By Peter Dean, friend, former co-op director and former regional secretary of USDAW
The co-operative and Labour communities in Derby are mourning the death of a very active member, Bill Hall, on 3 January – three days before his 87th birthday.
Bill was a main board member of the former Derby & Burton, East Midlands, Central Midlands and Midlands Co-operative Societies, firstly as an employee and latterly as an elected lay member. He was a fearless and tireless campaigner for workers’ rights and always topped the employee director poll. After leaving the board under the former age rule he continued to ask difficult questions of management at members’ meetings.
For many years Bill was both the Derby and regional chair of USDAW (the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers) and attended the conference every year, making regular rostrum contributions. He negotiated wage deals with the Co-operative Employers Association and was not known for compromising.
Bill was a great debater and noted for his wit – and it amused him as a republican that for many years he was store manager at Prince Charles Avenue in Derby.
He was also chair of the Derby Co-operative Party over several decades and an executive committee member of Derby Area TUC.
Bill was also a very active director of Derby Playhouse and loved the theatre and cinema. He also sat on a benefits appeals tribunal where he tried to assist needy people.
Reading was one of Bill’s greatest passions and he was self-taught on philosophy, sociology and politics. He read avidly on politics and was a great admirer of Tony Benn. Bill was vehemently opposed to apartheid and was a leading campaigner for the co-op movement’s boycott. In the early 1980s he joined the Labour Party and became a valued canvasser and leafleteer in his ward and constituency.
As was said at his funeral, “the worst insult you could make to him was to call him ‘moderate’”.
His funeral was attended by family, friends and Labour and trade union colleagues, the chief executive and president of Central England Co-operative, Derby South MP Dame Margaret Beckett and her husband Leo, and Derby North MP Chris Williamson.
Tributes were paid by his sister Dorothy and two friends.