IBMT Trustee John Haywood pays tribute to his fellow Oxfordshire IBMT activist Chris Farman.
Chris Farman died on Friday 29 May, the day of his 83rd birthday, at the Horton General Hospital, Banbury, after contracting Covid 19. He was unable to use a ventilator due to his emphysema.
Few knew of the state of his lungs as he still played squash regularly, returning to it aged 80 within six months of having his right knee repaired. He also enjoyed long walks with friends he had known for over 50 years.
Chris was a professional journalist and historian, spending most of his life in London and being published in The Guardian and other papers and periodicals. He also authored ‘General Strike, May 1926’ published in 1972. After working on The Illustrated London News and other magazines, in 1973 he joined the staff of Time-Life books, working as an editor on ‘The British Empire’, published jointly with the BBC. .
Chris moved to Deddington, near Banbury, with his wife Mary in 2004. In 2014 he became an invaluable member of the Oxford International Brigade Memorial Committee, set up to raise funds for a memorial in St Clements, Oxford, dedicated to the 31 Oxfordshire men and women who went to Spain to defend the democratically elected Popular Front Republican government during the civil war of 1936-39.
With local historians Valerie Rose and Liz Woolley, Chris co-authored the popular ‘No Other Way: Oxfordshire and the Spanish Civil War 1936-39’. He also contributed much to the raising of over £30,000 for the memorial, selling IBMT merchandise and otherwise providing vital work for the IBMT.
Speaking at the launch in 2015 of 'No Other Way: Oxfordshire and the Spanish Civil War 1936-39'.
Chris produced the script for ‘Comrades Come Rally’, a celebration of the International Brigade volunteers from Britain and Ireland. Professional actors and musicians and singers from Ireland performed to the script, which drew on the letters, poems and memoirs of the volunteers for liberty. The event was held on 8March at the famous Holywell Music Room, Oxford, just two weeks before the Covid 19 Lockdown.
Chris was also a leading light in the North Oxfordshire Villages Labour Party. Chair from 2013 to 2019, apart from the usual canvassing, leafleting and ‘telling’ at polling stations, he often served behind the bar at fundraising events. He organised very popular ‘Seeing Red’ film shows for Labour Party members and ‘fellow travellers’, recruiting the free services of a Help the Aged projectionist.
Chris will mostly be remembered with great affection for his wit, good humoured conversation and boundless energy and enthusiasm for history, political debate and activism.
He leaves his wife, Mary and hundreds of friends and comrades who will miss him dearly.
Posted on 5 June 2020.