Long-standing Dales councillor and champion of the Upper Dales John Blackie dies

Cllr John Blackie.

Long-standing Dales councillor and champion of the Upper Dales John Blackie has died following a long battle with cancer.

The 70-year-old father-of-three, who had seven grandchildren, died at 5.30am this morning at the Friarage Hospital in Northallerton.

He had fought a long battle with cancer and was admitted to hospital in recent days with pneumonia and sepsis.

He died with his family at his bedside.

Partner Jill McMullon described John as the ‘most remarkable man’.

She added: “He cared deeply about the people he represented and continue to do so until the end.

“Even in hospital he was giving me instructions of things that needed doing. He fought cancer as hard as he fought for the people of the Upper Dales.

“He was a champion of the Upper Dales and his legacy will live following the tireless work he has done.

“He was a passionate campaigner for the NHS and it is fitting that he should pass away at the Friarage Hospital which he led a march to save in 2012.

“The family would like to thank the staff at the Friarage for their amazing professionalism and care in recent days. Other than home there was no place John would have rather been lived his days than at that hospital.”

Jill has asked that his family be given some space to grieve.

Cllr Stuart Parsons, chairman of Richmondshire District Council, said he was greatly saddened by Cllr Blackie’s death, adding: “I have lost a great friend and colleague.”

He said: “The council has also lost of the best community advocates possible and he will be severely missed.

“Fortunately, due to all the work he has done over the years in the Upper Dales, the library, the Little White Bus, the petrol and so much more, his legacy will live on.”

Richmondshire district councillor Yvonne Peacock said Cllr Blackie would be greatly missed.

“I was very upset when I heard this morning.

“John has been a champion of the people of the Upper Dales for many years. We have worked together for more than 20 years and I was only speaking to him at the weekend about some planning issue that we were working together on.”

Known for his boundless energy, eloquent speeches, intolerance of bureaucracy and his constant championing of what he described as the “deeply rural” Upper Dales, Cllr Blackie served the area for more than 20 years.

North Yorkshire County Council leader Carl Les has also paid tribute to the community leader.

“We have lost a very energetic member of the county council who brought some far reaching and innovative solutions to many of the problems that we all face.

“He was a great advocate for the people of the Upper Dales.”

The chairman of the Yorkshire Dales National Park, Carl Lis added: “I’ve worked alongside Cllr Blackie since we joined the newly created National Park Authority in 1996.

“I can honestly say I’ve never come across anyone that possessed such energy and passion for social and economic issues that affected his community.

“I’m obviously aware of the many political controversies that arose during his time as a Councillor but I think his lasting legacy will be the work he was involved in that has led to Hawes being recognised as one of the most self sufficient towns in the Country.

“I think that legacy should be shared with  as many others as possible and I’d like to look at how the Park might celebrate that achievement in the coming weeks.

“In the meantime can I offer my condolences to Cllr Blackie’s family and ask that we respect their request to be allowed the time to grieve the loss of their father and grandfather.”

Richmond MP Rishi Sunak also paid tribute to the councillor.

He said: “I was a saddened to hear about the passing of John Blackie.

“He was a true community champion who always had the interests of the Upper Dales communities at the top of his agenda, and I had huge respect for him.

“What he achieved in Hawes with the community office, the Little White Bus, the filling station and many other initiatives will be a lasting and fitting memorial to his years of public service.

“My thoughts are with his family and friends.”

Holly Wilkinson, who leads the Save the Friarage Campaign, also paid tribute to the councillor.

She said: “JHe was a figure that many people including myself looked up to and respected dearly.

“When I first started out on my Save the Friarage Hospital Campaign, he was the first one I knew I could turn to for advice and support.

“Although he had his own health problems to contend with, he gave me as much help and encouragement as he could and was always on hand if ever I got stuck and needed help.

“I am speaking for many people that he ever came into contact with, he was a man of his word and always put his money where his mouth was and has now left a void that will be nigh on impossible to fill.”

Cllr Blackie was chair of Hawes and High Abbotside Parish Council, a district councillor and former leader at Richmondshire District Council, a county councillor for the Upper Dales and a member of Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority. He also stood at the last general election as an independent.

As well as being a long-standing campaigner for local NHS services, affordable housing, local schools, winter gritting and rural policing were just a few of the many issues he fought to improve in the district.

Born in Hertfordshire he moved to the Dales in 1995 and ran a holiday cottage business in Hawes.

He was elected to Richmondshire District Council in 1995 as an independent.

He later joined the Conservative Party and became the leader of the council after being reelected in 2003. However, he was ousted as leader in 2005 following a row over his “confrontational” manner.

However, he became leader again six months later following an agreement between the Lib Dems and the Conservatives.

In 2008, Cllr Blackie was then expelled from the Conservatives following a feud with colleagues.

The decision followed several years of bad feeling between the councillor and senior members of the association.

The row had already led to Coun Blackie being prevented from sitting as a Conservative on Richmondshire District Council.

Police has earlier handed the councilor a penalty notice for disorder after he accosted members of the association and called them scum at a civic dinner.

However, he was found not guilty of using threatening words or behaviour against Councillor Melva Steckles after a two-day trial and was awarded costs following the court case.

