Frank Leech

Too late to be dealt with in our January number came the sad news of the death of our comrade, Frank Leech. In ‘Big Frank’ our movement has lost one of its militant pioneers, and a great number of us have lost a good friend. He died in his home at Glasgow, suddenly, aged 53. 

Although a Lancashire man by birth, Frank lived for most of his life in Glasgow, where he was an active member of the Anarchist movement, well known to a large number of Clydeside workers. After (as he used to put it) ‘being mug enough to go into the Navy’ (where he was better known as a heavyweight boxer), Frank came out to be an active anti-militarist ever after. He went into the Anti-Parliamentary Communist (council-communist) movement, from which he graduated to Anarchism. Always a protagonist of getting propaganda to where it meant something – amongst the working-class – Frank Leech was tireless over many years in speaking, giving practical aid to unofficial strikers, and issuing papers and pamphlets. 

In 1936 when the Spanish struggle came he threw in his whole time, in the intervals between what was necessary to make a living, in an effort to render the maximum possible aid. One also recalls his help to German comrades. and his later co-operation (1939) with those ‘on the run’. Above all, Frank Leech stood for the Anarcho-Syndicalist viewpoint, and it was his constant endeavour that this be popularised. die was delighted when THE SYNDICALIST appeared; it had always been his cherished idea that an exclusively industrial, revolutionary syndicalist paper was possible, and he was from the first an enthusiastic supporter. The numbers of London comrades who have received hospitality from Frank at one time or another will all testify to the encouragement they felt when walking around with Frank on his home ground – so many workers knew him, and greeted him, and one really felt that here was a man who was getting the message home. The long years of patient work that have been put in by our Glasgow comrades, both of the past and the present, will not be lost, and in honouring Frank Leech, whom we down here knew so well for so many years as a bulwark for so much (both in propaganda and solidarity work), we salute all those who have with him paved the way to the Free Society which shaped their own lives even if they did not live to see it. 

I cannot resist at least one anecdote about Frank. It was when he was summonsed for not obeying the firewatching order during the war at the, then running, Anarchist Bookshop, but he refused to pay the fine. ‘There is no alternative,’ said the magistrate, ‘If you do not pay the fine the police will seize your stock and sell it.’ ‘Ah,’ said Frank, ‘That means the police are going to sell our Anarchist pamphlets!’ Unfortunately, we did not get the spectacle of bobbies going along Sauchiehall Street with our literature! 

A.M.[Albert Meltzer] The Syndicalist, v.1 no 10, February 1953