We received the sad news last week that Kevin Lynch, who was instrumental in establishing the Greater Manchester Asbestos Victims Support Group, passed away on 17th January 2017. We would like to extend our condolences to Kevin’s family.
Tony Whitston, who worked closely with Kevin in the early days of GMAVSG, writes about Kevin’s contribution below.
Remembering Kevin Lynch – Dock Worker and Founding Member of GMAVSG
It was with great sadness that we learnt of the death of Kevin Lynch, a dock worker and a founding member of GMAVSG, who died on 17 January 2017.
In 1994, the Greater Manchester Hazards Centre convened a public meeting about the dangers of asbestos and about asbestos diseases affecting thousands of workers. From that meeting, the Greater Manchester Asbestos Victims Support Group was set up and for many years Kevin staffed a helpline, often single-handedly, in Salford.
Not only did Kevin give advice on benefits and compensation to sufferers of asbestos diseases, he also attended court as an expert witness on the unsafe conditions and working practices on the Manchester Docks where bales of asbestos were unloaded from the holds of ships. His testimony secured compensation for countless dock workers afflicted by asbestos diseases as a result of their work. Kevin was an active trade union member on the docks for many years and he knew hundreds of dock workers. Sometimes, he could not recall a particular dock worker by name, but if given the worker’s nick name, he immediately remembered the man. I discovered that most dockers were given nick names and Kevin would recount with great humour how the name was given, but he would never reveal his own nick name!
Like many of his fellow dockers, Kevin too suffered from an asbestos disease, which affected his breathing. As the support work became more demanding the office was moved into the premises of the Greater Manchester Hazards Centre and the group was established as a permanent Hazards Centre project with its own trustees and received charitable status. Although Kevin stepped back from the day to day work he continued to provide advice and support to the group. Kevin was part of a delegation to Amsterdam, meeting with groups from around the world to protest outside the headquarters of James Hardy, a large asbestos company which moved its head offices from Australia to Amsterdam to avoid paying compensation to Australian asbestos victims.
Kevin was a well- known figure in Salford, often approached in the pub for advice and help, which he always gave unstintingly. Kevin had a wry sense of humour which lightened many of his tales of hardship and struggle on the docks. I had the privilege of working with Kevin in Salford when I joined the Hazards Centre and I immensely enjoyed his company, as did Anthony Coombs a respected solicitor and friend of Kevin’s, meeting up occasionally when Kevin could no longer actively support the group. We remember Kevin with great affection and we are grateful for the many years he worked voluntarily on behalf of asbestos victims.