Maurice Crighton was born in 1928 in Lambeth, where his father worked at the Waterloo headquarters of the Southern Railway. The family moved to Hersham, and after passing the 11-plus exam, Maurice attended Tiffin Boys’ School in Kingston.
Influenced by books that portrayed the British empire as a fount of civilisation and enlightenment, Maurice formed the ambition of becoming a colonial officer. Then he came across Leonard Barnes’ Penguin book Soviet Light on the Colonies, which showed him the truth about Africa and introduced him to Marxism. It was, wrote Maurice, “a life-changing experience”.
Maurice won a scholarship to Cambridge university but before he could take it up he was called up for national service, became an army education officer, and was posted to Germany. In his own words “The commanding officer summoned me to his office and told me he didn’t believe in education for the troops, so I could have an office with my name on the door, but there would be no classes. I spent nine months cycling round the countryside and learning German”.
When he eventually got to Cambridge to study Economics, Maurice joined the Communist Party. He became a secondary school teacher and worked in Cambridgeshire and Brighton before moving to Crawley new town with his first wife and two sons in the mid-1950s. There he became a leading member of the large and flourishing CP branch, starting a group in a new neighbourhood, and playing a prominent part in CND and the Anti-Apartheid campaign.
Later Maurice moved to Reigate and taught in further education colleges at Kingston, Isleworth and Hitchin, before becoming a head of department at Brixton College. There he “managed to achieve a large increase in the number of black students and those from other ethnic minorities so that the college began to reflect the ethnic composition of the area”.
Maurice’s last job was Principal of Kingsway College in central London. Not being happy in a purely administrative role, he took early retirement. This gave him more time for political activity and he was elected chairman of the Surrey District of the Communist Party. He remained in the CPGB until it was dissolved. He then worked for a time in Democratic Left, a decision he later regretted.
Maurice joined the Labour Party, and then in 2003 returned to the Communist Party. His main commitment during his last few years, until his final illness put an end to it, was to lead the Redhill & Reigate Stop the War Coalition. He showed great ability at working harmoniously among peace activists with differing political standpoints. Maurice died in 2009.
David Grove -
Sourced from the brief memoir that Maurice wrote for his own funeral and from David’s personal knowledge