Terry Connell – A tribute

Terry Connell, 57, died from a heart attack on Saturday, 25th March: just hours after being discharged from hospital after having suffered another heart attack a week earlier.

Terry was the driving member of the Bolton Seven, who championed the cause of gay equality when they were prosecuted under the U.K.’s discriminatory sex laws. His courage and unwavering tenacity in fighting the case through the courts were a living example of Gay Pride at its simplest and noblest.

His hearing at the Court of Appeal, (heard separately from that of the other six, owing to the untimely illness of the defending barrister), was rejected in a mockery of justice on the 5th March, 1999. It was characteristic of Terry that his unhesitating response on hearing the verdict was: “Well, now we go on to Europe”.

Terry Connell – A tribute

by Ray Gosling

Terry was a quite extraordinary good man in life, in gay life — he was a living antidote to the stereotype straights often have. He was neither a limp-wristed Julian-Sandy, nor some overbutch leather queen. He was normal — a fan, fanatic loyal, true and regular supporter of Bolton Wanderers because he liked football. He believed in it. Football. As he liked his flat cap. He liked company and pubs, but Terry didn’t drink alcohol. He was T.T. by choice. He didn’t mind you smoking, but he didn’t. He didn’t swear, but didn’t mind if you did. At first I thought because of his name he must be Roman Catholic and of Irish ethnicity but he wasn’t. He was Lancashire English, and wasn’t a Christian believer — and yet in the practice of life Terry Connell was a great New Testament man — loyal: never let a pal down: selfless and forgiving — though he would always speak his mind. It was his opinion and you were entitled to differ. And he’d respect you. Respected all men. But he expected you to respect him. That’s what so incensed Terry at the prosecution of himself and the lads –particularly the lads on the Bolton Seven video– it was gross indecency –the prosecution was– an invasion by The State into the privacy of the messy intimate embarrassing bits of lads’ lives at an age when you do go a bit giddy because you don’t know what you are exactly. As the trial judge Michael Lever expressed it quite correctly: “It was young men tipsily experimenting with sex”.

Terry was adamant. No harm. No force. The harm, the force was with the prosecution of what should have been left in privacy.

Terry was well known in Bolton gay ciircles and well respected. He was a frequenter of The Church, the town’s main gay pub. And he ran disco sometimes. He didn’t go cottaging, though he understood those who did and saw no harm in it. He wasn’t a chicken chaser, though he had a good eye to a pretty youth, he wasn’t at all predatory. He liked young people –a lot– and like the best of male gays have so often been, he was generous, genuine, kind, affectionate and a good ear: enormously supportive and long suffering and never pushy to teenagers he befriended. He well understood, instinctively, the terrifying pressures young poor white boys face today — from the power of girls: the lack of proper jobs of craft and pride and good wages; the loss of esteem; the pervasiveness of drugs. He’d help in the best possible ways, weaning lads off drugs and into work — and of course football. He was a very proper Bolton guy. He worked himself –night shifts in the bakery– and gave his all to the lads he befriended: for next to no sexual favours in return — because he enjoyed their company free of favours, to help them grow through their difficulties — and he did. He was quite lovely: caring — and fun — and then he got hauled in by police and through the courts at vast expense to the public purse and all that video had on it was some afternoon very mild malarky, not an orgy of the depraved. Not at all.

He was appalled at the prosecution. He could never admit any wrong had happened because it hadn’t. All the lads were over age –well, Craig was seventeen and a half– and they freely took part. And were they in an heterosexual group, or lesbian, they could not have been brought to court. No charge. A law just to prosecute male gay behaviour. What had been videoed was right mild, gentle, innocent, silly –embarrassingly so– a joke as much as anything, just fooling around. Why on earth the prosecution was let go ahead — Common Sense was not in it. Just because the party had amateurly videoed themselves and one in the party had copied it and kept the copy — silly boy. Not that Terry had kept his — that tape long ago had been reused by him to record more precious soccer. Oh, he had his proportions, Terry Connell.

But many of us if charged with such open-and-shut evidence on camera of clearly legally definable ‘indecent acts’ would have in embarrassment said ‘guilty’ and skulked off and hid. But not Terry. He was outraged. “Why,” he said to me when I first met him, “is Prince Charles not being prosecuted for his adultery?” There’s Bolton logic there — aye: fair do’s.

And it takes guts to go not guilty.

