‘Somerset Working Class’ : A Clevedonian publishes a three-volume autobiography

Friday, 21 May 2021
Three new books from Socialist author Dave Chapple

Dave Chapple is a former North Somerset school cleaner, firefighter and postman; a life-long cyclist, Black Music DJ, historian, trades unionist and socialist. Dave, who was born in Clevedon in 1951, and lived on a local council estate till he was 35, has now, in his seventieth year, written and published a three-volume autobiography. The three separate volumes are focussed on different aspects of his younger life in Clevedon, and are collectively entitled: “Somerset Working-class.”

All three volumes are of A4 size, profusely illustrated in B&W and colour, thoroughly documented, and beautifully designed by former print trades unionist, now South West TUC Secretary, Nigel Costley. All three books have been published with the generous financial support of the Communication Workers’ Union, which Dave has been a member of for forty-two years.

Somerset working-class autobiographies, especially rebellious ones, are as rare as hens’ teeth, and Dave hopes that his stories can encourage other Somerset working-class women and men, especially trades unionists, footballers, DJs and cyclists, to put pen to paper!

Each individual volume costs £5, plus £2 postage and packing. The three volume set costs £15, plus £5 postage and packing. Direct bank payments welcome: e-mail for details. Please make any cheques out to “D. T. Chapple” and send to 1 Blake Place, Bridgwater, Somerset, TA6 5AU. Please send all book reviews and any other enquiries to Dave direct on davidchapple2020@gmail.com    Phone 07707869144

Somerset Working Class

’13 Miles Due East’ (Dave Chapple)

“Bristol, 13 Miles due East”, looks at how Clevedon’s proximity to the west country’s biggest city influenced Dave’s life as he grew up: in sport, in music, in trades unionism and socialist politics. Remember a trip to Bristol on that green double-decker bus No. 362?

Protest and Deliver (Dave Chapple)

“Protest and Deliver: Clevedon Postman, 1978 to 1987”, is a detailed account of Dave’ nine years walking Clevedon’s streets from his Post Office workplace, the Six Ways Salaried Office. Dave remembers his workmates, how his local Post Office functioned in the community, his trade union activities, and, last but not least, how the Post Office missed several golden opportunities to sack him, a mistake they much regretted after Dave transferred to the Bridgwater Royal Mail Sorting Office in October 1987!

‘Local, Loud, Left Wing and Proud’ (Dave Chapple)

“Local, Loud, Left-wing and Proud”, is the story of Dave’s Labour Party 1987 campaign as a North Somerset general election candidate. The story is also a detailed look at what sort of society North Somerset then was: a society on the verge of an almost complete de-industrialisation, the middle-class take-over of many villages, the last remains of ‘Traditional working-class Labour’ in the Somerset Coalfield villages, and, last but not least, the terrific battle undertaken by trades unionists at the Purnell printing plant at Paulton in 1986 against Robert Maxwell. Dave’s campaign theme tune was ‘Stir it up!” by the Wailers!

 

Dave Chapple biography

Dave at Wells Cathedral Green, c. 1984, with NUM tie, Post Office bag and vintage BSA bike

Dave Lewellyn Thomas Chapple was born in Clevedon, Somerset, in 1951. He was the son of Elsie King, from Pentre in the Rhondda Fawr, and John Chapple, from Barry Dock, and a brother to elder sisters Marion, who still lives in Clevedon, and Bronwen.

Dave spent most of his young life in Clevedon kicking a football around, in school playgrounds, Coleridge Vale playing fields, and for Tickenham United, Clevedon Town, Clevedon United in the Somerset Senior League, and Clevedon Clocktower. Dave was a Nailsea School tennis and cross country champion, a school sprinter, North Somerset 440 yards champion, and a quick bowler for Nailsea in the Bristol and District Cricket League.

Notorious

Dave was educated at St Andrew’s Infants and Junior Schools, and, unfortunately, passed the notorious “Eleven-Plus” exam, left all his Clevedon friends behind, and went to Nailsea Grammar School in 1963. Nailsea went “Comprehensive” in 1966. Dave deliberately failed his three A levels in June 1970, in a protest against the competitive examination system, but, faced with a local working-class factory future, chickened out, re-took Geography and Geology A Levels, and was accepted by Marxist lecturer Chris Arthur to study Philosophy at Sussex University in October 1971.

Dave hated his life in Brighton, and, resigning as a student, became a school cleaner, first in Brighton and then, for the next eleven years, back in Clevedon. By 1976 Dave was a NUPE Shop Steward and a delegate to Bristol Trades Union Council.

