Today WRI bids farewell to Martyn Lowe, the longsuffering Cockney cherub who has been a reliable help week in week out for nearly 28 years. Martyn, proud of his Cockney (East London) heritage, is leaving London for Liverpool … but he has agreed to come down and help once or twice a year.
Longsuffering? Indeed he has been. Martyn has suffered indignities to which no other volunteer or staff member has been exposed. Perhaps the worst of all came one afternoon in – was it 1987? – when the major part of the WRI filing system came away from the wall landing on top of him. A whole wall full of heavy ringbinder files. Veronica Kelly and I were downstairs, leaving Martyn in peace and quiet to get on with some filing, when we heard a crash and a muffled cry for help from Martyn. We hurried upstairs, but the door was blocked with fallen archives. Finally, we managed to get inside and there on the floor sat Martyn, looking very shaken and surrounded by ringbinder files.
Still, Martyn is nothing if not resilient, and he kept coming back, and gradually took on more responsibilities. For most of this time, Martyn was working as a librarian in the public library services (as well as being a committed organiser in Librarians for Social Change). He’d take one day a week off his paid work – usually a Wednesday – to come and work in our office. For generations of staff, he has been at our side through the gamut of stresses that come up in this work, and ready to provide a sympathetic ear to our complaints about those we’re supposed to rely on.