The councillor later blamed the outburst on his belief that the association has used his recent battle with cancer to try to oust him from the group.

At an earlier association meeting, a proposal was put forward to expel Cllr Blackie because his membership had lapsed. However, the councillor said he only failed to renew his membership because he was being treated his illness.

He was reelected as an independent and went on to lead the council again in 2011.

In recent years, Cllr Blackie has overseen the community takeover of a number of key services in Hawes, including the town’s petrol station, library, the Little White Bus service and the post and community office.

The move attracted positive headlines from the national media with one newspaper describing Hawes as the ‘town that refused to die’.

27 Comments

  1. So sorry to see this news, he was a lovely man who did his absolute best for the people he represented. He was a wonderful colourful character who will be very much missed. RIP sir you have done your bit.

  2. Such sad sad news about John Blackie. A great man for the upper dales. He will be missed for all the support he has given to the Community. Deepest sympathy to all his family.

  3. So very very sad to hear this news , what a loss to his family and to the Dales …😪

  4. So sorry to hear this sad news. He was a true warrior of the local cause. Rest peacefully John x.

  5. This is extremely sad news. The Upper Dales has lost a great advocate and champion. John will be sorely missed.

  6. You were a voice for fair play and a champion of our environment. The world is a poorer place without you

  7. Rest easy John..your work in the Dales will live on. A real fighter for the cause you believed in.

  8. Sad news this morning that you’ve passed away loosing your battle 💙🙏.,
    But Wow 😮!!😀what a fantastic legacy to leave behind John 👍❤️., you didn’t loose many battles J😊., by the sound of things 🥰., and this one you fought bravely to the end 🙏🥰
    Love and Condolences to all your family xxx❤️🙏
    R.I.P John saddled missed 💙

  9. So very sad to read this awful news today. He was one of the best and will be sorely missed by everyone. Deepest condolences to his family. Sweet dreams John Blackie. x

  10. Irrespective of what you thought about JB there isn’t anyone in the Upper Dales that has done more for the community, than him. I doubt if there is anyone who can fill his shoes! The greatest tribute you can pay to John is to ensure that his hard work and endeavours continue to go from strength to strength.
    No more pain, RIP.
    John Walker

  11. John was an amazingly hard working and out spoken Councillor. He fought hard for the Upper Dales and will be sadly missed. I did not always agree with him but I did respect him.

  12. This is such sad news I have just heard from a friend . John was a great man and champion for locacal people . He will be sadly missed

  13. A great man who championed the Dales and the Dales communities with every ounce of himself. It was an honour to deliver services alongside him. Rest in peace John, a good fight well fought.

  14. One of the finer men in life… boss and friend- he will be greatly missed by hawes folk and all the people he helped. Rest in Peace John. ⛪😓⛪

  15. So sad to hear, For a man not born in the dales he was a passionate champion of the Dales. Over the years Hawes has been blessed by two great social entrepreneurs Kit Calvert and John Blackie. John was a real inspiration.

  16. John was a tremendous man. He was able to mobile people and policies to achieve real outcomes for real people. He did not have to shmooze for votes, like so many, he got them because he delivered time after time after time. Working with you John, was one of my greatest pleasures. The world will not be the same without you, but more importantly the world would not be as it is had you not been here. Thank you John.

    • Thank you John for all you did to help to preserve our beautiful countryside. You fought tirelessly on our behalf. Rest in Peace amazing man, you will be sorely missed. Our thoughts are with your family & everyone left behind. God Bless. Peter and Anne Simpson

  17. John will be a significant loss for the deeply rural upper dales and anyone who knows John. I had recently become a friend of John and he’s been a real inspiration to me. I certainly will do all I can to help part of his legacy live on.

  18. John Blackie has done more for the Upper Dales than most, rather than complaining about the problems hitting all our rural areas he rolled up his sleeves and did something about it, both practically and politically.
    There are others, who preferred to persue Party Politics, who should now reflect on their own contribution.
    Best wishes to John’s family, the Dales have lost a true friend, but may others take up his baton.

  19. John was a truly remarkable man who strived tirelessly to help the most remote communities in the Upper Dales. His legacy will live on through the work he did with The Friarage, the community petrol station and the bus services. Not only did he have good ideas, he acted upon them.
    He will be sorely missed.

  20. I was very sorry to hear that Cllr Blackie had lost his battle with cancer despite our recent disagreement he was a shinning example of a local councillor IAs a recently appointed District Cllr he would have been a great mentor He went too young a day in the life of Cllr Blackie was like a year in most people’s lives you have lots to be proud of

  21. Gutted we’ve lost this true grafter. It was good to meet a politician who wasn’t a hypocrite.

  22. There has never been anyone who has deserved a queens award more than John Blackie and yet one never arrived. Why ? Because he wasn’t afraid to rock boats and step on shoes to deliver what he believed was a fair outcome.

    Well John, stepping on shoes and rocking boats has gained you more respect in the upper dales than anyone before you.

    A truly kind, generous and giving man, one in a million.

    RIP John, thoughts are with Jill and your wonderful family that you adored.

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