Epic

Dave Chapple and the late Bob Crow, RMT General Secretary, before the Bridgwater and District TUC Centenary March and Rally, October 2013

Alongside this formal education, Dave was always self-educating in the things he loved: Geography, especially his hand-drawing of maps, and a passion for collecting stamps of the British Empire; wild animals, flowers and old buildings, about which he leant from Brooke Bond “Dividend” tea cards; History, from a set of encyclopaedias,  “The Book of Knowledge” published by the Waverley Book Company, that his mother Elsie bought  from a Sikh salesman in 1965; sport, Dave was, in his early teens, a member of the “Sportsman’s Book Club”, which included the biography of Frank Worrell by Ernest Eytle, and “Ten Great Innings” by Ralph Barker. Then there were the historical Hollywood epic films shown at Clevedon’s Curzon Cinema in the late 1950s and early 1960s: “The Ten Commandments” “Ben Hur” “El Cid“  ”The Vikings”  and “The Fall of the Roman Empire.”

Dave was briefly, a member of the Bakers’ Union when, with his sister Marion and Elsie, he put in a stint at Hales Cakes factory; was for four years from 1978 to 1982 a Clevedon Retained Firefighter and FBU member. However, his main ‘career’ was in the Post Office  and Royal Mail. Starting as a part-timer in Clevedon in November 1978, Dave became full-time in 1986, transferred to Bridgwater in 1987, worked at the Woolavington Scale Payment village Delivery Office from 2003 to 2011, and, finally, worked back in Bridgwater till December 2016, when he retired after 38 years’ service. For 28 of those years, Dave was a UCW/CWU workplace rep.

Agitator

Socialist author Dave Chapple

Encouraged by Nailsea Comprehensive School teachers, Dave had shed his Conservative upbringing by the age of 17. He joined the Clevedon Labour Party in 1976, and was parliamentary candidate in 1987. Dave left the Labour Party in 1994, and, whilst still regarding himself as a left-wing agitator, is not a member of any political party.

Dave is a life-long cyclist, and has become a cycling purist: that is, he has never driven a car, never wanted to drive a car, and, though usually reticent about this, disapproves of our obsession with private motor vehicle use, and, in particular, those super fit, middle-class cyclists who strap their bikes onto their cars to take them to their favoured cycling destinations.

Dave’s love of music started with six shillings and eight pence 45rpm singles by the Shadows, the Animals, Bill Fury and Georgie Fame and the Blue Flames between 1962 and 1964. By the late 1960s Dave was in love with Tamla Motown, Soul, and Reggae. His key musical experience was the legendary Saturday nights at the Star Inn, Rhodyate Hill, Congresbury, the key North Somerset 1968 to 1970 skinhead venue.  Dave has, over the years, acquired a wonderful collection of black music vinyl, especially vintage Jamaican ska 45’s, which he still occasionally plays out with his Red Shadow Sound System.

Life Long Love of History

Dave’s life-long love of history has crystallised into a determination to document the lives of west country workers: coal miners, farm workers, dockers and, of course, postmen and women! His Somerset Socialist Library, over 11,000 books, pamphlets and documents, must be one of the finest private left-wing libraries in the UK, and Dave has written and published, mainly through the SSL, the following historical studies:

“Henry Suss and the Jewish Working-class of Manchester and Salford”

“Bridgwater 1924 to 1927: Class conflict in a Somerset Town”

“Grasshoppers, Stonkers and Straight Eights: George Massey and Bristol Post Office Workers, 1930 to 1976”

“Soldier Saving Lives: Keith Howard Andrews”

“Idris and Phyllis Rose: Trowbridge Communist Councillors”, a chapter in Wiltshire Industrial History: Working-class Episodes”, published by Water Marx for White Horse (Wiltshire) TUC

Dave with his last book ‘Soldier Saving Lives’

Dave met his partner Glen Burrows in during the Miners’ Strike of 1984, and they have lived together in Bridgwater since 1987. Glen is a former college general studies’ lecturer, mental health worker, and railworker, was the first female secretary of the Bristol Rail Branch of the RMT, and is currently a Labour Party Bridgwater Town Councillor.

Dave has been the secretary of Bridgwater Trades Union Council since 2003. He is the trades councils’ rep on the South West TUC Executive, the secretary of Mendip Trades Union Council, and the secretary of the Somerset Association of Trades Councils. Dave is a member of the Communication Workers’ Union, the Somerset Community Branch of Unite the Union, and the Writers’ Guild of Great Britain.

Dave is the Chair of Bridgwater and District Civic Society