​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​20th Century ​Mayors 1950-1970

John Bea​rdsworth | William Hare | John Shorrock | Robert Weir | John Stirrup​ | Houghton Johnson​
William Alfred Henshall MC | Herbert Vaughan Dowdall | George Hawo​rth​ | John Makinson​ Lomax James Whitehead ​​​George Gillibrand​ | Margaret McNamee | Frank Wilkinson | Francis W. Bramwell | Lawrence Edwards​ | Edith Railton Florence E. Lewis | Arthur Rigby | Edmond Gregson

John Beardsworth​

​Mayor of Blackburn 1950-51

John was born in Blackburn on the 4th of September 1899 to James and Emily who had a family of eight children. James worked for the railways and his sons John and George followed him to become railway clerks. John married Florence Kenyon Sarsfield in January 1909 and by the census of 1911 they were living at 13, Woodbine Road with their two daughters, Ethel two and Dorothy five months - they went on to have another daughter and three sons. In 1939 they were living at 195, Brownhill Drive. John was interested in all sports particularly cricket and had been an official of the Railway Clerks Cricket Club. 

John was a British Railways Railway Service Representative retiring in 1950 after more than forty six years in railway service. At the age of fourteen he had started as a junior clerk with the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway Company at Blackburn and spent the whole of his career at Blackburn Goods occupying several positions. He was appointed Commercial Representative in May 1938 but was withdrawn in consequence of the WW2. At the close of war he again took up duties in the town making contact with the various firms and traders being appointed to his final position of Railway Service Representative in October 1945. For twenty one years he was secretary of the Blackburn Railway Clerks Association and afterwards became their Chairman. John began his council service in 1928 when he was elected as Labour Councillor for St. Paul's Ward which he continued to represent until he was made an Alderman in 1945. He was deputy leader of the Labour Group and had been Chairman of the Waterworks Committee since 1929. John was appointed a Justice of the Peace in 1938 and was also a member of the Management Committee of the Blackburn Co-Operative Society. He was the Chairman of the Finance and General Purposes Committee of the Lancashire and Western Sea Fisheries Committee where he represented Blackburn for many years. After the passing of the Rent Act he set up an information bureau to give advice to tenants which eventually resulted in the reduction of rents for twenty thousand householders in the town. John's brother Fred also served on the council and another brother George had been the Mayor of Bebington and awarded the OBE.

Florence died aged 89 in 1974 and John died at the age of ninety in 1980. 
Janet Burke.

078 Hare William Mayor of Blackburn 1951-1952.jpg
William Hare Mayor of Blackburn 1951 52
The Centenary Mayor 
William was born on the 23rd of July 1879 to William and Hannah. The family lived on Queens Road in 1901Zand William at the age of twenty one was an accountant's clerk. His younger brother Charles Henry was a stockbroker's clerk and father William was described as a book-keeper. William had an elder sister Amelia, a weaver and a younger brother Arthur still at school. William's father was from Leicestershire and educated at Manchester Gramm​ar School. He worked at Coddington's Mill as cashier for fifty nine years and was very involved at St. Thomas's church being the Sunday School Superintendant. In 1907 William married Sarah Jane Hart. On the census of 1911 they lived at 215, Revidge Road and had a son William aged three months. William served his articles with a Mr. J. Rudd J.P. and on passing his final exam in 1911 was elected an Associate of Chartered Accountants and immediately became a partner in the firm of Waterworth, Rudd and Hare. William divided his service to the Church between St. Thomas's and St. Silas's holding many positions including being a representative to the Diocesan and Decanal conferences and also being the Sunday School Superintendant like his father. At the special Diocesan Conference meeting of the 16th. of June 1922 it was said that William was largely responsible for Blackburn being selected as the See Town.

William became the Mayor in the town council's centenary year. He had been the Conservative member for St. John's Ward since 1931 and continued until he was made an Alderman in 1941. He was an old boy of the Grammar School and a governor since 1932, he was the Chairman of the Finance Committee, Treasurer of the local Conservative Party and Hon.Treasurer to the Council of Cathedral Builders. William was very concerned with the extension to the cathedral and disappointed that it was not sufficiently advanced to permit an official opening in his year of office. The costs had risen threefold due largely to the suspension of work during the war and William announced his intention to open a subscription list for Blackburn Cathedral Building Fund, £176,000 had already been contributed but it was thought another £200,000 would be needed. He regretted that the celebrations for the centenary year would be somewhat restrained in view of the aftermath of the second world war and the war in Korea. Many improvements to the town had been achieved but there was still a lot to do and William also appealed for a return to the Church and that people might attend at least on a Sunday - congregations had greatly diminshed. 

