Celebration of the life of Alan Hardman. Photo: Martin Powell Davies
Celebration of the life of Alan Hardman. Photo: Martin Powell Davies

Iain Dalton, Yorkshire Socialist Party

Family, friends, neighbours and comrades gathered in the village hall of Laycock, near Keighley in Yorkshire, on Saturday 17 February for a ‘Celebration of the life of Alan Hardman’. Alan was the first printer of Militant (now the Socialist), and for decades produced political cartoons for party publications.

Some of his most famous cartoons were on the walls and in frames, along with photos of his beloved family, and a book for personal remembrances of a very special man.

Miners’ strike

Alan was the son of a Yorkshire miner – a fact no doubt responsible for his sometimes gruff and stubborn approach! Alan saw and dramatised some of the most historic national and international events of the last century, not least the year-long miners’ strike in 1984-85. A collection of his drawings and cartoons will be on display at an event in Yorkshire to mark the 40th anniversary of that dramatic struggle being opened by Arthur Scargill.

Never before

Old times were discussed by people who had not seen each other for many years, and in some cases, never before! Memories were exchanged about Alan – printer, engineer, cartoonist, husband and brother, father and grandfather, or simply neighbour. Members of the Socialist Party and Militant, who had worked with Alan over the years, were there to pay their respects.

There were a few formal speeches. First was Alan’s son, Ben, followed by Anna, his daughter. They gave moving accounts of their father’s life – their memories of him and some of the ‘legends’ from his youth. They spoke of the great love and affection between Alan and his grandchildren.

Jon Ingham spoke about work he has been doing with Alan to produce a book of his cartoons. A great amount of work has been done preparing them for publication and writing up at least some of the historical context which lay behind them. The book is due to be published in May.

Clare Doyle, a veteran socialist and internationalist, was asked to speak about the early days of the Militant, and working with Alan. Clare described the arduous and long hours Alan put in developing the sheet-fed press and printing the paper – along with others – on top of drawing the cartoons used in our publications.

Artistic skill

She admired not only the powerful messages of Alan’s cartoons but also the artistic skill he brought to the drawing board. His distinctive style could drive home the ugliness, oppressiveness and cruelty of class rule, but he was also quite capable of drawing and painting beautiful subjects with great delicacy.

Clare conveyed the warmest condolences to Alan’s family from all Socialist Party members, especially those who had worked closely with him in the early days – Peter Taaffe and Keith Dickinson.

In the course of the afternoon, the latest issue of the Socialist, with one of Alan’s cartoons on the back page, was sold. The ‘Memoirs’ of Keith Dickinson also went down well.

Yorkshire Socialist Party members will be holding a memorial meeting for Alan later in the year.

See ‘Alan Hardman 1936-2024 Militant cartoonist and printer’