Friday, June 23, 2006

Harry Marshall

Harry Marshall

It is with great sadness that we learn of the death of one of South Shields greatest servants Harry Marshall.

Harry was one of the founder members of the South Shields Progressive Association formed from the older Rent and Ratepayers Party, he was the last non-Labour Leader of the old South Shields Borough Council and also served as a distinguished Mayor.

Harry was instrumental in pursuing the pioneering policy of selling council houses to their tenants between 1970 and 1974, when a great many people took advantage of the scheme to become homeowners; this , of course was long before the advent of "Thatcherism". He was also responsible for the building of the Leisure Centre on Temple Memorial Park. Under his leadership the town expanded with the building of the Holder House Estate at Whiteleas, and large areas of slums were cleared along the riverside after many years of neglect, and the central area between Westoe, Chichester, and Laygate was rebuilt.

Another of Harry's great interests was sport and he was widely respected for his enthusiasm and commitment to the South Shields Sports Week, the forerunner to the Catherine Cookson Festival (recently renamed The Summer Festival.) Sports week featured competitive activities for all ages as well as the annual opening parade. For many years after, Harry remained closely attached to some of the associations and clubs that he fostered during those days.

I first met Harry in 1976 after offering my help to the Progressives for an election campaign, my first impressions were of a very cheerful, pipe smoking gentleman who loved nothing better than to regale his company with knowledgeable tales of South Shields of yore, having spent a professional life as an accountant he had a great analytical memory. I never expected to get the call from him to nominate me as a Progressive candidate a couple of years later, and whilst being interviewed at his basement office in Beach Road he was able to shock me with his total recall of our earlier meeting and the subjects we discussed, as a young man I was somewhat in awe. He taught me that political dogma is as good as useless to most people in this area, and that what most people were interested in was good value services at reasonable cost, and that South Shields people are proud of their Tyneside roots "so don't mess around with them"

Although Harry was a Progressive and anti-Labour in his thinking, he certainly had no thoughts of joining any national political organisation, he was very independent in his thinking and cared only for this area and it's people, he would probably have offered "a plague on all of their houses" in respect of Tory, Labour, or Liberal at the time.

In more recent times, since his retirement I could often rely on a good old chinwag with him at the bar of the Snooker Club in Chichester Road, where he would be mentally composing his next letter to the Editor of the Shields Gazette.

Harry died peacefully, yesterday at the age of 92 after succumbing to the rigours of a long and hard working life, selflessing giving most of it to others. He leaves two daughters Marjorie and Enid (both Councillors) and a son David. His funeral will take place at St. Michael and all Angels on Wednesday 28th. June at 10.15


The Shields Gazette

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