William's final address was 77, Alexandra Road where his wife Sarah Jane died in January 1931 William was married again in September 1932 to Ellen Kenyon the daughter of an Estate Agent - the ceremony took place in Chipping. William died on the 14th. of May 1961 and probate was granted to Ellen and his son William, also a chartered accountant, the proceeds being £20,422-6s.
Janet Burke.

Mayor of Blackburn 1952-53
John was born in 1882 to James Edward and Mary Ann Shorrock. There had been twelve children in the family and John was the eldest, however three had sadly died. When John was nine years old, they lived at 15, Whitebirk Road and he went to a small school run by one master and his wife. Whitebirk pit was across the road from the school, and it was common for people to borrow a barrow and take a hundredweight of coal for sixpence. John was living at 58, Cherry Street with his parents and siblings at the age of 19. At that time he was working in the cotton industry and started as a half-timer on two shillings and sixpence a week and then became an overlooker. He studied at Blackburn Technical College and eventually became a director of F. Mercer & Co. Pioneer Mill, Kelly Street, Mill Hill. He was also a director of another concern and John latterly had an interest in his father's furniture and bedding business on Copy nook and the Bottomgate Billiard Hall. He became company director of the billiard hall after the death of his father in July 1940. He met his wife to be, Alice Smith, at a dance held in the Co-Op Rooms on Belper Street and they married in 1907, living on Cherry Street.

John was a member of the Labour Party for over fifty years and was elected a councillor for St. Matthews ward - a position he held for thirty-five years. He was Chairman of the Public Assistance and Finance Committees, Chairman of the Watch Committee and Chairman of Brockhall Institution. John was also on various hospital boards including Manchester Regional Hospital Board, Prestwick Hospital, Moor Hospital Lancaster and Blackburn and District Hospital Management Committee. He was the House Chairman of Queens Park Hospital where he had been involved for twenty-seven years. During the trade depression from 1931-39 John helped with social work for the unemployed of the town and he paid several visits to the United States where he studied the problems of unemployment. One of his special memories during this period was the visit of Gandhi to the local area. During his mayoralty nearly £15000 was raised for various local funds including the relief of Lynthorpe and the East Coast Flood Relief Funds. In 1946 John was appointed to the Magisterial Bench where he served until reaching the compulsory retirement age of seventy-five. John was also an Alderman and respected by all parties.

John and Alice celebrated their golden wedding in 1957. However, in April 1964 John died at his home 840, Whalley New Road aged eighty-two - the funeral was held at Furthergate Congregational Church and the interment was at Pleasington Cemetery. Probate was granted to Alice and the proceeds were £5,132. Alice only lived for two more years and died in Queens Park Hospital.
Most of the above information was contained in the obituary published by the Blackburn Times on the 10th. of April 1964, articles from the Evening Telegraph of 1957 and information related to his father’s billiard hall which is held in the Local History collection at Blackburn Library.

Janet Burke.

Robert Weir
080 Robert Weir 1953-1954.jpg
Mayor of Blackburn 1953-54
Robert was born on the 17th of June 1893 in Glenluce, Scotland but his family came to Blackburn and in the census of 1901 they lived at 49, Ingham Street. By 1911 Robert, aged eighteen, was working as a Blacksmith's striker, and was married to Nellie aged twenty - they lived at 139, Alker Street. In 1939 Robert worked as a Railway Signalman and lived with Ellen and their son John Robert aged sixteen at 80, Old Bank Lane. Robert worked on the Railways for forty two years and had been a special grade signalman for thirty one of those years.

Robert became the Mayor in the year of the coronation. He was elected an Alderman only three months after his mayoralty although he had been a councillor for twenty five years. Robert was the longest serving socialist councillor and for eight years had been Chairman of the Transport Committee, Chairman elect of the Municipal Transport Association and a member for the National Joint Industrial Council for Passenger Transport. Robert was Chairman of the N. E. Lancashire Town and Country Planning Advisory Committee and had led several deputations to the President of the Board of Trade. In 1938 he was appointed a magistrate and in 1957 he was awarded the BEM for his role in Blackburn's public life, Trade Union affairs and national transport work.

Ellen died in 1972 aged eighty and in 1981 Robert died in Queens Park Hospital aged eighty eight. He had lived on Bradda Road at the time of his death and left a son and a daughter.
Janet Burke.

