Michael Barrett | Mohammed KhanJames H. Hirst | Sheila Williams | Sarah Buckley (Blackburn's first lady Mayor) | Margaret McNamee


Sarah Buckley (Blackburn's first lady Mayor)

Mrs Buckley Mayor023 image and headlines.jpgSarah Buckley was born on the 6th April 1884 to William Henry Hall and Betty (née Townend); the family also included another daughter, Elizabeth, and two sons, William and James. In 1891 they lived at 30, Milnrow Rd., Crompton and, in 1895, her father was the proprietor of the Coach & Horses Hotel, 1, Market St Crompton. On the 25th September 1907, aged twenty three, Sarah Hall married James Edward Buckley, aged 31. James was a mule spinner overlooker and they set up home at 2, Scar Lane off George St. Shaw, near Oldham. A son William was born in 1911. Very shortly after, in 1912, James took a job in Russia and their second son Herbert was born in Moscow during 1913. They remained in Russia for ten years and must have experienced troubled times during that period - the First World War and the Russian Revolution.

Returning home in 1922, James took the job of spinning master at Coddington's mill in Blackburn. At this point, Sarah began to show an interest in politics and became a teacher of the Conservative's Speakers class; she was Lady President of St. Luke's Ward from 1923 to 1933. In 1930, James took up the position as manager of an Anglo-French mill called Rodier in Pondicherry, India and Sarah followed three years later. She started a nursery there and as she was always interested in the welfare of women and children, she introduced a scheme whereby mothers received their wages for a period before and after the birth of their child. Whilst in India, Sarah kept up her position of teacher of the Conservative Speaker's Club, writing lectures and sending them home.

The family returned home in 1935 and lived on Ramsey Rd. Longshaw, Blackburn where Sarah resumed her great interest in local politics. She stood as a councillor and, at her second attempt, in 1937, she was elected for Park Ward. As a councillor she was able to help women and children by becoming Chairman of the Maternity and Clinical Welfare Committee and Vice-chairman of the Health Committee.

At that time she was also Chairman of the Women's Conservative Association, a member of the Central Council of the National Conservative Association and a Borough Magistrate from 1941. Sarah was also a voluntary speaker for the Ministry of Information. This very busy lady was a member of the congregation of Christ Church and the Enrolment Officer for the Women's Royal Voluntary Service (WRVS), eventually becoming the organiser in 1950.

James Edward died in 1943 aged sixty seven; Sarah's son Herbert lived locally, in Accrington, and William lived in Luton.

Sarah was selected as Mayor in 1946/7 and became Blackburn's first lady Mayor. She created a record by becoming Blackburn's Mayor, deputy Mayor and Mayoress consecutively.

As a councillor there are many committees to serve on, and again, Sarah's interest in women and children came to the fore. She was a member of the Joint Hospital Advisory Committee, President of the Blackburn College of Midwives and Chairman of the local Maternity and Children's Welfare Committee. She was also a member of the Housing Committee and elective member of the Blind Person's Act Committee.

On the 31st May 1956 Sarah was awarded the M.B.E. which was justly deserved for all her work for the people of Blackburn.

Sarah must have spent most of her time on one committee or another and even found time to be a patron of the Old Contemptable's Association and Vice Chairman of the Disabled Service Men's Association. For herself, perhaps, she was President of the Women's Conservative and Unionist Association and President of the East Lancashire Luncheon Club.

In 1961, aged seventy six, she was killed crossing Bolton Rd. – the tragic end of a life devoted to the service of others.

​Article compiled and written by Janet Burke, Community History Volunteer. May 2018.

