Thursday, 17 May 2012

Lance Newbigging

I was sad to learn at the weekend that my good friend and former work and ICG colleague Lance Newbigging passed away last Friday.

Lance and I were colleagues at Skycaps at London Heathrow Airport between 1989 and 1991. He would have been around 62 at the time and was regarded by many of the younger porters with affection as a kind of father figure, often bestowing the benefit of his advice based upon the legal training that he had received as a younger man in his native India.

When I lost my job there in 1991 as a inevitable consequence of an ongoing conflict with the appalling management at the company Lance took my part, which led to his own arbitrary dismissal not very long afterwards. Skycaps, run at the time by a company called Valet Services Limited, was a flawless example of the kind of "hire 'em, fire 'em" set-up that the present government is keen to reintroduce under the guise of "competitiveness". Lance and I spend many a happy afternoon together at the Industrial Tribunals, then based at London's Russell Square.

When the ICG was set up a little while later Lance liked what we were doing and joined up. Prior to that he had briefly been a member of the now-defunct Hounslow Residents' Group (HRG) but preferred the ICG model. As a passionate union man its more socially progressive outlook was more to his taste. Lance stood as a candidate for the ICG in 1998 in the old Spring Grove ward.

I had not seen Lance for some time prior to his passing, although we had spoken a few times on the telephone. I would have dearly loved to have visited him and naturally regret not having done so, however with five jobs and counting it was a physical impossibility (I did not see my own parents for six months from November last year and they live less than a mile along the road!). It is sad, but I guess inevitable, that there are some who are retired and lead a sedentary lifestyle who simply (and rather stupidly) just assume that everybody else is in the same position as themselves.

Lance, I know, understood this. He was a very intelligent man. Our friendship was one that went back a lot longer than some others and when we spoke recently we spent a good deal of time reminiscing about our times at Skycaps and about the extraordinary events of 1998 which set the wheels of a whole era in motion.

Lance was very well known, and respected, in his locality. One particularly powerful recollection I have is of boarding a 116 bus in Bedfont after having spent a good few hours at his home, working no doubt on some tribunal case and being sustained with tea and curry by him and his late partner Daphne. Lance had walked me to the bus stop to see me off (and, I'm sure, to have a crafty ciggie). As I paid my fare the driver looked to the stop behind me and asked me "Is that Lance?".

I responded in the affirmative, and for much of the journey back to Hounslow he explained to me how Lance had helped him to save his job when he had fallen foul of his own employers.

It will probably never have occurred to Lance how widely missed he will be. My heartfelt condolences go out to his family and loved ones.

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