​​back to top​​

John Stirrup
Mayor of Blackburn 1954-55

John was born on the 24th of July 1891 to John William and Eliza Jane. John William was a boot maker and there had been eight children in the family but one had died. At the census of 1911 they lived at 143, London Road, John junior was nineteen and described as a mill furnishers clerk. He married Eliza A. Morris in October 1917 and they had a son Kenneth on the 31st of May 1922. John was the Sunday School Superintendent at St. James's Church and before he enlisted in the army in 1917 he had been presented with a bible which he read every day and later kept in the Town Hall.  In 1939 John and Eliza were living at 64, East Park Road and John's occupation was described as a Textile Machinery Merchant and Mill Furnisher. He was keenly interested in music and as Chairman of Blackburn Music Society was largely responsible for the promotions of the big concerts of recent years and visits of famous orchestras like the London Philharmonic, London Symphony and the Halle and also artists such as Gigli and Gracie Fields. He formed and trained a men's choir who performed for the Duke of Kent on his visit of the 7th of July 1934 and was presented as the conductor. In 1937 he took a choir of unemployed men to London for a concert which was broadcasted. John was the musical advisor to Blakey Moor Girls’ Choir which was very successful and he became choirmaster at St. Silas's on the death of Dr. Herman Brierley. John was invited to be the Hon. Director of Competitions for the national competitions of the Festival of Britain in 1951. In 1960 John received the OBE for his work in the field of music.

John was elected a Conservative councillor for St. Andrew's Ward in 1941 and his interests were the unemployed and education. He was responsible for the formation of the Mayor's entertainment committee and subsequently the Garrison Entertainments. During the war John was the Chairman of the first ENSA (The Entertainments National Service Association) music club for workers. John was a co-opted member of the Public Assistance Committee and also involved in the push for a new telephone exchange as had been agreed by the Postmaster General Earl De La Warr. John was Chairman of the Cleansing, Welfare and Parks Committees and became an Alderman in his mayoralty year. Also in that year was the centenary of the Weaver's Association and the Jubilee of the Chamber of Trade.

John was a founder of St. James's cricket and tennis club—later to become Blackburn Northern. He was the manager of St. James's Day School and a governor of the Grammar School. He and Eliza had three children, two girls and a boy who went into business with him. Eliza died on the 4th of May 1963 aged fifty one and John died on the 19th of July 1969 at the age of seventy eight. According to probate at John's death the proceeds were £6280.
Much of the above information is from local newspaper articles including the Northern Daily Telegraph of October 1954, the Blackburn Times of December 1954 and December 1960.
Janet Burke

Mayor of Blackburn 1955-56​

Houghton was the son of Henry, a newsagent, stationer and general dealer, and his wife Agnes who helped in the business. He had three sisters and at the census of 1911 they lived at 1, St. Thomas Street. Houghton was fifteen that year, born on the 23rd of March 1896 and when the war broke out in 1914 he had a commission for three years in the Royal Welsh Regiment and Northumberland Fusiliers. On the 28th of January 1916 he was gazetted with the rank of Captain in the Border Regiment (Service Battalion). In July 1921 Houghton married Doris Hopwood and in 1939 they lived at 2, Seven Trees Avenue when he was working as a railway clerk. He became the chief clerk in the goods yard at Bamber Bridge Station
Houghton was elected to the council as the Labour representative for St. Stephen's Ward in 1928. He became the Chairman of the gas committee and was chosen to be a member of the North West Gas Consultative Council by the Minister of Fuel. He lost his seat in 1931 but was re-elected in 1932 as the representative for St. Paul's Ward and served continuously until 1945 when he became an Alderman. Houghton was also the Chairman of the Railway Clerks Association retiring in 1937. He was a member of many committees including that of lighting which under his leadership well advanced the conversion of street lighting to modern standards. For twenty years Houghton was a member of the Co-Operative society Board and also on the Board of the N.E. Lancashire Co-Operative Dairies. He was a governor of the Girls High School for some years and was asked to open the new YHA centre on Clayton Street - Blackburn was one of the most active in the country.

Houghton played cricket and football for St. Matthews and also football for the Technical College. He was a member of the now defunct Crellin Best Orchestra which used to play at Chapel Street church gatherings and had a keen interest in the development of community theatre. Houghton collapsed at the Town Hall and died on the 16th of May 1956 at his home just eight days before the end of his mayoralty - he was the fifth mayor to die in his year of office. He was just sixty years old in 1956 and left his widow Doris and a married daughter. Probate was granted to Doris and the proceeds were £3052-9s. Much of the above information is contained in the articles of the Blackburn Times of July 23rd 1949 and May 25th 1956.
Janet Burke

William Alfred Henshall MC​
083 William Alfred Henshall MC 1956-1957.jpg
 Mayor of Blackburn 1956-57
William was born in Beswick a district of Manchester in September 1895. His father Alfred was a warehouseman and his mother Alice Emma a housewife although in 1911 there were three boarders in the family home as well as William and his younger sister Grace Alice. William was educated at Manchester Grammar School and in 1912 was a clerk in the marine department of the Royal Exchange. In 1915 he left to join the army in the Public Schools Brigade of the Royal Fusiliers and entered France on the 14th of November 1915, he then was commissioned on the 25th of September 1916 to the Manchester Regiment and finally transferred to the Machine Gun Corps in 1917. William was wounded five times, gassed and temporarily blinded and in 1918 was awarded the Military Cross for gallantry in active land operations against the enemy and ended his service as a lieutenant. William was awarded the 14-15 Star, the British War and Victory medals. On demobilisation in 1919 he took a rehabilitation course in commerce and in March 1920 was appointed an inspector to the Guardian Association Company of Blackburn but in 1928 he left to open a sub-branch in Blackburn for the Licences and General Insurance Company. William spent his working life in insurance and was founder- president of the Blackburn and Burnley Insurance Institute.

