Obituary: Stan Hardy

Stan HardyStan Hardy, who died last Thursday aged 93, was the party activist’s activist. He devoted more than 65 years to Dulwich Liberal & Radical Association and its later manifestations, to the borough of Southwark, and to the party as a whole. Although he never sought public office, Stan’s influence was high among Liberals of all classes and ages. He was also a doughty champion and campaigner for many causes, especially for the NHS and against Labour-run Southwark council.

Stan and his wife Maud, who he married in 1948, belonged to that dedicated group who kept the party alive in south London during the 1950s and into the Grimond era of the 1960s. Stan’n’Maud were ever-present at Liberal assemblies, and then Liberal Democrat conferences. It was their annual holiday, a break from the successful printing business they ran in Camberwell. They were also to be seen at most of the important by-elections throughout the country, from Orpington onwards.

But few who knew the seemingly modest, self-deprecating businessman with a humorous glint in his eye realised that his early life had been spent in one of the last of London’s workhouses. Records at the Spike in Gordon Road, Peckham show Henry Stanley Hardy was admitted just a month after his illegitimate birth in February 1920. He remained there for more than three years, and spent the next seven in children’s homes and hospitals. He did not meet and live with his mother, Norah Hardy, and four older siblings until he was 10.

Stan HardyCalled up in the war. Stan was quickly marked out for important work with the Allied Military Government. He played a important role in the invasion of Italy, helping establish government in Sicily where he held such important jobs as clerk to the courts. After secondment to the US forces, they recommended him for a commission, but the Brits only promoted him to sergeant. After the war, Stan joined the Liberals, which he thought best represented the kind of radical ideals he believed in, prompted by the poverty and unfairness of his upbringing.

He continued to extol policies of social justice, redistribution and equality, including race equality, usually by reasoned argument, although he could be moved to passionate eloquence. Some issues could stir his feelings to prolonged anger, such as the ceding of Dulwich constituency to the SDP in the early 1980s.

The death of Maud in 1998 hit Stan hard, despite a long illness. They never had children, but despite, or perhaps because of this, he always got on well with young people, and most adored him. In particular, he befriended Kevin Daws, whose enthusiastic hard work almost won election to Southwark council twice. Kevin accompanied Stan on overseas trips as Stan widened his horizons. Stan was best man at Kevin’s wedding.

Although he avoided personal publicity, in later years his campaigning came to the notice of the local press. He was rightly lauded as a true community champion, and was South London Press Man of the Year in 2008.

When Stan’s mobility worsened and health deteriorated, he moved to Gloucester to be closer to Kevin and his wife Kath. Sadly, his last months were spent between hospital and nursing home, visited by many friends in the party, including the great and the good.

* Jonathan Hunt is President of Camberwell & Peckham local party and chair of the Southwark Co-ordinating Committee. He is an elected Life Member of the NUJ, and a former parliamentary candidate.

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6 Comments

  • Ian MacFadyen 14th Oct '13 - 4:58pm

    I am very sorry to read of Stan’s death in this sad, but excellent obituary. He will be greatly missed. Seeing Stan and Maud was always one of the pleasures of going to help in Southwark and Bermondsey. Stan and Maud were a great help when I was trying to get things going as chair of Newham South in the early ’80s and I was very grateful.

    Ian MacFadyen
    Leeds

  • Chrysan Gardner 14th Oct '13 - 10:01pm

    I was very lucky to meet Henry as I was one of the carers who supported him. He was so nice and kind and we all miss him. I will always remember our chats about the army and he always made myself and the other carers smile. He was one in a million , so kind and compassionate
    God bless Henry xxx

  • Mark Valladares Mark Valladares 15th Oct '13 - 12:49pm

    I was lucky enough to work with Stan and Maud as a member of the Dulwich & West Norwood Local Party during the 1997 General Election, and then with Stan as Local Party Chair and agent in the 2005 General Election.

    Stan’n’Maud (and I’m pleased that Jonathan referred to them in that way – it perfectly describes their closeness) were utterly devoted to the cause of getting Liberals and Liberal Democrats elected, and were key to the Party’s success in Bermondsey. Indeed, Stan was Honorary President of the Local Party there as recently as 2005.

    Working with Stan as Local Party Chair was much more fun than it might otherwise have been, as his wisdom, contacts and enthusiasm were key in achieving our best ever Parliamentary result in 2005, pushing the Tories into third place, and then winning our first council seats in Dulwich the following year.

    Stan was a decent, honourable man, who was always happy to share his knowledge and experience with allcomers, and was particularly good with young activists, many of whom learnt a lot from a casual chat at Conference.

    He encouraged me to be better than I thought I could be, and taught me that age is no barrier to radicalism and campaigning enthusiasm. I, and many others, will miss him.

  • Dave Hennigan 16th Oct '13 - 6:16pm

    I wrote this just after I heard about Stan’s passing –

    RIP Uncle Stan – I was absolutely privileged to know him. What a guy – absolutely committed to the cause. I know that he would have been delighted that his good friend Susan Susan Kramer is now in Government and Simon Simon Hughes being reselected. Stan was an inspiration to me and many others. I so enjoyed when you came and stayed at my late grandparents. God Bless!

    He often spoke about his best mate Kevin and their adventures. I remember regularly receiving his press cuttings through the post and was amazed at what he achieved. It was never about Stan – it was about his cause. RIP Stan!

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