A biography of John Swift, who for some 70 years as socialist, secularist and trade unionist, stood against many powerful streams in Irish society. His was a lone yet ultimately prophetic voice in a landscape of religious, social and political conformity. From a family of bakers in Dundalk, Swift moved to Dublin in 1912, was sacked for his trade union activities, became a conscientious objector and was imprisoned during World War I, and by the mid-1920s was prominent in Dublin trade union circles, with a particular commitment to education. Challenging reaction and fascism in the 1930s, he was a founder chairman of the Secular Society and a co-founder of the Spanish Aid Committee. In 1938 he went on the first of many visits to the USSR, later founding the Ireland - USSR Society, and in 1964 he was elected as president of the International Food Workers' Union. In the late 1960s Swift drafted the Labour Party's policy document "Workers' Democracy" and almost uniquely on the left favoured Ireland's entry to the EEC in 1973. From the vantage point of the 1990s it is difficult fully to appreciate the environment in which Swift campaigned.
His biography, however, provides many unique insights into aspects of Irish life since Independence that are only now being fully explored. It also portrays a man who could always be found in the high lonely places championing the just causes made dangerous by the evasive retreat of others.