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Margaret McNamee

1963_02_pr40_mcna003 ct new.jpgAlderman and Mayor

This story begins a year after the turn of the century in 1901 when Margaret was born, the eldest of six, at her maternal grand-parent’s home in Lower Darwen. She was nearly as old as the new Labour Party which had been formed in 1900 and to which she was drawn from an early age. Her family were poor and her father was unemployed - he worked for half a crown cleaning out the flues at a print works in Clayton-le-Moors.
Margaret was a half-timer in the mill at the age of twelve, working from 6.00am till 12.30 and then off to school in the afternoon, the times being reversed the following week. She had to sweep up around four looms and, at fourteen, became a weaver at Canterbury St. Mill with her own four looms. Margaret’s father complained as she ought to have been eighteen years old for this work but the manager said she was a good weaver and, after all, they did need the money; Margaret hated weaving. In 1915, there were 144 mills in Blackburn with 36,000 workers operating 90,000 looms. The workers were mainly women and wages were low which led to poor housing and consequent living conditions. The only escape was the quality of activities outside the workplace although another way out was marriage. Joseph McNamee and Margaret were both eighteen when they married – Joe’s father also could not get work but this was mainly because of his views and his fight for better pay and conditions. Margaret’s desire to help those in poor housing, to improve the difficult conditions in the workplace, particularly for women, and the inequality of pay, stemmed from her own experiences at this time. The men who did come home from the war had further battles to fight with the unemployment and resulting poverty. At nineteen, Margaret was a member of the Independent Labour Party, secretary of the women’s section and elected to the Regional Executive.

Joe McNamee died in 1932 leaving Margaret with three sons and two daughters. They were living in Dukes Brow at the time and Margaret had to take in boarders in order to provide for her family; this she managed well.  In 1943 she was co-opted onto the town council as a representative for St. Peter’s Ward. After reorganisation, St. Peter’s Ward disappeared and Margaret switched to represent St. Paul’s which she continued to serve throughout her political career. In 1945, she was responsible for introducing Barbara Betts, (better known as Barbara Castle), to the Labour Selection Committee. Barbara Castle won the seat and remained the Member of Parliament for Blackburn for many years.

Margaret continued to fight for child welfare, the elderly and health issues, becoming Chairman of the Welfare Services Committee in 1948. In 1958, Margaret was made an Alderman of the Borough becoming the only woman in the history of Blackburn Borough Council to have held this office and on the 24th May 1962 after twenty one years of tireless work for the aged and underprivileged, she became only the second woman to be elected to the office of Mayor for Blackburn. Her daughter, Mary Winifred McNamee, was chosen to be the Mayoress, (a councillor herself since 1953), creating the first mother and daughter partnership as Mayor and Mayoress.  It was the longest known mayoral procession to St. Annes Roman Catholic Church where the Bishop of Salford presided. Margaret was only the fourth Roman Catholic Mayor to hold this office in Blackburn and later was awarded a Papal Honour in recognition of meritorious civic service and work for the Roman Catholic Church – the Pro Ecclesia and Pontificat given by Pope John and presented by Archbishop Beck. It was most unusual for this honour to be awarded to an ordinary citizen.

Margaret helped to found the West End Youth Club and was appointed to be Vice Chairman of the Executive Committee of the National Baby Welfare Council. There was also a lot of work to be done on Blackburn’s new town plan which was to transform the centre of Blackburn. She met many important people such as the Duke of Edinburgh who came to open King George V Playing Fields at Pleasington and Harold Wilson who signed the visitors book at the Town Hall. She commissioned a survey of the number of potholes in the roads of Blackburn which became immortalised by the Beatles hit song “a day in the life”. Barbara Castle brought Margaret to Parliament’s attention for her ability to get food, clothing and fuel in a very short time whilst those in government dragged their feet. In June 1964 she was invited to attend, in Germany, a mounted parade for the Queen’s birthday after she had given a civic send off to the 1st Royal Tank Regiment.

Following a re-shuffle of council posts in 1965, Margaret was most upset to be moved from Health and Welfare to Estates and Housing – so much so that she appealed to the National Executive of the Labour Party. In 1968, after twenty five years on the town council, in spite of losing her leg to cancer, she continued to fight for the aged and underprivileged. She became a little disillusioned with the path the Labour Party was taking and in 1973 stood as a Democratic Labour candidate.

On the 23rd of February 1991, Margaret celebrated her ninetieth birthday and, true to form, asked for donations to be given to The Rainbow Family Trust. This was an organisation working to provide a hospice for children in the North West. Margaret died on the 9th of January 1993 at the age of ninety two; she had lived her life well, serving the people of Blackburn - in particular the aged, the young and those in need.

Article compiled by Janet Burke, November 2018.

Photograph copyright: Wally & Howard Talbot.