He was the founder secretary of the Blackburn Rotary Club in 1921 and a founder member of the Blackburn Garrick Society and the Samlesbury Players. In 1922 he joined the Blackburn Amateur Operatic and Dramatic Society becoming President in 1956. In 1926 he was producer for the St. Silas' Lyric Society for the production of Gilbert and Sullivan operas – a position he held until the war. William in 1962 was awarded a bar to the NODA medal for his forty years-service to amateur dramatics in Blackburn. William married Sylvia Alice Clemminson Morgan on the 6th of July 1927 at the parish church of St. Agnes, Birch in Rushholme, his occupation was described as a general insurance inspector – they lived at 135, Lammack Road for all their married life.

William was a member of St. Michael's Conservative Association and was elected a councillor for that ward in 1937 – he remained a member for St. Michael's Ward until made an Alderman in 1954. He was Chairman of the Public Library Committee for twenty three years and served on numerous other committees – in 1972 he became leader of the Conservative Group. As Chairman of the Education Committee he opened the new Technical College and Pleckgate School. In 1939 William, with the rank of Captain, mobilised a national defence company under the Territorial Reserve which later became part of the Border Regiment. In May 1940 he took command of a military police company and in 1943 was appointed the Camp Commandant of Hadrian's Staging Camp from which he was demobbed in 1945.

During his Mayoralty William launched an appeal for Guide dogs for the Blind which led to the establishment of a training centre at Bolton opened by Princess Alexandra. He also opened the new workshops for the blind in Mill Hill on the 25th of April 1957. William had the honour of unveiling the stand commemorating the four Blackburn men who had been awarded the Victoria Cross. He was twice mayor as a result of the unfortunate death of Mr. Dowdall who had followed him in 1957 and Williim finally retired from politics in 1974 when local government was reorganised. On the 9th of April 1976 William died suddenly, aged eighty, he was cremated at Blackburn's new crematorium in Pleasington which he had opened in September 1956 when he was mayor. Probate was granted to his widow Sylvia and the proceeds were £7,131.
Much of the above information comes from the Blackburn Times of March 29th 1963 and September 5th 1975.​
Janet Burke

Mayor of Blackburn 1957​

Herbert was born on the 26th of December 1882 to Edward and Catherine who were from Ireland. Herbert was born in Rochdale but on the census of 1891 the family had moved to West Street, Blackburn and his father was working in the paper mill. At eleven years of age Herbert worked as a half timer in a cotton mill at Cherry Tree, when he was fourteen, he started work at the Sun Paper Mill where he worked for twenty years. He joined the Feniscowles branch of the National Union of Printing, Bookbinding and Paper Workers in 1912 becoming secretary of the branch in 1921 and finally retired in 1947. Herbert was a member of the union's national executive and the North West Group Committee of which he was chairman several times - for six years he was on the Convalescent Home Committee for the union. 

Herbert was elected to the council in 1929 for St. Mark's Ward and in 1934 represented St. Luke’s Ward becoming a Justice of the Peace in 1941 and an Alderman in 1954. He was a member of the Public Assistance Committee from the early thirties until it was superseded by the National Assistance Board. He became chairman of the Welfare and the Hostels Committees but due to health issues had to relinquish these and a number of his other activities. At the age of seventy four Herbert was invited to be the mayor and was Blackburn's third Roman Catholic mayor. He was connected to St. Anne’s Church and latterly St. Peter's in Mill Hill where he lived on Penzance Street. Herbert had married Mary Jane Brown in April 1908 at St. Peters and throughout her life she was a very prominent member of that church, they had two sons and a daughter.
Herbert died suddenly at his home on the 17th of December 1957 becoming the fifth mayor to die whilst still in office. Probate was granted to his widow Mary Jane and the proceeds were £407-3s-5d.
Janet Burke

​​​​George Haworth
086 George Haworth Mayor of Blackburn 1958-1959.jpg
Mayor of Blackburn 1958-59

George was born on the 9th of August 1892 and came from a large family. His father Giles was an Inspector of Postmen and in 1901 they lived at 446, Whalley New Road. George went to St. Gabriel's school and left at the age of twelve to be a half-timer in a mill. He left a year later to work on a farm called Holly Bank in Wilpshire where he earned a shilling a week plus board. Six years later he changed to butchering and became a familiar figure at auctions and agricultural shows. He started his own business in 1918 and that year in September he married Nellie, also called Haworth, from Langho. George had volunteered for war service but had been rejected on medical grounds. Nellie and George had two daughters and a son.

