Mick Shaw, former president of the Fire Brigades Union, who has died of cancer aged 53, will be remembered as a principled trade unionist, socialist and internationalist.
He joined the London Fire Brigade as a recruit in 1977 - one of the generation of young FBU activists from the Southwark training school whose trade unionism was moulded in the first ever national firefighters' strike that year.
He worked as a firefighter at Shoreditch and Plaistow stations before going on to work full-time for the union.
Mick was elected as executive council member for London in 1997, and in 2007 elected FBU president, serving until he retired early in 2011.
His determination to make the case for socialism within the wider trade union movement was bolstered by active membership of the Labour Representation Committee, to which the FBU is affiliated.
Mick was also very actively involved in the Cuban Solidarity Campaign and made his first trip to Cuba in 2007, which led to a deep interest in Cuban politics and culture.
He learned not only how to speak Spanish but also how to dance salsa.
In what turned out to be his final visit to Cuba, he began studying at the University of the Orient in Santiago de Cuba, and published a blog on his experiences, Tales of the Heroic City.
He had to abandon plans to return to Cuba for further study last autumn, following diagnosis of his illness back in England.
Mick became interested in politics as a schoolboy, influenced by his uncle Ron Leighton who was Labour MP for Newham North-East (1979-94).
He rebelled as a schoolboy and was expelled from grammar school. But, as an adult, he went on to study economics and history at Coleg Harlech in Wales, and later studied law part-time at Birkbeck College, graduating with a 2:1.
Mick made a tremendous contribution to the FBU and the whole labour movement throughout his life.
He thought about things deeply and rigorously. This strategic critical thinking helped him in all his roles in the union, particularly as president.
FBU London regional secretary Paul Embery said his former colleague was "a very principled man with a great deal of integrity. He was calm under pressure and absolutely dedicated to fighting for the interests of firefighters."
FBU executive member for London Region Ian Leahair said: "Mick was a well-respected, deeply committed official. He was an FBU man to his core, a committed socialist and campaigner for justice in the fire service and beyond."
LRC chairman and FBU parliamentary group secretary John McDonnell MP said: "Mick was one of the finest socialists and most selfless, dedicated trade unionists I have ever met.
"Firmly on the left, for many of us he was an unsung working-class hero.
"He committed his life not only to representing his fellow firefighters but also to a vast range of causes from campaigns against cuts in public services and poverty in this country to the struggles of working people in Latin America and across the world.
"Wherever there was a good cause to fight, Mick was there to give his wholehearted support."
A private funeral for family and close friends will be followed later this year by a wider memorial event later for friends and colleagues.
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