Bernie Steer, last of the “Pentonville Five” dockers – obituary

Bernie Steer Pentonville Five
Bernie Steer - last of the Pentonville Five
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The “Pentonville Five” dockers were jailed for picketing in 1972

Kevin Hussey, an ex-docker active in organising and eye-witness to the 1972 mass strikes that freed the five, remembers Bernie below.

I  first met Bernie in the late 60s when he transferred from the West India Dock to the Royal Docks, where I worked.  He was on the Unofficial Liaison Committee with Jack Dash and Vic Turner who were all great orators!

When Jack left the Docks and the Shop Stewards were introduced into the industry, both Bernie and Vic became Chair & Secretary of the Royal  Group of Docks Shop Stewards’ Committee.   In reality, they were the leaders of the London Docks.

I got to know Bernie better when I became a Shop Steward in May 1972 & attended the local London & National Shop Steward’s meetings with him.   I was at the meeting when we were informed that warrants had been issued for the arrest of the five.    Later, Connie Clancey and Tony Merrick were arrested whilst picketing Midland Coal Store.   Bernie and Derek Watkins was arrested at home.   Vic Turner was still at large!

I was on the Pentonville March to free the five & later asked Bernie how he felt when the march arrives outside of Pentonville.  He said ‘it was music to our ears’.   On the Sunday, he said things went quiet & a fellow prisoner said ‘all your mates have gone home’ … Bernie replies ‘don’t worry they will be back in the morning’ and we were!

Who can forget the scenes when they were released and carried shoulder high out of Pentonville.  In Bernie’s first speech since release he said it wasn’t the official solicitor that got them released but the Trade Union movement.   How true this was.

Bernie Steer was a man of principal and integrity and it was a privilege to be associated with him.

RIP Comrade …

Kevin Hussey 

Bernie Steer speaks at a meeting