Dr Bernard Regan, writer and campaigner, will give this year’s Bronterre O'Brien address at the grave of radical Victorian politician, O'Brien, in the evocative surroundings of Abney Park cemetery.
James 'Bronterre' O'Brien fought, as a Chartist, for a free, untaxed press, universal suffrage and parliamentary reform in the 19th century. His radical politics brought him to the attention of the authorities and in 1840 he was charged with sedition and jailed for 18 months.
A life of poverty and ill health followed and, though friends raised money to help a man who’d sacrificed so much for the causes they shared, he spent the last years of his life bedridden. He eventually died in 1864 and was buried in a modest ceremony – as he would have wanted – in Abney Park Cemetery.
O'Brien's campaign for banks of credit accessible to all classes and his efforts to bring education to all through his Eclectic Institute, in Denmark Street, Soho, reveal a man with enormous foresight, energy and ideas, worthy of celebration in our difficult times.
In recognition of his lasting legacy, an annual graveside address, originally organised by the Connolly Association, interpreting O'Brien's views on politics, was revived in 2015 when the address was given by Jeremy Corbyn.
Bernard Regan has been a lifelong campaigner on education & trade unionism. He is author of The Balfour Declaration, the inaugural recipient of the Steve Sinnott Award for International Solidarity work in the NUT and the first foreign recipient of the Frank Pais medal from the Cuban teachers union.