Two memorials for Dales councillor who was larger than life

The late Cllr Blackie pictured with Andrew Haigh, from Newcastle Building Society, outside Upper Wensleydale Community Office in Hawes.

By Betsy Everett

There will be not one but two memorials to the late John Blackie, the high-profile parish, district and county councillor who served the “deeply rural” Upper Dales community from his base in the market town of Hawes for more than 20 years.

A meeting of Hawes and High Abbotside parish council, of which he was chair until his death in July, have approved the erection of a five-foot high sandstone memorial near the Dale Head Community Garage which Cllr Blackie secured for the town two years ago when it was threatened with closure.

It will bear a plaque with the inscription: “In memory of John Blackie, a true community leader and champion of the Upper Dales” and will be supplied by Calverts of Leyburn in Witton Fell sandstone.

Meanwhile, the Upper Dales Community Partnership trustees have agreed to take forward a proposal to rename the community office, half a mile down the road from the garage, the John Blackie Community Centre.

Council chair, Jill McMullon, who was also Mr Blackie’s partner, said the most popular suggestion placed in a box in the community office following his death, had been for the renaming of the building.

Gayle resident Richard Noble, a landscape gardener who organises the annual Hawes in Bloom flower display, showed his artist’s impression of how the memorial stone would look, set on the mound opposite the school.

Artist’s impression of how the completed memorial stone will look. Drawing: Richard Noble.

Witton Fell sandstone had been recommended by Calverts who, said Mr Noble, had been “friendly, patient and helpful” in advising on the choice of materials, and would be happy to show the stone to anyone who wanted to see it before it was installed.

The mound on which it stood would be planted with summer and winter plants to withstand the worst of the dales weather.

Councillor Barry Wilcox said he thought the design was “excellent, and worthy of John,” but wondered whether it might be better placed outside the town on Turfy Top.

“The vista around is quite something when you sit and look out from there. You can see Wether Fell and there’s a direct line of sight right down the town. It looks over the filling station which was one of John’s projects,” he said.

Councillor Peter Metcalfe said for safety reasons he felt it would be better on the mound on the village green and Cllr McMullon agreed.

“I think Turfy Top is a lovely idea but I agree the mound would be safer,” she said.

The cost would be around £400. Mr Noble suggested the parish council may like to contribute and the community be asked for donations. Members agreed.