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The story of Sidney Francis Greene, Baron of Harrow Weald

Sidney Francis Greene, baron of Harrow Weald CBE, was born in a working-class family on the 12th of February 1910. He left school at 14. His first job was as a messenger boy in the Great Western Railway goods office at Paddington station and he later became a porter.

Mr Greene was a member of the trade union movement and was general secretary of the national railway union trade from 1957 till 1975. Not overly political, Greene was a Labour party member and elected to the Paddington borough council but found no joy in local politics.

He was more interested in the perversion of the railway system and felt an obligation to protect railway workers, once declaring, “ Strikes are a daft way of doing things”, but understood to negotiate politically, one must inhibit the public.

In the 1930s, while working on the railways, Greene studied in the evening and took a correspondence course in economics, which was instrumental in 1968 when he became chairman of the TUC’s prestigious economic committee. In 1954 Greene was elected as assistant general secretary to Jim Campbell and appointed acting General Secretary in 1957, in tragic circumstances.

Jim Campbell and Tom Hollywood, the president of the national union of Railwaymen (NUR), died in a car crash, and a year later, Greene was confirmed as General Secretary. Born in 1910, Mr Greene was a traditionalist. He believed in conducting yourself righteously and dressing professionally. A fashion magazine in the 1960s christened Greene one of the best-dressed men in Britain. For sure, the quaint English man must have recoiled in this public acknowledgement.

Greene received a CBE in 1966 and was honoured with a knighthood four years later; in the same year, he was appointed the director of the Bank of England until 1978. He became a member of the House of lords in 1974 as Lord Greene of Harrow Weald. In retirement, he sat on the board of the Times newspaper. Mr Greene died at the age of ninety-four on July 26 2004.

He was a beloved and powerful figure in the British trade union movement. Harrow Labour councillor Keith Toms said of Lord Greene, “He was one of the giants of the union movement who did his best to protect the interest of workers”. His dedication to the prosperity of working-class people and upholding their rights is a rare trait seen today. Hopefully, we can learn from this Harrovian.