In 1931 George was elected to the council for St. Stephen's Ward but lost his seat three years later. In 1935 he regained the seat and held it until 1943 when he became an alderman - two years later he was deposed when the Labour Party took control of the council. Whilst not a councillor for Blackburn he took interest in the rural council and in 1945 represented Ramsgreave. In 1947 George regained St. Stephen's Ward and in 1951 was made an alderman once more. He was a past president of St. Stephen's Conservative Association. When asked to be mayor he hoped to be just himself and became one of the most popular and successful mayors. He was well known by the older folks who loved to hear him reciting Lancashire poems at their clubs in and around Blackburn.

George was one of the mill town mayors who tried unsuccessfully to gain an audience with the Prime Minister, Harold Macmillan, regarding the cotton crisis and was also part of a deputation to the Board of Trade to press for Blackburn to be included in a development area, which again was unsuccessful. He was Chairman of the Markets Committee and supported the proposed new market scheme, which estimated that more than sixty four thousand shoppers used the market every week. He was Chairman also of the Sewage and Allotments Committees and the Salvage Committee. He was a keen supporter of the Anti-Litter Campaign to make Blackburn the cleanest town and this was backed by the school authorities. A sad event of his mayoral year was the shooting, in Brewery Street, of Detective Inspector James O'Donnell in December 1958. See article, The Brewery Street Siege​.
He was a past President of the Blackburn and District Master Butchers Association and one of his annual duties was to carve the turkey at the Orphanage. George was a member of Wilpshire Golf Club and made President in 1956. On his retirement he kept a small holding at his home Smithfield in Wilpshire where on the ninth of May 1968 he died suddenly at the age of seventy five. At probate the proceeds were £4825. 
Much of this information is from Ancestry and the Evening Telegraph of May, July and December 1958 and May 1968.​

Janet Burke

​​back to top​​

John Makinson Lomax
087 John Makinson Lomax 1959-1960.jpg
Mayor of Blackburn 1959-60

John was born on the 11th of September 1888 and in the census of 1901 was living with his grandparents on Whalley Range and working as an errand boy at a cotton mill. In 1911 he was living with his grandfather, now a widower aged eighty two, at 106 Randle Street and his occupation was a sheet metal worker. John married Margaret Ann Atkinson at Holy Trinity Church on the 14th of February 1914 and their daughter Elizabeth was born later that year. In 1939 he and Margaret were living at 75, Addison Street. John worked with the English Electric Company, Ribble Motors at Preston and lastly with Wright Hargreaves Engineering Company in Blackburn.

John was a Labour councillor and elected as the representative for St. Mary's Ward in 1919. He lost that seat at the next election and in 1923 was elected to represent Trinity Ward which he then lost in 1925 but was re-elected in 1927. John represented the Sheet Metal Workers Union and was in business on his own account in that trade.

On the council he served for twenty years in four terms and resigned in 1930 for health reasons. His health improved and he was returned unopposed in St. Luke's Ward - a seat he held in two subsequent contests. He became an Alderman in 1956 and took the office of Mayor when James Whitehead was unable to do so for health reasons. He was Chairman of the Music and Entertainments sub-committee, Vice-chairman of the Markets Committee and a member of Blackburn Trades Council and the Labour Party Executive for over forty Years. John was connected with the sheet metal industry for more than fifty years and held the position of Union Secretary for thirty three years and branch official for thirty seven years.

John and Margaret finally lived in a flat, number 11b, on Montague Street. Margaret died in July 1973 aged eighty one and John died in a nursing home in January 1978 aged eighty nine. 

Some of the above information is contained in the Blackburn Times dated 5th. November 1927 and January 1978.​
Janet Burke

James Whitehead
088 James Whitehead 1960-1961.jpg​​

Mayor of Blackburn 1960-61

James was born on the 15th of March 1889 to John and Mary Jane and had seven brothers and sisters. In 1901 the family lived on Pitt Street and James, aged twelve, started work as a half-timer whilst attending St. John's school. He worked as a lather boy at a hairdresser's shop on Lower Audley Street and then as an errand boy at a grocer's shop. James married Sarah Jane Barton at Holy Trinity Church on the 19th of May 1913 and they went on to have two sons Ronald and Edmond. James then worked as an iron moulder at Foster, Yates and Thom until 1927 when he became an Insurance Agent for the Co-operative Society. He became a founder member of the Co-operative Society's Education Committee and of the Men's Guild and by 1939 James and Sarah were living on Queens Park Road.

