Willis, Norman

First name/s: Norman
Last name: Willis
Known names / nicknames:
Date of birth: 21/01/1933
Year of birth: 1933

Life before Ruskin

Date and place of birth: Hayes, Middlesex 21 January 1933

Family: His father Jim ,  a barber and council worker and his mother Kate who worked in laundries and canteens were both socialists and shop stewards. He called his mother a working class suffragette and his mentor. He had 4 brothers and sisters

Work: After Ashford County grammar school he joined the TGWU at 16 as an office boy. After national service he returned to work at the TGWU in the education department.

Politics/Trade union activity:

Trade Union membership (at time of entry to Ruskin) TGWU

Life at Ruskin

Dates at Ruskin: c. 1955 – 1957

Source of funding: Union sponsorship

Campaigns/political activity:

Subjects studied at Ruskin: Philosophy and Political Science


Qualification: Diploma

Life after Ruskin

Education: He graduated in PPE from Oriel College, Oxford with a ‘good second’ in 1959

Work: He returned to the TGWU. By 1970 he was head of research and education. In 1974 he moved to the TUC as assistant to Len Murray the general secretary. He was appointed deputy in 1977 and in 1984 – 1993 was general secretary.

Politics/trade union activity: President of the European ‘TUC’ in 1991;member of Staines Urban District Council labour group.

Family: Wife Maureen Kenning he married in 1963. Tow children Liz and Andrew

Place & date of death: 7 June 2014

Date of death: 07/06/2014
Year of death: 2014

Achievements / Publications

General secretary of the TUC;vice president of the Poetry Society (he had written poetry from an early age);President of the Arthur Ransome Society; trustee of the Royal School of Needlework.

Material in archives or already published articles


Notes on Image/s

Comment of contributor/s and sources

Norman Willis’s role as general secretary of the TUC, particularly during the miners’ strike of 1984 -5 was not without controversy.

The current TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said on his death: “Norman Willis led the TUC with distinction during some of the most difficult years in the trade union movement’s history – a period that included the challenges of the miners’ strike and Mrs Thatcher’s onslaught on trade unionism. But he will also be remembered as a warm, kind and immensely amusing colleague by all who worked alongside him.”

Sources: TUC website




Hilda Kean

created 09/07/2014 at 11:42 am, updated 09/07/2014 at 11:42 am

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