Corbyn joins tributes to ‘dedicated’ old friend Pat Edlin
29 November, 2019 — By Emily Finch
WHEN pro-revolution trade unionists were facing certain death during El Salvador’s bloody civil war, Patrick “Pat” Edlin stepped in and saved them through a single phone call from above a bookshop in Highbury.
Mr Edlin, a valued member of the Islington community with a “humongous heart” and a former investigative journalist, died suddenly on November 19. He was 64 years old.
Tributes have poured in from his former colleagues and political comrades including the former Channel 4 news correspondent Michael Crick and the Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.
Mr Corbyn told the Tribune that he was “shocked” to hear about his friend’s “untimely” death. “I first met Pat in the early 1980s, and I used to babysit his children. He was full of wit and a dedicated and committed socialist who loved his community – and he was as prolific a correspondent to local papers as anyone could wish for. Pat enjoyed politics and he loved Arsenal – but above all he loved a good bit of craic and he was a wonderful raconteur. He was much loved in our community and it is a great loss.”
In the 1980s, Mr Edlin had been assisting exiled Salvadorians who had created a base in a Latin American bookshop in Islington Park Road.
He was told of a potentially deadly situation where the executive members of the Revolutionary Trade Union Federation in El Salvador were on the cusp of being executed by members of the country’s airforce.
Instead of wallowing in despair, Mr Edlin quickly whipped out his contacts book and dialled the number of the former defence secretary, Denis Healey. He managed to convince Mr Healey to call on his contacts in the CIA to stop the mass execution at the 11th hour. He also called on the Fire Brigade Union to make representations to save the Salvadorian trade union members.
Jeremy Corbyn at Mr Edlin’s first wedding
Leonardo Alvarado, who was part of the exiled Salvadorians working with Mr Edlin in Islington, said: “Within hours, Pat had ensured hundreds of telegrams were sent to save the trade unionists. He did it all with lightning speed to make sure no one lost their lives. It was the best example of international solidarity where the love for one people from another was shown.”
Mr Edlin had joined the El Salvador freedom movement shortly after working as the press officer of Militant Tendency – a Trotskyite movement – in the 1980s.
Political journalist Michael Crick, who has written a book on the history of Militant, wrote how Mr Edlin was praised as the “best press officer” despite having no prior experience. Through his expertise, the mainstream news became less hostile towards Trotskyites but Mr Edlin would ultimately become disillusioned by the movement. Mr Crick said this week: “I’m very, very sorry to hear of the death of my old friend and sparring partner Pat Edlin.”
After moving to Islington in the 1980s to be with his “first love” Sylvia Schroer, Mr Edlin never left.
His eldest daughter Molly, 35, remembers how her father worked tirelessly as an investigative journalist.
She said: “I have the utmost respect for what my dad has done for humanity. How loving and caring he was. And how giving he was. He was such a nurturer, and all about justice and fighting for people’s basic human rights and right to live. He had a humongous heart.”
Living just a stone’s throw from the front doors of the Town Hall, Mr Edlin always had his eyes fixed on the comings and goings of local political life. He was a committed Labour Party member and had been volunteering at his local constituency office until just a few days before his death. He was present at the large party organised by Mr Corbyn when he became Labour leader in 2015 for local activists.
He always provided insightful letters for the Tribune to publish which we very much enjoyed reading and appreciated for igniting our letters page with debate. But most important to him were his grandchildren including his four-year-old grandson Ephraim. They would often be seen zooming around Highbury together – Mr Edlin on his mobility scooter and Ephraim on his four-wheeled bike – on their way to watch Arsenal play.
Mr Edlin grew up in Hove where he left school at just 15 years old. He worked as a tree surgeon until an injury cut this career short but later had stints in the theatre and catering industry.
Mr Edlin leaves behind his children Molly, Louise and Liam and his grandchildren Jacob and Ephraim. A funeral date has not yet been set.
Pat the ‘only human being’
PAT used to support the Isledon Wolves, pictured above – they had a women’s team long before most clubs and he was very proud of the teams from the local Isledon Village and Harvist estates in Highbury.
He had three loves in his life: Jeremy Corbyn and Islington Labour Party, his family, and Arsenal football club – probably in reverse order!
If you read Michael Crick’s book Militant, he states that Pat was about the only human being in the set-up of slogan-chanting zombies.
When Militants walked out of the Labour Party, Pat decided it was time he left them.