“The society which has abolished every kind of adventure makes its own abolition the only possible adventure.” Paris, May 1968

Friday, 13 August 2010

George Foulser remembered.

Yesterday I was delighted to receive an email from George Foulser's niece. She has been researching her late uncle and had heard on the grapevine that I had some copies of George's disgraceful organ The East London Speed Freak and wondered if I could help. It will be a pleasure. George Foulser was an anarchist militant of the old school, hated almost as much by the National Union of Seamen as he was by the shipowners. Author of Seaman's Voice one of the most realistic books about the sea ever written, George was a big, tough warm hearted man. He was almost a throwback to a lost age and I was proud to have met him.


Charlie Lynch said...

I remember George Foulser well. I met him at Speakers Corner in 1969 or 1970. He was selling "Freedom" and other anarchist publications. He offered me a drink of vino blanco, composed of dilute white vinegar and sugar. It was vile but George liked it, though his main addiction was tea - gallons of it. And he didn't care whether it was hot or cold. I used to meet him mostly on Sundays at Hyde Park selling his papers. He was a raconteur, gregarious and an exceptional writer. George had a fine easy style and wrote a lot. I think he found it difficult sleeping and so composed late at night and into the early hours. He also took 'speed' which kept him awake and had some influence on his style and subject matter. I remember him writing a sequel to 'Seaman's Voice' which had been commissioned, but subsequently turned down by the publisher. From memory, the first sentence ran: 'The first time I was in New York I didn't see much of the city, as I was in a black maria at the time." I'm sure his version is better. Hopefully the manuscript has survived.

About 1971, I was in a squat in the London's East End and so was George. This was Burrell House, overlooking the Rotherhithe Tunnel. He was on the top floor. There was a private side to him where he remained indoors for days on end, reading books. He had rigged a length of string to the light switch which was diagonally across the room from his bed. He could spend days in his bedroom reading and drinking strong, mostly cold tea. When he got tired, he used the string to switch off the light. George was exceptionally well read and was familiar with Joyce. He introduced me to Jack Kerouac, pointing out the similarities with Joyce. Because of his involvement in the 1966 seafarers strike, he was blacklisted by the ship owners and so remained unemployed. He was fearless and outspoken in his politics. In his youth he had been a member of the Communist Party and once told me that he had taken to attending Hampstead branch meetings – the attraction being the women members. During the time I knew him, he was never in a stable relationship, which I think caused him some regret.

Occasionally, Burrell House suffered aggression from residents or local thugs. In one incident, he used a home made incendiary bomb as a means of defence. However, the police intervened and he was arrested. I remember visiting him on remand, but can't remember which prison. I do recall that he had a Golden Virginia tin with the word 'bomber' embossed on it, given to him by a fellow inmate. George had experience of several prisons in the UK, Australia and the US. Mostly this was due to his political activities, although I believe in the latter two countries, he has jumped ship – something a seafarer was not allowed to do.

In 1972 I moved to Aberdeen and a year later George visited me. I think he would have liked to stay, but there were problems with the flat and he left. I lost contact with him and a few years later he died.

I often think of George. He was larger than life, educated and self-made. One thing I haven't mentioned was his physical strength. Once he lifted a cast iron cooker on to his back and carried it up 3 flights of stairs. In our squat he brought experience and stability as many of the residents were in their late teens or early 20s

I was only 19 or 20 when we met. My future and current politics were influenced by George and other libertarians. I think it has made me a much rounder person and I'm thankful for knowing him.
Charlie Lynch

Anonymous said...

I was a very young girl squatting in Burell House with my mum a nd 5sister and brothers, her Name was Helen, he and my mum were friends she was also an activist. George lived with us for some time in the East End of London, I rememebr he allways had his nose in a book or writing, he was alarger than life character and a good man.