A Little Family History

So I'm sitting here on the couch watching Sicko (Michael Moore's investigation into America's healthcare system vs. socialized medicine in the UK & Canada), and at one point he's interviewing the Rt. Hon. Tony Benn (Labour MP).

And what did I spy in one shot?

A SOGAT mug from 1982.

Most people won't know what SOGAT is... in fact, for the longest time I didn't. It's a print-workers trade union in the UK (specifically, the "Society of Graphic and Allied Trades").

Why do I know this?

Strangely, because my grandfather (on my mom's side) was the secretary of Sogat for a while. I don't know any more details. I'm hoping that someone will eventually read this and fill in the blanks for me.

I remember being 7 or so, and visiting him in an office building somewhere near Manchester. What do I remember from the visit?

A big wooden desk. A pen holder. Some kind of phone. And the coolest thing of all, a pen holder that looked like a little animal, with a spring like a slinky in the middle.

We got to the office via an elevator. But that's all I remember.

At one point, I visited a newspaper printers in what's now called the "PrintWorks" in Manchester - refurbished now as a cool nightlife/entertainment zone near the Manchester Arndale center. (The IRA bombing in 1996 brought about a number of changes... this was one of the cooler ones). All I remember? A big green door, and a huuuuuuuge roll of paper near the entrance in some kind of machine.

The other memory of my Granddad's work was seeing him on the news, walking and talking with Margaret Thatcher during some kind of trade dispute. They talked over everything he said, cutting to her for the soundbite.

Oh, he also had the occasional trip to Hawaii (I think he stayed at the same hotel I've been to), and had at least one meeting on Robert Maxwell's (head of the Mirror Group of newspaper publishers) yacht the Lady Gislaine - about a year before Maxwell was found dead floating overboard.

My granddad - Gerard Foley - died in 1986 of a double heart-attack. And he has this life that I know very little about.

My grandmother - Kathleen Foley - was a nurse. That much I know. She died less than a year after my grandfather of cancer.

They both grew up during World War II; my gran was evacuated to Wales if I recall correctly. She had photos, and at she still had the gas mask.

More than that? I don't remember. I was 12 or so when they died.

Some of these facts may be wrong - they're all from memory. Either way, if anyone has any more info, please let me know :)

About the author

Simon Cooke is an occasional video game developer, ex-freelance journalist, screenwriter, film-maker, musician, and software engineer in Seattle, WA.

The views posted on this blog are his and his alone, and have no relation to anything he's working on, his employer, or anything else and are not an official statement of any kind by them (and barely even one by him most of the time).

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ged foley wrote on Thursday, October 6, 2011:

gerard died 21st april 1987 kathleen joined him sept 1987

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