Bernard Barry obituary

Other lives: Trade unionist, teacher and campaigner against fascism

Bernard Barry, who has died aged 94, was a veteran member of the Communist party and an active trade unionist.

The only child of poor Jewish working-class parents, Annie, a dressmaker, and Reuben, a glazier, Bernard was born in the Strangeways area of Manchester, and educated at local schools. At 15 he joined the Youth Front against War and Fascism, becoming a member of the Young Communist League when the two organisations merged. He was an active campaigner in the 1930s against fascism and for Spanish republicans.

Bernard later wrote the booklet From Manchester to Spain, about Manchester comrades who volunteered for the International Brigade. This was published in 2009 by the Working Class Movement Library, where Bernard was a voluntary researcher.

Yiddish had been Bernard’s first language at home, and he also learned Hebrew. During the second world war, he was posted to north Africa as an interpreter, and used his schoolboy French to communicate with Italian prisoners of war, who in turn taught him Italian.

After the war he worked in a factory, where he was a shop steward for the National Union of Tailors and Garment Workers. Bernard then undertook emergency teacher training, rising to be deputy head of Higher Openshaw secondary school. As housemaster at Birley high school, Hulme, Manchester, from 1967 until 1980, he recruited more than 50 staff to the National Union of Teachers.

Bernard was active in the campaign for peace in Vietnam. He was also treasurer of the Northwest British Vietnam Association, which despatched thousands of pounds of relief aid, including for the Ky Anh British Friendship hospital, for therapeutic treatment of child victims of war. Bernard served as secretary of Crumpsall branch of the Communist party of Great Britain, and was later a member of the Moston branch committee.

In the 1970s Bernard was a tutor at the Potsdam annual summer course for German teachers of English. After retiring, Bernard expanded his knowledge of languages, learning Russian, German and Spanish. He also passed a computing exam. He volunteered with the WRVS – now called the Royal Voluntary Service – until he was required to stop at the age of 70. He continued to enjoy outdoor hikes and often joined Kinder Trespass anniversary events. Bernard remained steadfast in his political beliefs throughout his life.

Bernard’s first wife, Bertha, whom he married in 1942, was secretary of Cheetham Communist party and a founding member of her local group of the National Assembly of Women. She died in 1962. Bernard felt lucky to have had a second happy marriage, with Vera, whom he married in 1993. She died in 2011. He is survived by his daughters, Rica and Judith, and three granddaughters, Jo (my partner), Emma and Sadie.

Paul Gosling

The GuardianTramp

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