“It’s what I am — GUILTY of being human: not guilty of any crime.” So he carried on working — and walking the streets and held up his head. A very courageous man and when he spoke at public meetings of his indignation at this unjust happening — to gay groups as he did eventually all over the country, they just loved him. He was a great speaker on the stump — of a kind as’d make any Bolton man proud. He was from the heart and blunt. Terry Connell –and sometimes he wouldn’t take his flat cap off– he was a natural performer with his strong ‘Fred Dibnah’ Bolton accent: his clear voice: his determinations: his indignation and his chuckles of laughter. In London particularly he was quite a hero.

He’s died sudden — before his time. It’s a real tragedy — he had a lot more to contribute in showing older people a role model in how to treat the young — open and honest, kind and giving of your time and being supportive. Particularly showing how the older gay man should behave towards the young. He had much to give — and to football: to social life: to the politics of sex, the law – and ageism.

There will be many circles in Bolton that will be very sad. He will be greatly missed: not least by Craig. But his example of courage and patience, and laughter: the example of his life should inspire us. I’m sure it will and into the next generation and into history. A great man has gone.

Thank you Terry. Terry Connell: thank you.

In Memoriam: Martin Corbett

[flickr-gallery mode=”photoset” photoset=”72157623927881509″]

Queer Activist and Saint
27-November-1944 – 11-July-1996

Martin Corbett, who died three years ago of AIDS aged 51, was one of the great unsung heroes of the struggle for gay liberation. Although rarely taking the limelight himself, his legendary behind-the-scenes organisational skills played a crucial role in every gay rights campaign for a quarter of a century. No one else can claim such a distinguished and unbroken record of commitment.

Martin’s activism began in 1970, when he joined the Gay Liberation Front (GLF). This was the first movement of openly gay people, and the first to reject defensive pleas for tolerance, demanding instead nothing less than total acceptance and full equality.

Having witnessed the failure of “begging-bowl” style polite lobbying, Martin enthusiastically embraced GLF’s unapologetic, assertive direct action. This idea that homophobia had to be confronted and challenged – not appeased – remained the lodestar of his activism for the rest of his life.

Drawing on the queer tradition of camp, GLF invented a whole new style of political campaigning, “protest as performance”, where the claim for human rights was projected with imagination, daring and wit, instead of the usual boring format of marches and rallies.

During the GLF’s famous disruption of Mary Whitehouse’s Festival of Light, Martin calmly strode into the basement of Westminster Central Hall and ordered out the staff with a wave of “official” authority. He then proceeded to plunge the Festival into darkness by disconnecting the electrical and broadcasting cables, much to the misery of Mrs. Whitehouse, Malcolm Muggeridge and Cliff Richard.

With the creativity of a stage designer and the technical know-how of a structural engineer, Martin was the quartermaster and prop-maker for many of GLF’s zany zaps. One of his masterpieces was the making of a giant 12-foot cucumber, which he delivered to the managing director of Pan Books. This was GLF’s irreverent response to the publication of Dr. David Reuben’s homophobic tome, “Everything You Wanted To Know About Sex”, which suggested that gay men were obsessed with shoving vegetables up their backsides.

As well as wacky theatricals, GLF also conducted serious civil disobedience campaigns. Martin was one of the orchestrators of the freedom rides and sit-ins that ended the refusal by west London pubs to serve “poofs”, perversely delighted that the police sent in the heavies of the Flying Squad to deal with a non-violent pub occupation.

Together with other GLFers, Martin helped to found groundbreaking community institutions such as Gay Switchboard, the first major gay information and advice service, and “Gay News”, the first gay community newspaper.

Post-GLF, he was prominent in the Gay Activists Alliance, and, in 1977, in the campaign to defend “Gay News”, when Mary Whitehouse prosecuted it for blasphemy.

In the 80’s, Martin helped convene the important (but regrettably fractious) Legislation for Lesbian and Gay Rights Conference, which led to the formation of the Organisation for Lesbian and Gay Action (OLGA). It was OLGA, with Martin’s crucial input, which spearheaded the fight against Section 28, the notorious spawn of Thatcherism, which banned the so-called “promotion” of homosexuality by local authorities.

Galvanised by a spate of horrific queer-bashing murders and apparent police indifference, Martin in 1990 was one of the co-founders of OutRage!. Incensed to discover that more men had been arrested for victimless homosexual behaviour (mostly cottaging and cruising) in 1989 than in 1966 (the year before male homosexuality was ostensibly decriminalised), he eagerly joined the invasion of police stations, the noisy disruption of New Scotland Yard, and the busting of police entrapment operations in parks and public toilets.

