On Wednesday this week (16/12/15) we said goodbye to Cliff Snaith, a colleague, comrade and friend. At the funeral I met one of Cliff’s long standing colleagues, Dr Amir Majid, the first blind person in the world to become a Doctor of Civil Law. It is at the request of Dr Majid that I am writing this account of the day’s events, he ask me to record the events so he would be able to have a full account of Cliff’s last march as well.
Cliff was buried in the City of London Cemetery which is situated in Wanstead, East London. The cemetery is surrounded by wild grasslands, but as is the case with most green areas in London, it’s only a few hundred yards from a busy concrete town centre.
My partner and I arrived at Manor Park train station and almost immediately bumped into the UCU environmental officer, Richard Payne, as we walked down towards the cemetery we saw Patrick Bellew, the UNISON Branch Secretary, in the distance. The City of London Cemetery is a large cemetery with well-manicured lawns, it contains a number of beautiful ornate Chapels one of which a large group of Cliffs friends, colleagues and loved ones were gathered outside.
Some of the people who had come to pay their respects were long term friends and comrades of Cliff’s including Mark Campbell, Max Watson, Paul Mackney, Mary Davis, Sean Vernell and Lauraine Monk to name a few. I was pleased to see two Deans from London Met had also come to pay their respects – mangers may not have always agreed with Cliff but they sure would have respected him.
The Chapel was full to bursting point with rows of people standing at the back. The service heard about some of Cliff’s many achievements and fond memories from his close friends. The service ended with a poem ‘To His Coy Mistress’ from Cliffs amazing partner, Rose.
After the service a procession of no less than ten Trade Union banners (these included UCU London Region, Lambeth College, City and Islington UCU, UEL UCU, Croydon UCU, NATFHE and of course London Met UNISON) carried by comrades and colleagues marched to the grave side where Cliff was buried. It was a fine morning and as David Hardman gave a reading by the grave side the sun was peeping through the clouds. I remember thinking that Cliff couldn’t have been laid to rest in a more beautiful place.
After Cliff was lowered into the ground we all sang The Internationale and then followed his example and went to the pub.
I will always remember Cliff as a strong leader who stood for equality and justice. The various anecdotes recounted at the service and the wake expressed how sharp minded, forthright and effective he was as an academic and trade unionist – he will be sadly missed.