Venue change for service to celebrate life of long-serving Dales councillor

Cllr John Blackie.

A mass of people whose lives were touched by an outspoken and long-serving councillor are set to attend a service to celebrate his life.

The celebration of North Yorkshire councillor John Blackie’s life has been changed from the 350 maximum capacity St Margaret’s Church in Hawes to Wensleydale Creamery in the town, as it is understood between 1,000 and 3,000 people may turn out to honour him.

Following the 70-year-old’s death in July, there was an outpouring of tributes to the Upper Dales councillor, who was heralded as “the most amazing local champion”.

The service will be held at the business which Cllr Blackie helped to rescue in the 1990s at noon on Friday, September 27.

To help Hawes cope with what is thought to be an unprecedented event for the town, the Little White Bus community service that the councillor developed will be called into action as a Park and Ride shuttle bus, between additional parking at the auction mart and the creamery, from 10.45am.

Cllr Blackie’s partner, Jill McMullon said: “I have no idea how many people might turn out for the celebration, but even with the best will in the world, even with the outside space at the church it was clear it wasn’t going to be sufficient.

“I have had to get the biggest marquee that I could find to provide more space for people at the creamery.”

Ms McMullon said the service would be between 90 minutes and two hours and feature numerous speakers reflecting different aspects of Cllr Blackie’s public life, such as his health services campaigning, district and county council work and determination to secure the future of communities in the Yorkshire Dales National Park.

She said: “It will be a snapshot of everything that he did. There will be no requirement for people to wear black. In fact, we’re asking people to wear a scarf and colourful socks just as John did.”

Donations for the Yorkshire Air Ambulance and Macmillan Cancer Support may be given at the Creamery following the service or sent care of John Blenkiron & Sons, Funeral Directors, 21 Queens Road, Richmond, DL10 4AJ.