James was elected to the council as the representative for St. Matthews Ward in 1935 - a seat he held for twenty five years and he was an active member of the Labour Party for over forty years. He was the Chairman of the Health Committee, former Chairman of the Allotment's Committee and during the war Chairman of the Holidays at Home and Mayor's Entertainment Committee. He took a particular interest in the town's Garrison Theatre which was a popular Sunday night's entertainment, attended by many thousands of servicemen stationed in the district. He was also an active supporter of the Territorial Army recruiting campaign. James represented the council on Blackburn and District Hospital Management Committee and the Number 5 Divisional Health Executive Council. His voice was well known as he was one of the panel of speakers who gave running commentary on Rover's home matches over hospital internal broadcasting systems. James retired in 1955 and that same year was made an Alderman. He was invited to be the Mayor at the age of seventy one and accepted after taking medical advice. He relinquished his chairmanship of several committees and also ceased to be the secretary of the Labour Group on the Town Council as the position of Mayor was non-political. James was a Borough Magistrate for twenty three years retiring in 1964. 

James died in Clitheroe hospital on the 25th of December 1966 aged seventy seven—probate  was granted to Sarah his widow and the proceeds were £427.​
Janet Burke

George Gillibrand​
Mayor of Blackburn 1961-62​​

George was a successful businessman in the rubber industry having his works at Crossfield Mill, Grimshaw Park. He had started out as a vulcaniser and tyre dealer and came to own thirty six petrol stations throughout the nortkburn 1959-60h-west and midlands which led to him living away from Blackburn for over ten years. George married Vera Carter, a shop assistant, in 1921 but she died in 1926 and he married again in August 1927 Annie Constance Griffiths, a weaver from Great Harwood. George returned to Blackburn in 1941 and his company made many household gadgets including pegs, as suggested by his wife, and they were made at nineteen dozen per minute. His company was responsible for flooring in the Vatican and the cruise ship Andreadora, and by 1965 they were making components for the aircraft and engineering industries and exporting to Europe, Canada, Australia and South Africa. George was a champion for the over forties in the workplace and saw the central development plan as a challenge for the "soaring sixties". At the change of the parliamentary boundaries he became Chairman of the West Constituency Conservative Association and played a large part in the completed and the then contemplated town centre development.

George had attended the Grammar School and later became a governor and also a governor of St. Mary's College. He was a member of the Friends of Samlesbury Hall and Blackburn Antiquarians and the President of Blackburn Arts Club.  George had been a member of the town council since 1947 being the Conservative member for St. Mark's Ward up to 1963. He was particularly interested in education and was the Vice-chairman of the Education Committee. George was the founder of the Common Good Trust Fund.

George's great grandfather John had been present at the inauguration ceremony of Blackburn's first mayor in 1851 and his grandfather had been the agent for Sir Harry Hornby. George attended St. Silas's Church and lived at Arley Close, Wyfordby Avenue. He died at his home aged sixty seven on the 25th of May 1968 leaving his widow, Constance, a daughter and three grandchildren - at probate the proceeds were £28,869.

Much of this information is from the Evening Telegraph dated the 3rd. of March 1961 and May 1968 and also from the site Ancestry.
Janet Burke

Margaret McNamee
1963_02_pr40_mcna003 ct new.jpg
 Mayor of Blackburn 1962-63

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.

​​back to top​​

Frank Wilkinson
091 Frank Wilkinson Mayor of Blackburn 1963-1964.jpg​​​

Mayor of Blackburn 1963-64

Frank was born in Blackburn on the 12th of June 1899 and served in the Welsh Regiment, later the Royal Welsh Fusiliers in the Great War. He was awarded the British War and Victory medals. In October 1923 Frank married Ruth Broughton and they had a son Keith William. They lived at 69, Shadsworth Road and Frank worked for the railways as a guard in the goods yard. He was the secretary of the local branch of the National Union of Railways and was re-elected as President of Blackburn Trades Council and Labour Party in 1950.
On becoming the Mayor one of his top priorities was to create the right climate for Blackburn's industrial advancement and began a series of goodwill visits to local factories. After a lifetime of experience in the Trade Union movement and knowing the problems that crop up in labour relations he was a good ambassador to industry as a whole. Frank was keen to retain the established industries and to gain new ones. He was Chairman of the Children's Committee and, because of his work with children, the Children's Home at Shadsworth was named Wilkinson House. Frank was the Chairman of the Highways Committee and the new Building Committee. He was also a director of Blackburn Co-operative Society and a Borough Magistrate. One of the events of the mayoral year was the Mayor's Ball but Frank called this off in his year as its attraction had ebbed and it had steadily lost money.
Frank worked for the railways for over fifty years but at the age of sixty six he died in Withnell Hospital on the 23rd of October 1965 leaving his widow Ruth and son Keith - at probate the proceeds were £2729.