While years of negotiations by respectable gay lobbyists had done little to diminish police homophobia, this confrontational OutRage! campaign helped produce dramatic results: from 1990-94, the number of men convicted of consensual gay acts fell by two-thirds. As Martin was fond of reminding the critics of direct action, this turnaround in policing policy has saved thousands of gay men from being dragged before the courts.

At the renowned 1991 OutRage! Queer Wedding in Trafalgar Square, Martin played the role of the wicked judge, and he was also part of the group’s “zap squad” which disrupted official celebrations on the Isle of Man in the same year, to protest at the island’s then total criminalisation of male homosexuality.

In 1994, when OutRage! decided to expose hypocrites and homophobes in the Church of England, inviting them to “Tell the Truth” about their sexuality, Martin was one of the first to volunteer to name names. “If bishops bash the gay community, we’ve got every right to bash them back,” he argued. While OutRage! was vilified by all and sundry for daring to point out that the bishops preached one thing and practised something different, Martin remained calm and philosophical, convinced that history would vindicate OutRage! as it had the Suffragettes, once equally reviled. “Mrs. Pankhurst didn’t panic and neither should we,” he said, with characteristic coolness and wisdom.

Arguably one of Martin’s finest OutRage! moments was in April 1995, when a coalition of OutRage! and Lesbian Avengers members formed the “Dykes and Fags Gone Mad” group. The group plotted a spectacular zap of the rabidly homophobic psychiatrist Professor Charles Socarides, who was delivering a lecture at Regent’s Park College. Socarides was interrupted, shouted down, and sprayed with pink silly string by the horde of activists who had managed to get into the lecture hall by virtue of Martin posing as an academic in his “straight drag” suit. When stopped on the stairwell by a security guard and asked if he was with “these people” (our troops), Martin snootily replied: “Certainly not, I have an appointment downstairs. Excuse me!” and promptly unbolted the door when the guard wasn’t looking to let the “dykes and fags” in!

Martin’s last OutRage! action was in December 1995 when, despite illness, he joined the fancy dress zap of the Buckingham Palace Christmas Staff Ball, in protest at the Queen’s decree that gay male employees were forbidden to bring their partners. Within weeks of this protest, Martin’s health began a rapid decline and he attended his last OutRage! meeting in February 1996. OutRage! was never the same again as we had lost an amazing man with a wicked sense of humour, who was phenomenally kind, generous, intelligent, practical and devoted, not just as an activist, but as a personal friend to many people in the group and throughout the lesbian and gay activist community. He is, and will always be, sorely missed.

In 1994, in recognition of his quarter of a century commitment to gay liberation, Martin was canonised as a Living Saint by the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence at a ceremony on his 50th birthday. His title was, appropriately, Saint Martin of the Million Meetings.

In Memoriam: Dudley Cave

Anti-fascist, soldier, prisoner of war, advocate of peace and reconciliation, and gay rights pioneer. Dudley Cave was many things, but one word sums up his life: humanitarian.

Cave’s early career with Odeon cinemas was interrupted by World War Two. Initially inclined to register as a conscientious objector, revelations aboot the horrors of Hitlerism changed his mind: “I was basically a pacifist, but I thought the Nazi persecution of the Jews made it a just war”.

On joining the Royal Army Ordnance Corps, aged 20, Cave found there was no ban on gay enlistment, which makes the present refusal of the armed forces to accept gay people somewhat curious and hypocritical.

“Homosexual soldiers were more or less accepted”, according to Cave. “There was never any disciplinary action taken against them”. Despite gossip that he was a “nancy boy”, Cave says the worst prejudice he ever experienced in the army was being chided for “holding a broom like a woman”.

Instead of fighting the Nazis, as he expected, Cave was posted to the Far East. During the fall of Singapore in 1942, he was captured by the Japanese. Marched north in a prisoner-of-war labour detachment, his unit was put to work on the Thai-Burma railway, 10 miles beyond the bridge on the River Kwai. Three-quarters of Cave’s comrades in ‘H’ Force perished. He was lucky. After a bad bout of malaria, the Japanese declared him unproductive and ordered his incarceration in Changi Prison, Singapore.

It was in Changi that he began to accept his homosexuality. A British Army Medical Officer gave him a copy of Havelock Ellis’s “enlightened, eye-opening” book, ‘Sexual Inversion’. It made Cave feel “much better about being gay”.

