Dennis Scouse Booth, a relieving official, long term union member, life member and great activist out of our Newcastle Branch has passed away. His funeral was yesterday. Every union branch has its legends and Scouse was one.
He seems to have slipped the berth in the same manner that he always tied up along side us, with a minimum of fuss but with all jobs squared away in a true seaman's style.
I know Elaine along with Dennis's daughters and Titch James have been doing everything that was possible to ease his departure and you are all in our thoughts for your special loss at this time
Scouse epitomized everything the old Seamen's Union was in my mind and heart.
Shaped by the pressures of the war and the decimation of merchant seamen in those years. A tireless activist. Tough as teak. Understated to the point of surliness. A careful judge of character and personality reluctant to open too quickly to anyone who hadn't been well proven in the trenches of class struggle over many campaigns. He would not easily give away trust until absolutely sure it was deserved, but once imparted he was one of the most loyal courageous and reliable backstops and comrade one could ever wish in the robust and often deadly work of the political and industrial activities we have committed our lives to, and to which Dennis went the distance with.
The last time I saw him was on the NCIG picket line a couple months ago, in his usual position, two out and one back and ready to make a charge in the event that was the required action. That was behaviour carved out of a full working and retired life of political activism and surety that every angle had to be covered.
That personal strength shored up the union and the Seamen's Union in particular for many many years, generations it seems. It was particularly evident with his great friendship and support at every level for our great comrade, friend and working class leader John Brennan.
Two sides of the same coin was an observation often made to me on Iron boats when I was sea, both different but made from the same metal and absolutely inseparable. That type of support allowed John to get on with the job of leading the branch and the union and knowing his back was always covered, a great luxury many political and industrial leaders do not enjoy.
Scouse relieved in office when John wasn't there in a way where there was no vacuum, no room for policy departure in years sometimes characterised by tremendous internal turmoil in the union.
Often when I would be putting forward an industrial or political view in his company,Scouse would seize me with his steely gaze, not unlike Brennan's on reflection, drilling into you with a force stripping away any bullshit or embellishments.
He was a tough electorate like all of that generation of communists, socialists and class warriors, carefully sifting through assessments of character and commitment that might distort or weaken our resolve to build and sustain our progressive movement.
Many came under that penetrating assessment, some doing better than others. Certainly that type of political toughness shaped our approach to Party politics on the waterfront that led us to The Maritime Unions Socialist Alliance Association that sought to keep a solid framework for socialist networking and education as the Australian left disintegrated.
Without that determination and unerring participation there is no doubt our union and the trade union movement as whole would have drifted further to the right and impotence.
I can remember many events in Newcastle, at the Socrates club, stopwork meetings, May Days, rallies, political actions and industrial confrontations. I can't remember one of those occasions when Scouse was not there. In all sorts of ways he personifies the strength, tenacity, reliability and great depth of the Newcastle Branch and like Dennis I'm there with you today.
The reason I couldn't attend in person is because I'm with Sharan Burrow at a regional Conference in Sydney carving out the next episode of our maritime and shipping history at this difficult political juncture in Australian politics, by seeking to draw all of the trade union resources in our Australian, New Zealand and South Pacific region into an ongoing defense of all of our rights, particularly our right to work.
Scouse, a seamen out of Liverpool and a lifelong internationalist, would understand, and I know he Bodenham and Brennan would be giving me the curt nod that I made the right decision. Just as you would expect from the type of bloke who wanted to get off his death bed to vote, because he knew it was going to be close.
To Tania and Susie, thank you for helping this great man give us the support we needed, we are deeply in your family's debt.
I want to pass on my deepest personal sympathies and condolences together with my wife Gail's along with those of the Maritime Union of Australia's National Council, and all officers members and staff.
Sharan, now the General Secretary of the International Trade Union Congress sends her deepest sympathies.
Vale Dennis Scouse Booth comrade, trusted friend, father and worker to the end.
Now at Peace