Much of this information is from the Blackburn Times of the 31st. of March 1950 and October 1965 and the Evening Telegraph of August 1963.​
Janet Burke

Francis W. Bram​well
092 Frances Bramwell Mayor of Blackburn 1964-1965.jpg
 Mayor of Blackburn 1964-65

Francis was born in Hulme, Manchester on the 22nd of September 1900. His father was an upholsterer and died at the young age of twenty five. His mother Ellen remarried and Francis and his older sister Fanny then had two step-brothers. Francis, at the age of twenty, began his political career after service in the Rhine Army of Occupation in 1919 and 1920. He was Chairman of Beswick Conservative Association and served the party in Manchester for some twenty five years. He had become a Yarn Agent and a member of Manchester Royal Exchange and worked in that industry until made redundant at the age of fifty nine. Francis married Mary Scowcroft, also from Manchester, on the 31st of July 1931. In their youth they had both worked in barber’s shops - Mary's father being the owner of one. They moved to Blackburn in 1939 when Francis gained employment as a Yarn Salesman for John Dugdale & sons and on moving to Blackburn Francis became a special constable, then a sergeant in 1940 and finally retired in 1961. Francis and Mary had four children - a son and three girls.

Francis was the Conservative councillor for St. Stephen's Ward from 1950 to 1974. He was a former magistrate and also a former President and Chairman of St. Stephen's Ward Conservative Association and Club. He was the Chairman of the Civil Defence Committee, Vice-chairman of the Lighting Committee and the Music and Entertainments Committee.  He served on many other committees including Civic Development, Highways and Works, Town Hall and Public Baths, Libraries and Youth Employment. As a welfare officer for the cotton industry he welcomed the first contingent of European voluntary workers who took jobs in Blackburn cotton mills after the Second World War and helped to resolve their settlement problems. When Francis was made an Alderman his wife Mary won his seat at St. Stephen's Ward.

On being made redundant Francis entered the licenced trade with his wife Mary taking the Balaclava Public House on Watford Street and at the age of sixty three was invited to be the mayor with his wife Mary the mayoress. In 1964 Francis had the honour of making the inaugural telephone call to London that linked Blackburn and Darwen with the STD system (Subscriber Trunk Dialling).
Francis died at his home on Whalley Old Road, Sunny Bower in July 1975 aged seventy four.​
Janet Burke

​​back to top​​

Lawrence Edwards
Mayor of Blackburn 1965-66
Lawrence was born in Rochdale on the 20th of July 1907 to George and Theresa and had a younger sister called Margaret. It seems that his father G​eorge was a sergeant in the Lancashire Fusiliers and was killed on the 24th of April 1916. According to a published family tree on Ancestry, Lawrence, his sister Margaret and his cousin Tony Loftus spent time in County Wicklow during the Great War. Lawrence became the managing clerk for Henry Backhouse & Son, a firm of solicitors in Blackburn and in 1939 was living with his mother at 6, Mary Street, Blackburn.

It was reported in the Blackburn Times of December 1951 that Lawrence had, for the past two years, been a member of the Clerical and Administrative Workers Trade Group Committee for the North West. He had been elected as one of the two delegates for the North West Region on the General Executive Council of the Transport and General Workers Union for 1952-53 and was to serve also on the regional committee. On the Council Lawrence represented St. Francis's Ward and before several boundaries had been withdrawn, he had represented St. Peter's Ward. Lawrence was Chairman of Blackburn Finance Committee when £10,000 was given towards the Cathedral restoration. He was connected with the setting up of the West End Catholic Youth Club and was a governor at Notre Dame Girls School, St. Mary's College and John Rigby Secondary School. After the death of Frank Wilkinson, Lawrence was next in line for the Aldermanic Bench - this was likely to cause a struggle with the Liberals when his seat at St. Matthews became vacant.

Lawrence's mother Theresa died in 1957 and he was then free to marry Mary Tomlinson in December 1958. They lived together at Mary's house 36, York Crescent, Wilpshire until his death on the 6th of March 1980. Lawrence was seventy two and at probate the proceeds were £17,560.
Janet Burke

Edith Railton
Mayor of Blackburn 1966-67
Edith was born in 1903, her parents were Henry and Isabella Hopper - sometimes shown as Hooper. In 1931 she married James Railton, a window cleaner, and at the census return of 1939 the family, comprising Edith's parents and James's brothers Harrison and Fred lived at 223, Queen Victoria Street. Edith and James had one daughter Madge who became very well known as the actress Madge Hindle.

Edith became the third lady mayor and Madge aged twenty seven, served as her mother's mayoress - this was also the third occasion for a mother and daughter to be mayor and mayoress. Edith was an active member of the Labour Party, she was Chairman of the Estates and Housing Committee, Vice-chairman of the Library Committee and secretary of the music section of the Blackburn Festival. It was usual that retiring mayors were re-elected unopposed but Dorothy Ashworth, a Liberal candidate, stood against Edith and defeated her in May 1967.