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Councillor Michael Barrett




Co​​uncillor Mohammed Khan O.B.E

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Councillor Mohammed Khan was born and raised in Pakistan before coming to Blackburn in June 1965. He is married to Naziran and has five children and twelve Grandchildren.
He worked and studied Textiles at Blackburn College and was subsequently employed in the textile industry in the USA, where he also gained qualifications in Business Management. On returning to Blackburn he resumed work in the textile industry before opening his own general food store in 1985.

Councillor Khan has been an elected member, first of Blackburn Borough 1992-1998 and then Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council  1997 and has represented the Bank Top Ward, which is now Wensley Fold Ward. In addition to serving as Chair/Vice Chair on numerous Committees he had the position of Executive Member for Housing and Neighbourhood Services between 1999 and 2007, and was Deputy Leader of the Council from 2002 until 2007, and again in 2010 until he took over as leader of Blackburn with Darwen Council when Kate Hollern stood down in order to become the Labour MP for Blackburn in 2015, replacing Jack Straw.

Over the years, Councillor Khan has held a wide ranging number of posts in the Voluntary Sector and has been actively involved as a School Governor. He has represented the Authority on sub Regional, Regional and National Level Forums, Task Groups and Boards. In recognition of his work in Local Government, Councillor Khan was awarded an O.B.E. in the Queen's New Years Honours for 2007.

In his spare time Councillor Khan likes walking, reading and spending time with his grandchildren.

Councillor Khan was Mayor of Blackburn with Darwen between 2008 and 2009. His wife Naziran was the Mayoress.

Councillor James H. Hirst 

James Hunt Hirst was born at Darwen in 1928. During the 2nd World War he served in the Royal Corps of Singles. After demobilisation he took up a career in the printing industry in Wales and Hull. On returning to Darwen he acquired his own printing company, is final job was as managing director of Wardley's Printers Ltd. He met his wife Audrey during her career as a professional musician and concert singer. They were married in 1956 at St. Andrew's, Longton. 
The couple had two children Stuart and Ian and three grandchildren. After 56 years of marriage Audrey died in July 2013.
James was elected to the Council in 1994, representing Billinge Ward, and when the Council gained unitary status he represented Beardwood and Lammack.
Before it became a Unitary Authority James was a spokesman for the Economic Development on the Borough Council, he also represented the Borough on the national Regeneration Committee of the Local Government Association.
He was a Director of the Blackburn and District Enterprise Trust and represented the Council on the Reserve Forces and Cadets Association for the North West of England and the Isle of Man. He also served on the management of the Darwen Old People's Welfare Committee and was vice Chairman of the Authority's Standards Committee.
James Hirst was Mayor of Blackburn with Darwen between 2009 and 2010 with Mrs Maureen Pickup as the Mayoress.
James Hunt Hirst died on the 27th of November 2015 at Springhill Care Home, Accrington and was interred at St. Paul's Churchyard, Hoddlesden.
The Sheila  was born in Blackburn and educated at local schools.  Her Further Education was at Derby and Homerton College, Cambridge.  She taught at St. Hilda’s and Blakey Moor Boys then the High School for Girls, teaching Physical Education and Human Biology.
Town Team Girls Manager, cross-country and athletics, she was a representative on Lancashire Schools Athletic Association. Some years after the High School became Witton Park she taught Religious Education and English and also taught English as a second language.  After early retirement she taught in many local Primary schools and also with the Ethnic Minority Achievement Project.
Entering politics 16 years ago she represents Beardwood and Lammack Ward.  She has served as Conservative spokes man for Education, School Organisation, School Improvement, School Performance, School Governors and Standing Advisory Committee for Religious Education and has served on Planning and Leisure and Culture Committees.  She was previously lead member for the Children’s Services and Sustainable Neighbourhoods Scrutiny Committee.  Sheila was Mayoress of Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council in 2001/2002.
Sheila is Governor of Witton Park School.

Her interests are any kind of sport.  She played League Badminton and holds gold and bronze medal for British Indoor Championships in Veteran Athletics.  She holds various national coaching certificates and enjoys travel, speaks some French and Italian and has a real interest in Gardening, theatre and archaeology.

Married to John, they have one daughter Megan who lives and works in London.