Sad loss of gentle giant' Brian—cabbie turned lecturer, politician
PUBLISHED: 22:15 19 September 2008 | UPDATED: 13:38 05 October 2010
TRIBUTES have been paid to East London's gentle giant' politician Brian Son, ex-councilor and Deputy Mayor of Tower Hamlets who died last Wednesday. He was 56. The former taxi-driver who became a college business lecturer was well known in London's East End, where he was a councilor for eight years. He fought a long battle with leukaemia and passed away peacefully at Bart's Hospital in the City
TRIBUTES have been paid to East London’s gentle giant’ politician Brian Son, ex-councilor and Deputy Mayor of Tower Hamlets who died last Wednesday. He was 56.
The former taxi-driver who became a college business lecturer was well known in London’s East End, especially in Poplar and the Isle of Dogs where he was a councilor for eight years.
Brian fought a long battle with Leukemia and passed away peacefully at Bart’s Hospital in the City of London.
He leaves a widow, Julia Mainwaring, who was herself a former Labour leader of Tower Hamlets Council, his son Alan, daughter-in-law Alicia and step-daughter Anna.
Junior Government minister Jim Fitzpatrick, the Poplar & Canning Town MP, worked closely with him in the Labour Party.
Brian Son was born and brought up in Walthamstow, the youngest son of a large Jewish family. He started his working life as a printer, before becoming a taxi-driver and moving to the East End.
He met his wife Julia when they were both doing voluntary work at The Rights Shop in Bethnal Green more than 20 years ago.
Brian decided in his thirties to go back to college to get a degree and eventually became a business lecturer at Newham College.
But his real love was East London’s community politics.
He won a seat on Tower Hamlets council in 1998, representing East India & Lansbury ward and later Blackwall & Cubitt Town ward, and became Deputy Mayor in 2005.
“Brian loved being a councilor,” said his wife Julia. “He tried really hard to help people and enjoyed every minute of it.
He was 6ft 3ins tall and had a big, booming voice.
“But everyone used to describe him as a gentle giant’.”
Julia added: “Brian, with his Jewish origins, got on well with people from all walks of life, many of his friends being Muslim.
“He even visited Bangladesh to gain an understanding of the country where many families in his constituency come from. His mates included cab drivers, lecturers, housewives and MPs.”
Brian remained always cheerful and chatty—even though he spent eight years struggling with chemotherapy.
His step-daughter Anna Mainwearing, a BBC journalist and former reporter on the East London Advertiser, said: “I will remember Brian in his favourite place—on the sofa eating a salmon and cream cheese bagel with his dog Patch on his lap, shouting at the TV because West Ham were losing, or occasionally winning.”
Brian’s funeral is at City of London Cemetery in Manor Park in East London on Friday (September 26) at 12 noon. The family asks any donations to be made to the Leukemia Research Foundation.