Edith died on the 27th of July 1979 at the age of seventy six having served on the council for more than twenty years. She was living at 4, Beardwood Brow and at probate the proceeds were £9173.
Janet Burke

​​back to top​​

​Florence E. Lewis​
Mayor of Blackburn 1967-68
Florence was the daughter of William and Florinda born on the 20th of May 1913. William's father had been a quarry master and William became a stone mason before starting his own business as a builder. Florence went to Blackburn High School and finished her education at the Technical College. The family lived at The Croft, off Shear Brow until moving to 16, Lammack Road. In 1939 Florence lived there with her father William and her brothers Neville and Edgar until moving to Beardwood Brow where a house had been built for her by the family firm.

Since 1956 Florence represented St. Michael's Ward as the Conservative candidate, she became the Chairman of the Women's Division Advisory Committee of Blackburn's Conservatives and chairman of St. Michael's Ward branch. Florence was the chairman of many committees including Housing, Social Services, Children and Health and served on Blackburn & District Association for Family Social Work, the War Pensions Committee, Calderstones Hospital Management Committee and Queens Park House Committee. She was on the Social Services Valuation Panel, Blackburn Health Executive Council and a member of the East Lancs Deaf and Dumb Society. She was also a Borough Magistrate and became Blackburn's fourth Lady Mayor choosing her young niece Gwenda as her Mayoress. She supported the proposal for a civic theatre but with an air of caution regarding public expenditure. Florence took over as mayor at a time when the loss of power by the Labour Party could make conducting council business more difficult. An approved school had been granted to Blackburn which put the town on a par with larger towns. Some year’s later Florence put her name forward as a candidate for the new county elections but was unsuccessful.

Florence died in December 2005 having reached the age of ninety two.

Much of the above information is taken fron Lancashire Evening Telegraph articles of May 1967, January and February 1968 and February 1973.
Janet Burke


​​back to top​​

Arthur Rigby
Mayor of Blackburn 1968-69
Arthur was born in Blackburn on the 21st of December 1895 to William Horrocks Rigby, a cotton cloth designer from Bolton, and his wife Jane. He had two older sisters and two brothers. At the census of 1911 the family lived at 12, Queens Park Terrace. Arthur was fifteen and a grocer's assistant but come the war of 1914-18 he enlisted. He was wounded and lost his leg. He then began work as a clerk on the Railways, a job he held for many years. In 1920 he married Elizabeth Cranshaw and they had a daughter Constance born in 1921. When the second-world war came Arthur was a Lieutenant in the Home Guard. Arthur retired as a cashier at Burnley in 1955 after a career of forty four years.

Arthur was a Labour councilor and served for twenty eight years before the reorganization of the Council in 1974. He had been very much concerned with the conversion of street lighting from gas to electricity and an initiative for the town called "operation Spring clean". Arthur was made an Alderman four years before becoming Mayor and Mrs. Kathleen Rigby, his daughter-in-law, accepted the position of Mayoress as Arthur's wife was not in good health.
Arthur died on the 27th of August 1983 aged eighty seven and at probate the proceeds were said not to exceed £40,000.
Janet Burke

​​back to top​​

Edmond Gregson
Mayor of Blackburn 1969-70
Edmund was born on the 19th of February 1898 to James and Nancy. At the census of 1901 the family with eight children in all, lived at the Kings Head on King Street where James was the licensee. Edmund left school at thirteen to work in the mill and later worked on the railways, starting as a passenger tank cleaner in 1915. After six years he became a fireman and spare driver and finally was a goods train driver operating mainly between Carlisle and Crewe. In April 1919 Edmund married Evelyn Brindle and together they had a son, James B. and a daughter Marjorie - by 1939 they were living at 7, Finsbury Place

Edmund retired in 1963 having served the railways for forty five years. He had been Chairman and also assistant secretary of the Amalgamated Society of the Locomotive Engineers and Firemen and was a Shop Steward at the former Lower Darwen locomotive shed. Edmund was also a prominent Conservative and was elected as the representative for St. Andrew's ward in 1961. He became the Chairman of the Council's Accident Prevention Committee and Vice Chairman of the Lancashire, Cumberland and Westmorland Accident Prevention Federation. He was Chairman of the Cleansing Committee. This was reported in an article from the Evening Telegraph dated the 6th of March 1969.

Edmund's wife Evelyn died in 1980 aged eighty two, and Edmund, aged eighty six, died on the 14th of July 1984 at 3, Douglas Place. Probate was granted to his son and daughter and the proceeds were said not to exceed £40,000.
Janet Burke