Death of Hugh Hunter

Unity, newspaper of the northern Region of the CPI, 20th May 1972

Hugh Hunter was born in the countryside near Ballyclare in Antrim, in 1904. He received the average education of the time which in practice meant working, at an early age, one day in a mill, and attending school the next day. This alternative system of one day's schooling and one day's work was known as 'half-timers'.

Not long after he was 12 years old, he left school to work in the local mill. Such a move was not uncommon since the poor conditions of families forced both the 'half-timers' and early school leaving.

He came to Belfast about the age of 22 and worked in a variety of industries including a period of 11 years in the textile industry. It was only when he reached the age of 42 that he found what could be described as stable employment.

Hughie, as he was known to all his friends, worked as a builder's labourer for the princely sum of 18 shillings and 10 pence [94p a week?] in 1941. This was not untypical of the jobs he undertook rather tan be unemployed. His working life was a constant struggle with difficult time more than easier ones.

He joined the Communist Party shortly after its foundation in 1933. From then until illness forced him to retire from activity he was always active. One of his greatest contributions to the work of the party was in raising finance. At a branch meeting in the NUR rooms in 1945 he was elected branch treasurer and from that time he literally raised thousands of pounds by constant attention to all details in collecting money.

His personal generosity was beyond words and in addition to his weekly contributions to Party funds, always headed election appeals with donations ranging from £25 to £50. He was also a regular contributor to the funds of Unity.

Hughie never forgot the axiom that the written word should accompany the spoken word in propagandising the Party's viewpoint and on his 'rounds', as he called them, to Party members which at the height of his activity included some 95% of all members, he carried pockets full of literature which he not only sold but diligently read.

His advice was often sought on the merits of a particular book or pamphlet, an advice which was more often than not invaluable.

It was not long after joining the Communist Party that he joined the Irish Section of the International brigade to fight on the Republican side in the war against Franco and fascism.

He took part in the Battle of Jarama and when showing his souvenirs he would proudly display his beret with a bullet hole in it showing how he narrowly missed death by inches. Among his compatriots is those heroic days were Michael O'Riordan, General Secretary of the Communist Party of Ireland and Jim Prendergast, now executive committee member of the National Union of Railwaymen in Britain.

Hughie was appointed Quartermaster of his Unit in the Irish Section of the Brigade. Here he was responsible for ensuring that all men in the unit received fair shares of parcels from home and all food, etc.


He was for many years a member of the Amalgamated Transport and General Workers Union in the shipbuilding and aircraft industries in Belfast.

One of his great loves was music. And at his funeral at Roselawn Crematorium near Belfast on 20th May last suitable pieces were played in tribute to this side of his life. They included the 'Four Insurgent Generals', the 'Internationale' 'Mise Eire' and Paul Robeson singing 'Going Home' and 'Crimson Petal'.

His cremation was attended by his lifelong friends in the O'Hagan family, leaders of the Communist Party and members of its National Executive Committee.

In a tribute Mr. Hugh Moore, Northern Area secretary said: "On other occasions we have paid tribute to leaders of our Party when they passed away. At this time we pay tribute to an outstanding worker for our movement. For Hughie had that precious quality that ensured that a task was carried through to its conclusion. He never undertook responsibility lightly for he knew as much as anyone that success came from all the small tasks being completed for success of the whole."

His name will be suitably inscribed in the Roselawn Memoriam Book for remembrance.

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