‘Cap’n Bob’ In Da House

Birds of a feather:  Robert Maxwell was pipped at the post by Rupert Murdoch in the takeover of the News of the World in 1969. Imagine Maxwell at Leveson!

Industrial action was never far away in the 1970’s. As a young man sitting at a desk in Corby’s British Steel Corporation’s main administration block, I became accustomed to receiving, on a fairly regular basis, little brown envelopes containing information that this or that union had negotiated another pay rise. To this day I can’t remember which union was representing me for my meagre monthly membership fee, but I seem to recall a couple of possible candidates: I.S.T.C or U.S.D.A.W. Local union meetings were held on a regular basis, invariably in the Willow Room at Corby’s Civic centre on George Street. Unions and their representatives were seen as some kind of super-protection against the big corporate machine, reminding the powers that be that the ‘workers’ have rights: rights that would be protected at all costs. Sometimes I’d find myself on strike without knowing exactly why, or how it had come about. I was a teenager surrounded by all the distractions that the 70’s had to offer: I didn’t really care. As we would ‘down-pens’ and leave the building I remember television crews looking for anyone that could give a comment or two. I always thought it was a good thing they never asked me or any of my contemporaries. We didn’t have a clue. On one occasion, as I was heading for lunch, our union representative told me that I should go to the White Hart pub in the ‘old’ village, but wouldn’t tell me why. My trust in our union representative was based on three things. I went to school with his younger brother, he shared the same name as my mum’s maiden name and he was a fan of Harry Nilsson, who in turn was one of John Lennon’s closest friends. Going for a pub lunch was common in those days. There was nothing unusual about spending ones lunch hour in a smoke filled Nags Head, eating steak and kidney pie with brown sauce washed down with a couple of pints of bitter. Curiosity got the better of me. As I walked through the door of the White Hart there, sitting in the corner with the aforementioned union man, was none other than media mogul, former M.P. and one of the most controversial figures in living memory, Robert Maxwell. I knew he was very famous: he even looked very famous, and to this day I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone so well turned-out and manicured. The pub was packed with people, mostly men, trying not to look as they stared in our direction. The union man spoke as Maxwell nodded and grinned inanely. When the end of my lunch hour approached I shook his hand and said something polite before leaving. Ian Robert Maxwell died on 5th November 1991 and had gone from famous to infamous overnight, though some might say he’d always been infamous in a very famous way. To this day I’ve absolutely no Idea why Maxwell was there or bothered enough to even ask.



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3 responses to “‘Cap’n Bob’ In Da House

  1. Tom Oliff

    Recommend you read “THE RAGGED TROUSERED PHILANTHROPIST” by Robert Trassell


  2. Because he wanted the Labour nomination for Kettering – and I think he was beaten by Bob Holborne, an ISTC official at the time. Maxwell spent a lot of money buying pints in Corby, but couldn’t get the union vote.

  3. And a pity you didn’t ask – always something to learn in any pub in Corby.

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