Benny Rothman (1 Jun 1911 – 23 Jan 2002) was a UK political activist, most famous for his leading role in the Mass trespass of Kinder Scout in 1932.
Born in Cheetham, Manchester, Rothman’s poor family circumstances dictated that he start work at the earliest opportunity rather than take full advantage of a scholarship that he had won.
Working as an errand boy in the motor trade, he studied geography and economics in his spare time while his Aunt Ettie introduced him to The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists and the works of Upton Sinclair.
Increasingly committed to the causes of socialism and communism, Rothman lost his job after getting into some trouble with the law while selling copies of the Daily Worker. During a period of unemployment, with the help of a bicycle salvaged from spare parts, he discovered the nearby wilderness regions of the Peak District and North Wales. The combination of his political activism and interest in the outdoors led to his participation in the mass trespass of 1932, an enterprise that resulted in a spell in jail and further employment difficulties.
In 1934, Rothman went to work at Avro in Newton Heath and instantly became an officer of the Amalgamated Engineering Union (AEU). At Avro’s, he met and married fellow communist Lily Crabtree but his political views became increasingly visible to his employer and he was dismissed. Rothman was active in working with Jewish groups in Manchester to oppose the campaigns of Sir Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fascists. In 1936 he started work at Metropolitan Vickers at Trafford Park and was again soon an AEU official.
Until his death from a stroke, he was active in a wide range of political and conservation movement campaigns and organisations (from Wikipedia). Benny Rothman, who died in 2002, went down in history as the man who led the Kinder Mass Trespass. 24th April 1932 saw hundreds of ramblers claim their right to roam in the Peak District countryside. For his part in the mass protest against access laws, Benny was jailed for four months for his part in the mass trespass.
Benny Rothman Interview
Benny Rothman talks about the Mass Tresspass on Kinder Scout in 1932 in an interview with Karl Royle for his BA dissertation in 1984.
Web Articles on Benny Rothman
- Benny Rothman and the Access Campaign by Andrew Bibby for the Rambler magazine in 1992
- Not Just a Rambler by Bernard Barry from Working Class Movement Library
- Benny Rothman Archives at Working Class Movement Library
- Obituary – Benny Rothman: Ramblers’ Champion – Manchester Forum
- Wikipedia entry on Benny Rothman
Blue Plaque in honour of Bernard ‘Benny’ Rothman
On 24th October 2012, a blue plaque was unveiled in his honour, where he was also fondly remembered as a life-long campaigner, a rambler, a father and a friend.
It was in 2000 that the Countryside and Rights of Way Act was finally enshrined in law allowing the right to roam which Benny fought so hard for. The plaque in honour of Benny was unveiled at his home of 58 years on Crofton Avenue, Timperley, where he continued to campaign.
He was always fighting for more rights of access. He even fought to keep the right of way alongside his house, and he won that one too. He was a tremendous campaigner. It is very fitting to remember someone who did so much for so many people. The freedom that we have got is all down to Benny.
I once went for a walk with him on the trespass route. He was in his 70s at the time but he still walked like a train, I couldn’t keep up. I loved him, a lot of people did.M.E.N. columnist Roly Smith, who knew Benny for 20 years.
Timperley residents and ramblers gathered at the special ceremony and spoke of Benny’s achievements.
For so many years Benny Rothman has been an utter hero to me.
He caused me to get interested in the access movement. One of the proudest moments of my life was to find out I was on a ramble with his son.Jerry Pearlman, The Ramblers Association.
The plaque in memory of Benny was unveiled by his children, Professor Harry Rothman and Marion Thilo.
Professor Rothman recalled fond memories of his childhood at the house. He said: “I think people along this street would remember Benny most for his ability to shout to me to come home for my dinner. Like father like son, I did tend to wander off. We’re tremendously proud and delighted that this plaque has been offered as a tribute to him by Trafford Council.”
Mrs Thilo remembered her father as a quirky man. She said: “When everyone else went to church in their Sunday best our father was taking us out into the countryside in our walking gear. My father was very modest about his work with the outdoor movement. He would have said: ‘I haven’t done this on my own.”
We are so very proud that this plaque will be unveiled here in Timperley. To have such a plaque in your name means you have made a big impression on society. It’s because of Mr Rothman that we are able to enjoy our countryside as freely as we can today.Cllr. Jonathan Coupe, Trafford council.