One of the wonderful things about our college is that we can gather a myriad of stories from our alumni.

The story of Bob Cole is something of an inspiration, and the legacy that he has left behind is truly awesome in every sense of the word. Following his time at Fircroft, Bob went on to attend university in Manchester and became active in progressive politics, before settling down in Blaenau and campaigning for justice and peace as well as becoming a town councillor.

Last year, at our annual Garden Party, we took the time to listen to Bob's story, in his friend's very own words.

We want to share that with you all, as part of our 110 Stories series, a tribute to our alumni past and present who have shared the successes of Fircroft College as we reach our 110th birthday this year.


Bob was a demob baby, born in 1946 into a working-class family in Altrincham. He left secondary modern school on his fifteenth birthday and started an apprenticeship as a carpenter. He started working on big sites in Manchester and was soon a shop steward active in the building workers’ fight against the lump. By 1971 he found himself blacklisted from the trade. Unable to find building work in Manchester, luck came his way through a TUC scholarship to Fircroft College.

It was a life-changing experience, opening his eyes to a completely new world of reading, theory, ideas, and debate. Above all, it gave him a new and confident view of himself. He went on to Manchester Polytechnic, was President of the Student Union, wrote a dissertation on the lump, and joined the Communist Party. He was an organiser for the Party in Manchester in the late 1970s and inspired the hugely successful People’s Festival in 1978 with its commitment to a new rainbow approach to progressive politics and campaigning.

In 1980 it was all change, and he moved to Blaenau Ffestiniog in North Wales, which became his home for the next 32 years. Here he met his wife-to-be, Anne, and together they walked and climbed across Snowdonia. Politics was never too far away for Bob. In the 1980s, Bob was an organiser for CND and anti-war rallies, and demonstrations and in spectacular exploits, climbing buildings and cranes to unfurl peace banners. As a town councillor in Blaenau, Bob was heavily involved in a regeneration scheme that re-shaped the town centre and left it with a stunning design that celebrated the towns slate mining heritage.

Bob will be remembered for many things; his passionate commitment to equality, to justice, to peace and fulfilment for all. As he said in his final letter to friends “the one thing life has taught me from my early days as a trade unionist through to the work in regenerating Blaenau is that we only get anywhere if we work together as a collective. Only when it comes to individual egos do we fail”.

Remembering Bob Cole, born December 17 1946, died August 14 2015.


Please share with us your stories from your time at Fircroft to be featured in our 110 Stories series.