Reminiscences from Denis Cobell

Denis Cobell (born 1938) is a prominent UK secularist, humanist, republican and pacifist. He was President of the National Secular Society from 1997 to 2006. Mr. Cobell was secretary to the Lewisham Humanist Group at then time when Sid gave a number of talks. In email correspondences, he had a few reminiscences that I’ve tied together with light editing.

Although I cannot recall details of this talk, I remember Sid quite well. As far as I know he started out from the “socialist” end of anarchism, graduated via Max Stirner, but finally became disillusioned and moved into some form of “conservatism”. I recall he edited 2 journals: Minus One, then later Ego.

 I think Sid also attended Workers’ Educational Association classes in philosophy. He was a good friend of one of our other speakers/members John Evitt. Evitt had been a lecturer with the WEA, when Sid attended. If Evitt is still alive, which I doubt, he would be 98 now. Our group when Sid gave talks was the Lewisham Humanist Group.

As you may note I was co-editor of Hyde Park Socialist from 1968 until its closure in 1984. We were non-Labour party, non-Soviet Communist, Libertarian. At one time we had a duplicator & when Sid was having problems, in the spirit of free speech, we printed one, or more, of his journals. Sid’s time at Speakers’ Corner in Hyde Park was before my time by a decade and I don’t recall him there in the 1960/70 era.

Sid was always interesting and warm in company; he was, I suppose one might say, a “working class” intellectual. (He worked as a railway office ticket clerk, I believe). I note other anarchist friends contributed to his journal: Donald Rooum & Nicolas Walter among them.

—Denis Cobell