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Camden New Journal - OBITUARY
Published: 9 October 2008

Terry Heath
Activist with key role in rent strike movement

TERRY Heath, who has died aged 74, played a pivotal role as an organiser in the St Pancras rent strikes of the 1950s and worked for more than 55 years as a steward for his trade union, the Amalgamated Society of Woodworkers.
Terry was born in Arlington Road in 1934, the son of Fred, a postal worker, and Catherine, who worked in a munitions factory opposite their Mornington Crescent home as the Second World War started.
Terry and his brother Vic were evacuated together to Bedfordshire – his sister Joan later joining them – before they returned to London in 1944. But the dangers of the V1 flying bombs and V2 rockets meant the family reunion in Arlington Road was short lived. They were packed off again to the countryside until the war was at an end.
Terry left school aged 14 and became an apprentice carpenter. It was a trade he would stick with throughout his life.
When he reached 18, he was called up for National Service and, being a daredevil, decided he’d fit the parachute regiment. He served at Suez and enjoyed army life, before returning once more to Camden Town when his two-year stint was up.
It was around this time that Terry and Vic became active politically.
They began to attend tenants’ meetings after talking to colleagues in the building trade and neighbours: at one meeting Terry became friends with political activist Don Cook. He, too, had served in the Paras, during the war, and the pair exchanged stories. Don earned extra respect from Terry after barricading himself into his home in Kentish Town in protest at council plans to raise his rent – he became a key player in the rent strike movement, and Terry followed his example. Terry was also at the forefront of a plan to occupy the town hall in 1960, and marched there with a group of other activists. But the police had got wind of the idea and were waiting for him.
Terry was arrested and accused of assaulting an officer. He told friends he’d simply pushed one who had moved towards him in a threatening manner. He pleaded not guilty and was defended by the renowned socialist lawyer Jack Gaster. The magistrates were having none of it and Terry got a 30-day sentence in Pentonville.
On the day of his release, he married his girlfriend, Marion, an ambulance driver. They had two sons, John and Mark.
Terry became involved with the Amalgamated Society of Woodworkers, and organised trade union activities. He was to stay an active member for the next 55 years of his life. In the early 1960s, prompted partly by his brother, he joined the Communist Party.
Sport played a huge part of Terry’s life. He boxed regularly and trained at the St Pancras club. He was a keen footballer, and fanatical about Tottenham Hotspur, not missing a home game for years and travelling to away matches.
When Terry retired he and his wife decided to do fulfil a lifelong dream to see the world. They spent the next 10 years travelling abroad, spending six months at a time exploring Cuba, Australia and Borneo, among other places.
Terry’s health began to fail in his mid-60s. He was diagnosed as having cirrhosis of the liver, but doctors at the Royal Free Hospital in Hampstead believed he was too old to survive a liver transplant. His wife Marion would not take the diagnosis and instead sought a second opinion at the Addenbrooke’s in Cambridge. They agreed to do the operation and Terry survived. He later to returned to the hospital having suffered from various other health scares, and had to have a leg amputated. But his family recall him never complaining, and looking at his illness with stoicism, helped by the constant and affectionate care of his loving wife Marion.

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