Tributes paid to former councillor Kenneth Blackburn -”a true gentleman”

Former councillor Kenneth Blackburn
Former councillor Kenneth Blackburn

A Conservative councillor, described by his colleagues as a “true gentleman”, has died, aged 90.

Kenneth Blackburn was known for an unfailing commitment to his community and for crossing party boundaries with his friendships.

He died last week after a short stay in hospital.

Former Conservative group leader and good friend Mike Walker can fondly remember the late MP Walter Harrison singing ‘Happy Birthday’ to Mr Blackburn at the top of his voice, when he turned 80.

He said: “Kenneth was very special – so helpful, caring, kind, courteous and absolutely reliable. He was always interested in politics and was all about helping those less fortunate than himself.”

Mr Blackburn attended Sandal Council School until he was nine, and then transferred to Queen Elizabeth Grammar School (QEGS).

He joined the Merchant Navy in 1940, and continued at sea until his father died in 1962.

He returned home to live with his mother in Belle Vue, before they moved to St John’s.

Mr Blackburn had longstanding family connections with the United Reformed Church (URC), where he was an elder, attending Zion Church, on George Street and then the URC at Flanshaw.

Mr Walker added: “Kenneth was a very good friend to me for many years.

“He was a private person and fiercely independent. He despised any form of boastfulness and snobbery.”

Mr Blackburn was a councillor for Wakefield North, Wakefield Central and Stanley and Wrenthorpe.

He was known for his exemplary attendance record at council meetings, and continued to sit in on meetings as a member of the public once he had stood down.

Other councillors paid tribute to Mr Blackburn at a meeting of full council on Wednesday.

Deputy mayor Laurie Harrison said Mr Blackburn was “an example of good manners and respectfulness”.

He said: “He will be sadly missed – but if his legacy of human relationships and having respect for each other continues, then he will have been successful in what he always aspired to be.”

Current Conservative group leader Coun Geoff Walsh said Mr Blackburn was “an interesting character and a true gentleman”.

Council leader Coun Peter Box said: “Ken was a familiar figure in the Town Hall and at council meetings for many years and will be sadly missed by all who knew him.”

Mr Blackburn’s funeral will take place at Flanshaw URC, on Flanshaw Lane, on Tuesday from 1pm.