Changi was, nevertheless, a nightmare of physical deprivation. When liberated in 1945, Cave was near death from malnutrition, down from 12 stone to less than eight. He later confided: “If the war had gone on another month, I don’t think I would have survived”.

After risking his life to defend what Winston Churchill called the “freedom-loving nations”, Cave returned to a country where freedom was still denied to gay people. Not only were homosexual relationships totally illegal, homophobic discrimination was rife. In 1956, Cave was dismissed as manager of the Majestic Cinema in Wembley after it was discovered he was gay. “They asked me to resign”, recalled Cave. “I refused, so they sacked me.”

Fortunately, that same year, Cave met the man who became his life partner, RAF veteran and school teacher, Bernard Williams. At the time, Williams was married. As with many gay men in that bigoted post-war era, the marriage was an attempt to overcome his homosexuality. But the wedding ‘cure’ did not work. Williams’s wife, June, realised this. She encouraged the relationship with Cave. All three became life-long friends and ended up living together in a Bloomsbury-style domestic arrangement in Golders Green. Cave and Williams remained side-by-side as lovers and gay-rights champions for forty years, until Bernard’s death in 1994.

In 1971, Cave joined the Unitarian Church, attracted to its ideals of freedom, peace and tolerance. He soon played a key role in securing –during the early 1970’s!– the ordination of lesbians and gay men, the blessing of same-sex relationships, and the Church’s advocacy of homosexual human rights.

When the information and advice service Gay Switchboard was launched in 1974, Cave was one of the original committee members. The first daily helpline run by and for gay people, Switchboard was (and still is) a vital support for lesbians and gays suffering isolation and victimisation. Cave remained a volunteer –answering the phone lines– for 25 years, right up until his death.

Working for Switchboard made Cave aware that bereaved gay partners are often left to grieve alone without support from their family, and are invariably refused legal recognition as next-of-kin (which can result in eviction from what was their joint home, denial of inheritance, and exclusion from their lover’s funeral).

To tackle these problems, Cave and his partner Bernard Williams set up the Lesbian and Gay Bereavement Project in 1980. As well as counselling the bereaved and giving legal advice to challenge discrimination, the Project successfully encouraged many same-sex couples to make Wills to ensure that their relationship and wishes are recognised when they die.

Cave was proud that the Bereavement Project was the first organisation with the word “Gay” in its title to win charitable status. That victory did not come easily. The Charity Commissioners initially refused to recognise the Project, demanding that it drop the “offensive” word gay from its title. Cave refused, and the Commissioners eventually relented.

From the early 1980’s onwards, Cave turned his attention to “unfinished business” arising from his wartime experiences. Furious at the ban on lesbians and gays in the Armed Forces, he accused military chiefs of cynically enlisting homosexuals when they were needed to defeat Nazism, and then witch-hunting them as soon as the war was over. “They treated gay people like cannon-fodder”, he complained.

Despite his own wartime suffering, Cave was a leading figure in the promotion of peace and reconciliation with Japan. This provoked denunciation and rejection by many former comrades in war veteran and prisoner-of-war associations. “I will never forget what the Japanese did to us: but the time has come for forgiveness”, he wrote to a friend. True to his word, he was involved with the Peace Temple near the River Kwai, and lectured extensively on the need for rapprochement between former adversaries.

For 20 years, Cave battled against the Royal British Legion’s refusal to acknowledge that lesbian and gay people served and died in wars defending Britain. He also challenged the Legion over its opposition to the participation of gay organisations in Remembrance Day ceremonies.

Cave was particularly incensed in the early 1980’s when the Legion’s Assistant Secretary, Group Captain Mountford, condemned moves to promote the acceptance of gay people as an attempt to “weaken our society”, and declared that homosexuals had no right to complain about being ostracised by Legion members.

One of Cave’s final public acts was last November, when he was the keynote speaker at OutRage!’s Queer Remembrance Day vigil at the Cenotaph. After laying a pink triangle wreath honouring gay people who died fighting Nazism and in the concentration camps, Cave deplored the fact that gay ceremonies of remembrance are still –in the late 1990’s– being condemned by the British Legion as “distasteful” and “offensive”.

Dudley Cave served and nearly died in defence of rights and freedoms that he, as a gay man, was often denied. Lest we forget.


Dudley Scott Cave, war veteran and gay-rights campaigner: born London, 19th February 1921; partner of Bernard Williams from 1954 until his death in 1994; died London, 19th May 1999.