Jim Sharpe – The man in the red felt hat – RIP old friend

I attended Jim’s funeral today at Thornton Crematorium to help celebrate the life of a well known and much liked local journalist, dog lover, bus enthusiast and owner of his pride and joy the wooden boat Manxman. There was a lovey eulogy by his friend Nigel Hughes and a great railway poem reading by Danielle Thompson a fellow Champion reporter. What’s more the Celebrant was also a friend of Jim, my fellow Lydiate Parish Councillor Neil Spencer. And to cap it all the Mayor of Sefton Cllr. June Burns attended too. Although only 10 of us were at the ceremony, due to the present health crisis and the restrictions flowing from it, I think we gave Jim a send off which would have approved of.

This is the cover of the order of service, one of the best of its kind I have ever seen – by Nigel Hughes.

This was my contribution to the celebration:-

Hello Jim, Tony here, you know that bit of a leftie whom you debated politics, railways and life in general with as our frustrations required of us both.

I got to know you around 1990 I guess, so we must have spent 30 years or so putting the world to rights or is that lefts?

You know we got along as we were able to laugh at ourselves; nothing worse than taking yourself too seriously. I had my trains which you had more than a passing interest in and you had your buses which I tried to catch now and again.

I recall you sitting through Maghull Town Council meetings with a face which gave away your thoughts at times, yet you became not just a journalist sat on the shoulders of local decision makers but a friend too. Unafraid to speak your mind, to add an opinion, but also someone who just wanted councillors to do right by his home town. That’s why the Town Council presented you with a Maghull tie which you wore for years as a proud Maghullian of birth.

Now Jim about that felt hat! Yes I’ve found out about it via Jeanette Smith who says ‘I worked with Jim on the Crosby Herald in the late 60s early 70s. I remember him always turning up for work in a red felt hat, quite outrageous for a serious, sensible journalist. But he got away with it such was his quirky character. RIP Jim’

I appreciated your advice Jim as my political career developed and when it became apparent that I may become Leader of Sefton Council you were encouraging and supportive despite our political differences. During those 7 years we continued to chat on a weekly basis just as we had done during my time as a parish councillor. You were the journalist who knew me inside out.

In recent times we have spoken less yet every few weeks we’d still strike up a phone conversation of some length where we’d slip back into our old ways.

I’ll miss you proud Captain Jim of the Norfolk Broads boat Manxman, one unique man and his 4 legged friends. We shall not see the like of Jim again…………

If you’d like to read more about Jim my obituary article on Jim’s passing is available via this link:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2020/05/01/jim-sharpe-rip/

Jim Sharpe RIP

My friend Jim Sharpe has sadly passed away in Aintree Hospital after a short illness unconnected with our present health crisis.

Jim will be known to many people across Sefton & West Lancashire for his ‘One Man and His Dog’ column in the Champion Newspaper.

I am not aware of many pictures of Jim as he was always stood beside the press photographer (usually Marin Snape who sadly passed on himself not so long ago) but here he is in 2014 caught on camera press notebook in hand with Cllr. Edie Pope of Lydiate Parish Council.

I blogged about Jim back in 2017 in a posting associated with him being interviewed by Maghull Radio. Here’s a link to it:-

tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2017/10/20/maghull-an-unexpected-contributor-to-a-maghull-radio-show-about-local-journalist-jim-sharpe/

Looking back on that 2017 posting it seems to say pretty much it all about Jim as I knew him but here are a couple of addition anecdotes. Jim’s politics were very much of the right and mine are very much of the left and yet I recall him being delighted when I became leader of Sefton Council; I knew his congratulations were genuine and I very much appreciated them. Jim and I would still chat from time to time in recent years indeed he phoned me about a month ago saying he was bored and wanted to a chat with me. We talked for half an hour or so about politics, life, the lockdown, his boat* on the Norfolk Broads and former councillors & other community minded folk we had known over the years.

He also kept in touch with former councillors Andrew Blackburn and Dave (Mr Lydiate) Russell. Jim would dine with Dave & Pam Russell at their house from time to time.

I know that his neighbour’s had been doing his shopping for him during the lockdown and he’d told me how much he appreciated that help when we last spoke.

As I said in my 2017 posting Jim was a journalist of the old school. At his best he was the people’s eyes and ears on the shoulders of those in power on the council locally. But he also liked good news stories about his home town of Maghull which he’d lived in for the vast majority of his life apart from a few years in and around the Colchester area working in public relations for British Telecom.

I will miss Jim because he was a decent chap, a good journalist and he cared deeply for Maghull the town I lived in for 43 years. RIP Jim

* Jim told me some years ago that he was going to leave his boat ‘Manxman’ to the YMCA in Birkenhead because they’d done so much for him.

