John Holroyd obituary

Nanette Holroyd
·2-min read

My husband, John Holroyd, who has died suddenly aged 66 of heart disease, spent a lifetime seeking justice for his community and colleagues.

He was a trade unionist and organiser of concerts and local events in Thornhill, Dumfries and Galloway. He had recently started a food bank, which is still up and running and based at the local library, to help deal with the fallout from the Covid-19 crisis.

Born in North Cornelly, near Port Talbot, South Wales, John was the son of George Holroyd, an electrical engineer, and his wife, Muriel (nee Redwood). He moved to Cleethorpes, near Grimsby, when he was six.

He attended Beacon Hill secondary school and then served an apprenticeship as a ship’s fitter at a Grimsby shipyard, where he gained trade union experience as shop convenor. As a committed socialist, in the 1970s he was active in the Anti-Nazi League and – combining his love of music with politics – Rock Against Racism.

Sponsored by his trade union, the Amalgamated Union of Engineering Workers, John attended Ruskin College, Oxford (1984-86), and this empowered him to write his book, The Great Grimsby Lockout 1901, which is still in print.

Following the death of his first wife, Carole, in 1989, John and I met on holiday in Tunisia. We married in 1991 and he moved with his two sons to Dumfries and Galloway. Initially he worked in residential childcare, but in 2003 he became the regional industrial organiser for the Transport & General Workers’ Union (later Unite).

He devoted himself to his new community. John was the driving force behind the Thornhill music festival, which ran annually for five years up to 2019 and provided opportunities for up-and-coming bands. Subsequently he founded a charity to take local musicians into care homes and day centres.

John started up a food bank in Thornhill early on during the first Covid-19 lockdown to assist those who were struggling to feed themselves or their families. As the Thornhill Community Food Initiative, it now operates with a committee of local people.

His passions extended to his personal life – notably football and cookery. While never forsaking his boyhood team, Grimsby Town, he became an avid supporter of Auchinleck Talbot FC. He raised more than £20,000 from sales of football memorabilia, which helped to fund improved facilities including new enclosure, toilets, catering block and floodlights. He took his food and cooking equally seriously and was famous for his fearsome hot chilli relish.

Many local campaigns were driven by him, including opposing cuts to bus services. He was also proud of the letters he had printed in the Guardian.

John is survived by me, his two sons, Shaun and Gareth, from his first marriage, his stepsons, Jonathan and Peter, and eight grandchildren.