The English Exhibition Garden seems a tribute to tradition: a book of hours in its flowers, it is quintessentially exact. And yet, amid these pergolas of pretty convention, there is a surprise or two. Plaques on a pair of benches recall heroic radicals
who dedicated their lives to freedom and socialism. One of them died fighting in Spain as a volunteer, the other was a Liverpudlian girl of seventeen when Franco took over as fascist dictator. Ralph Fox from Halifax, "Writer,
Friend of the People, Soldier for Liberty", and Hilda Baruch, who as a woman didn't go out to fight but dedicated herself to supporting those who did and to a life supporting freedom. Unlikely people to be commemorated here, perhaps, but
it's good to know that they are, a speaker's corner of their own in the arbours. I was once part of a group launching a revival of Ralph Fox's memory around that very same bench, then in Bull Green, in the late seventies. We have often wondered
where it went from there. Now we know.
Ralph Fox was born in 1900 and educated at Manor Heath and Oxford, where he gained a first in modern languages. He was a founder member of the British Communist Party and was one of the first
to join the International Brigade to fight Franco. Sadly, it seems that after only six weeks, he was also one of the first to die, aged only thirty six but after a very active life as a writer, journalist and radical figure.
As it says on
Hilda's bench, we should reflect on what we owe to these lives.