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OWTU founder remembered as family man
Oil workers belted out the inspirational battle songs of the Oilfields Workers’ Trade Union (OWTU) as they paid homage to their first general secretary Elbert Redvers Blades who died on Sunday at the age of 110. On the spot where he first recorded the minutes of the first Butlerite meeting on July 16, 1937, at Forest Reserve canteen, Blades’ body was brought in for the final time.
More than two dozen oil workers, led by OWTU’s president general Ancel Roget, viewed his body. Blades’ nephew Patrick Taylor said: “The family handled his death extremely well knowing what he lived for and stood for. He was an inspiration to us. We accepted Uncle Elbert’s teachings. A meal at his home would always last more than two hours, because he always had so much to tell us. We wanted to listen to him. He lived for his family. He always had good advice for us.”
Taylor said last July, Blades was taken back to the Forest Reserve canteen where the Butler meeting was re-enacted. “He had a lot of memories of this place. He stayed in the car and slept because he was too tired and could not come out, but when he heard the union songs he started to clap. He perked up one time because he always respected what the OWTU stood for,” Taylor said.
He said Blades never lost his sharp memory. “He could go back into history and remember what happened in the days of (Tubal Uriah) Butler. He could remember dates and times. He always taught us family love and togetherness. He wanted unity,” Taylor said. He added that he never saw Blades angry or sad.
Taylor said in the months leading up to his death, Blades spent most of his time resting and lost the ability to walk. Roget said yesterday that Blades received several accolades from the union. “The workers enjoyed benefits because of Blades. They are beneficiaries of what the union would have done. He was involved in the formation of the union and we recognised the contributions he made.
In return he showered blessings on us by recalling the events of the Bulter movement with great detail,” Roget said. Blades was buried yesterday at the Arima Anglican Cemetery, after a service at the St Jude’s Anglican Church.