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The NUR/RMT Grantham Branch from 1974 to 2004

Above: The Grantham Branch banner.

by John Pegg

In 1974 I became the Grantham NUR branch chairman.  The branch secretary at the time was relief signalman W. ‘Jock’ Drummond and meetings were held at the BRSA (British Rail Staff Association) club, which is now the Grantham Railway Club.  Three years on in 1977 Jock ceased to be the secretary, and I relinquished the chairman’s position and became the branch secretary.

Initial training for the post was at the union’s conference and training centre at Frant Place, near Tunbridge Wells in East Sussex.

The branch provided the members with representation both locally and at national level.  Branch delegates attended various annual grades conferences over the years, i.e. Signalmen's, Workshops, Signals & Telecommunications (S&T), Permanent Way and Secretary's; also a delegate would sometimes attend the Annual General Meeting.

Delegates would regularly attend the district council meetings at Doncaster.  At local level health and safety representatives were elected, along with local staff reps, and the training needed would take place at Doncaster.

In 1979 we formed a branch Social Committee, the aim being to provide a children's Christmas party.  Fund raising was so successful that in 1980, in addition to the children's party (which 50 attended), we organised a retired members’ social evening.  ASLEF and TSSA union retired members were also invited, and a total of 80 members attended.  Both functions became annual events for a number of years.

In addition, very popular film shows were organised, showing productions made by British Transport Films.  All of the above were held, with kind permission, at the BRSA club.

In 1980 we entered a float in the town's Barford Gala parade. Our float, depicting 150 years of railways, was a replica of Stephenson's Rocket with a coach, built on an S&T lorry and occupied by members’ children in period costume.  There were 67 entries and our float gained the fifth prize of £10, which was donated to the NUR Orphan Fund.

'Rocket' ready for the Aveling-Barford Gala Parade, Saturday 21st June 1980.
'Rocket' steams into North Parade.

Miss NUR 1981

In 1954 Grantham chose its first Railway Queen, taking a cue from the national Britain's Railway Queen tradition which began in 1925.  In 1981 we revived the idea and organised a local Miss NUR contest.  Here is The Grantham Journal's report:

Friday 1st May 1981
"Miss NUR", (right) and her maid-of-honour with the judges at Friday's party.

A party for about 50 children of members of Grantham branch of the National Union Railwaymen was held at the B.R.S.A. Club on Friday.  Highlight of the event was the selection of Miss N.U.R. 1981 with her maid-of-honour and attendants.

Judges were Mr. B. Short, area manager, and Mrs. Short, and Mr. D. Frost, B.R. workshop supervisor.

The new Miss N.U.R. was presented with a silver inscribed rose bowl, and her maid-of-honour with a silver cross and chain.  Each of their attendants were given a pen.  First engagement for Miss N.U.R. will be next Thursday when she will meet staff and retired staff and their wives at a social evening.

(from The Grantham Journal 8th May 1981, page 3 - [edited])

For the next gala parade on 27th June 1981 our entry was Star Wars.  Many hours were spent preparing the float, begging materials from members and various companies throughout the town.  The effort was well worth it when we gained the first prize of £40.  It also was donated to the Orphan Fund.

The Starship under construction at a secret intergalactic location (bearing a remarkable resemblance to the station goods shed...)
Rebel X-Wing Pilots en route to our First Prize.
Our Stormtrooper persuaded the crowds to part with their donations, collected by the Droid.

In 1982 we built a Viking ship with the crew in traditional costumes.  It wouldn't have sailed across the North Sea, but it was good fun building it!  Like Star Wars it was on a forty-foot lorry kindly provided by a company in Grantham.

Viking Ship, 1982

Coach trips were sometimes substituted for social evenings; in 1982 we went to Derbyshire and Chatsworth house.

1982 also saw us organising pickets on Station Road in support of a pay dispute.

In 1987 we built a raft and took part in a race on the River Witham.

In 1988 General Secretary Jimmy Knapp invited us to visit the union's head office at Unity House, Euston Road, London.

In 1990 there was a name change.  After amalgamating with the seamen's union the NUR became RMT (National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers).

Over the years the branch's sphere of influence increased when Newark, and later Sleaford, branches closed and their members transferred to the Grantham branch.  This, of course, increased the time required to tour the area meeting members and recruiting new members.

In 2004, after being Grantham Branch Secretary for 27 years (and RMT’s longest serving branch secretary), I retired.

With Bob Crow, RMT General Secretary.
RMT News, December 2004, page 34.

Throughout my time as chairman and as secretary we always had numerous committed members on the various branch committees to ensure the smooth running of the branch.

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