK - were begun by Shem.
That initiative placed our members at the heart of the Aerospace issues being discussed in Europe. A conference was organised by Edith Cresson who was, at that time, a European Commissioner and Lionel Jospin, then Leader of the Opposition in France and now, the French Prime Minister.
Shem's contribution to the debate at that conference in France and Germany was greatly appreciated, particularly as much of the restructuring, which was being proposed in those countries, had already taken place in the UK.
Shem was always a respectful Trade Union Official, but he wasn't afraid to be controversial either. The debate in France was particularly strong. In the beginning, they did not accept or believe it was necessary for them to come to terms with the changes taking place in the Aerospace industry. Indeed, they saw it as a peculiarly British problem. However, it is now widely accepted that the restructuring, which had occurred in Britain, would affect the whole of the industry and it was vital, therefore, that workers shared their experiences and understood the issues involved.
Another a couple of examples of Shem's Internationalism recently appeared on our P.C one was an e-mail from an American Trade Union Official and his members who Shem had been helping.
The other is from an internationally renowned European Trade Union, the C.G.T.
We have also received expressions of great sadness from Unison's Regional Officer, Bro Stuart Roden, with whom Shem had an excellent relationship, along with similar communications from other UK Unions who all pay tribute to Shem as a consummate professional.
Shem had tremendously mixed feelings about taking up full time work in 1998 as a T&G Officer in the Country's largest Industrial Trade Union. His brothers and sisters in the T&G encouraged him to do so because they knew that his full potential was very far from being realised. Shem was worried about leaving Aerospace but he said that Martin Becker and the team were the best in the Land; and so they have proved it to be.
When Shem and Pat moved to Cornwall, so that he could take up his new job as the TGWU Cornwall District Secretary, he said that his dream had finally come true, fulfilling his lifetime's ambition.
It's well known, of course, in the U.K. that Cornish people can spot a character defect as easily as spotting a hole in a boat! Well Shem passed all the tests and our members and the Cornish Community took Shem to their hearts immediately, very much as Griff and Grace did all those years ago in Wales.
The professional support and comradeship Shem received from everyone in Cornwall matched his own high standards and we all looked forward to extending our membership base with Shem's leadership.
Shem never ceased to say how immensely grateful he was - and how very honoured he was that his two administration support colleagues, sisters Cilla Hulme and Lesley Barrows cared so much about the Union and every single member who needed help. He said to me that he could not have asked to work with nicer people whose professionalism exceeded his wildest expectations.
Shem also very quickly began a process of liberating the Lay member talent that abounds in Cornwall. Such was Shem's charm, honesty, loyalty and commitment that he was able to enlist the help of Bros John Foster and Ivan Lean to lead the Cornwall District Recruitment & Organisation Team. Shem's delight at what John, Ivan and their lay recruiters achieved made his face light up. He was proud and excited about how the strategic plans for Cornwall were coming together.
Shem's negotiating skills were obviously already well known in the Aerospace industry. He went on to apply that same proven analysis and commitment to his negotiations on behalf of his members in the 13 other very different industries throughout Cornwall. The skills he'd seen his Dad use, many years ago, as a local Politician and TGWU member in Co. Tipperary were now being adapted for the good of workers in Cornwall.
In his many negotiations Shem never left any employer feeling that they had either been mugged or conned. They invariably thought, however, that they had given more than they intended to do - but all sides generally conceded that justice had been done.
I know that I speak for everyone here, and indeed for the thousands who cannot be with us today to say goodbye to Shem, when I say that his presence has added something special to our lives.
Some people come into our lives and touch us briefly like the brush of a butterfly's wing. A few come into our lives and leave an indelible imprint on our inner consciousness. Shem had that effect on all those that he met.
Shem's strategy for living his life and doing his job was encapsulated by the French thinker, Voltaire, who said;
"It is far better to preserve a kindly silence than to speak an uncharitable truth."
Shem drove a hard bargain for those he loved and for those for whom he worked but he was never, ever unkind to anyone.
I am delighted to say that our Region submitted an application to London for Shem to be awarded the Union's highest honour the `TGWU GOLD MEDAL'.
Bro Stan Cooke, our Region's Territorial Representative on the Union's `inner cabinet', the Finance & General Purposes Committee, spoke about Shem's extensive contribution to our Union and its membership. Shem's medal was subsequently awarded at 9.30 a.m. on Thursday 4 May, 2000. Shem Hogan was proud of his family, proud of his class and proud of his Union and he leaves us an Aladdin's cave of sweet memories and wonderful achievements by which to remember him.
BRISTOL BS1 6AY