Decades of Public Service

SID SMITH was born in 1918, the son of a colliery manager in Ferryhill, County Durham where there was a strong Labour Movement tradition. He died recently just a month short of his hundredth birthday.

He joined the Labour Party as a teenager and at 16 was a branch secretary. He was a talented footballer who played for Durham’s county side and was an excellent musician, playing church organs and the euphonium in local town bands.

He was called up to the Army in 1938, at 20, after the Munich Crisis and joined the Durham Light Infantry. During World War Two he served in Belgium and France and was evacuated at Dunkirk. He then served in North Africa and took part in the Sicily landings, going ashore at Avola Beach before the main landing for a special assignment. Later he served in Europe and saw the aftermath of some of the concentration camps and war damage.

He married his wife Eileen in 1946 and they had three daughters and a son. He signed as a professional footballer for Burnley but his career was curtailed by injury while playing for the British Army team against the French Army. He took civil service exams and joined the Home Office Prison Service. They then moved to Redhill in Surrey. In 1967 he was elected to Surrey County Council as member for Reigate East and served there until losing his seat in 1993. He was leader of the Labour Group for part of that time. At one point he was one of only two Labour Party members on the council. The other was Tony Heath, the member for Reigate South, who was a later a writer for Tribune and The Independent.

Sid’s duties as a councillor were complimented by being a Justice of the Peace and a School Governor on various local schools. He was a governor of East Surrey College and was made an Honorary Fellow of the College. He was a member of the British Legion. He served the Labour Party in many roles including Chair and Treasurer at branch, constituency and county level. He was active within his community and highly respected throughout Surrey. On Surrey County Council he served on the powerful Education and Planning Committees.

He worked after army service for the Home Office in the prison service. Among his duties were compiling answers to parliamentary questions from MPs and inspecting prisons throughout the country meeting some of the country’s most notorious criminals.

He was a regular attendee of Labour Party meetings from Branch to County level and was an annual and regional conference delegate on occasions. He was still a regular attendee at meetings of Reigate Constituency Labour Party well into his nineties and a great encouragement and inspiration to younger members. He was a champion of members’ rights and was respected even by those he disagreed with. He fully deserved the Labour Party merit award which was awarded to him two years ago.

He shared a platform at a packed anti-Poll Tax rally in Reigate School in 1990 with Labour’s current leader Jeremy Corbyn.

He was an accomplished musician and was still playing the piano near the end of his long life.

He and Eileen, his wife who died in August, were married for 72 years. Sid died after an operation following a fall.

Former county and borough councillor John Barton said: “Sid was respected by many people for the remarkable life he’d led. He’d seen terrible poverty in his native North East and witnessed untold suffering in wartime. He was a family man with a social conscience who immersed himself in the local community giving extensive public service and helping many local people.” Members at the October GC stood in silent memory of Sid.

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