PS – My good friend Andrew Blackburn has dug out this photo of a Maghull Mayoral charity fundraising walk in 1994 and Jim is there with us with his dog of that time too. It was taken outside the Running Horses Pub in Lydiate – Thanks Andrew

MIke & Viv Penn and their recent award

There’s a lovely write up on the front page of this week’s North Liverpool Champion newspaper all about Mike and Viv Penn being nominated for and indeed winning a BBC North West Christmas Star award.

I’ve known Mike for many a year and count him as a friend so I’m delighted that he and Viv have won such a prestigious award for their efforts on behalf of those who are less fortunate. What’s more this award follows one they were given by Rotary quite recently.

I first got to know Mike when we were both governors of Green Park Primary School many years ago and it quickly became apparent to me that Mike was at heart a volunteer who just wanted to help people and his community. As a team Viv and Mike have established a great facility for people with disabilities and what a Christmas present for them to be handed a BBC North West Christmas Star.

Every community has people like Viv and Mike doing their bit to make things better but when when you know them and you have a personal insight into their work it makes you so pleased that they have been recognised for their efforts.

Well done Mike and Viv, we are all so proud of you.

Maghull – Where once there was farmland – Green Lane/South Meade

People who know me will realise how hard I have fought over the years to try to protect the character of the community around Maghull & Lydiate and indeed across wider Sefton Borough from what I see as inappropriate development.

Building on high grade agricultural land has long been an issue with me and it’s why I have opposed much of the land development that has recently been given the green light by Sefton Council.

The other day I drove past the building site off Green Lane/South Meade in Maghull where houses are presently being constructed. When I was a Sefton Councillor I voted against this site being developed. Sadly, I and my then fellow Maghull Councillor Andrew Blackburn were in a minority and permission was granted.

The land had until reasonably recent times been in agricultural use but that was not the only reason I was unhappy to see this particular site being concreted over. What Maghull has been losing over quite a number of years now has been the unique parkland landscape of the former Maghull Homes, now the Parkhaven Trust. This landscape once covered many, many acres over the two sites of the Maghull Homes off Deyes Lane/Damfield Lane and Sefton Lane/Green. I think it’s really sad that so little of it is left and for how much longer will what is left be there?

Yes I know that the Parkhaven Trust does all kinds of essential work (I worked for them myself in the 1980’s and early 1990’s) looking after the elderly and people with disabilities and I also realise that they have been selling off the land to develop that work, but the parkland type landscape has still been lost and two marvelous green lungs in the Maghull community are now much reduced.

Here’s how the Damfield Lane site is now looking as development takes place:-

Maybe it’s called progress but at what cost to the wider environment?

Stop Press – The recent announcement (In the Champion Newspaper) that building on site off Green Lane and adjacent to South Meade is to be extended further is a concern obviously, even though it is said to be for ‘affordable housing’. Of the many definitions of ‘affordable housing’ I wonder which it will be and how ‘affordable’ the houses will be?

Click on the photos to enlarge them

Cheshire Lines Path/Trans Pennine trail through West Lancashire

It’s many years now since the Cheshire Lines Path was created on the trackbed of the old Cheshire Lines and Southport Extension Railway and of course it subsequently became a part of the Trans Pennine Trail.

Sadly the part of the Path/Trail through the Great Altcar part of West Lancashire has not been maintained and the surface is now rough and narrow considering that it is for walkers, cyclists and horse riders. The photo above illustrates one particular part of the path where agricultural vehicles regularly cross over it – this particular site is the extension to Cabin Lane off Altcar Lane in Great Altcar. After the recent heavy rain it’s a horrible muddy mess for walkers and cyclists.

Yes I know austerity will have played into the lack of maintenance but in reality the decline in the surface well predates the financial crash. In terms of cycle riding areas of the path are now only really suitable for mountain bikes in my view. I fear that if something is not done reasonably soon this long distance path is going to be compromised such that folks will stop using it especially in the winter months.

I have made my views known to those who have responsibility for the path in the hopes of some plan to redress the decline.

Click on the photo to enlarge it

My thanks to Champion Newspapers for publishing an article based on this blog posting on 7th February

Maghull – It was the Frank Hornby Trust Open Day yesterday – What a day!

Wow what a day. On the back of the BBC plugging our small Frank Hornby Heritage Centre within Meadows Leisure Centre via an edition of Michael Portillo’s Great British Railway Journeys (screened last Thursday) we held an open day and the world turned out to have a look at our display cases and a visiting Hornby tinplate O gauge modelrailway layout.

Here’s the model railway being set up on the previous day:-

The layout, as seen on TV with Michael Portillo wanting to take it home, was set up by a couple of good friend of the Frank Hornby Trust.

Here’s a shot of visitors (we think around 500 turned out to see the displays) enjoying the day:-

Thanks the Champion newspaper for giving our Trust such great publicity and the staff of Meadows Leisure Centre who were only too willing to assist us.