A great send off for Charles (Uncle Albert) Walker

Only six days after the funeral of former Maghull and Sefton Councillor Jim Byrne we had another one this time for Charles ‘Uncle Albert’ Walker, also a former Maghull Town Councillor, today.

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This was my personal tribute to Charles which his family asked me to contribute to his funeral service.

Uncle Albert

I first met Uncle Albert, then known of course as Charles Walker, when he was in his early 70’s.

He came over as a really nice chap but little did I know how our friendship would develop over the next 20+ years and that he would become a very close chum indeed.

I give you a handful of personal insights into Uncle Albert

Singing RAF songs! – It happened out of the blue during a car journey from Maghull to the Littleborough & Saddleworth Parliamentary by-election where Uncle Albert, Andrew Beattie Andrew Blackburn and myself were off to deliver leaflets. The nice gentleman sharing the back seat of the car with one of the Andrews just started to sing what I will call a risqué song of the kind those acquainted with rugby songs would understand. We knew then that we had a right one with us!

Fire watching on top of George Henry Lees during the Liverpool Blitz – Yes Charles did that and he saw incendiary bombs hitting the city all around him. One night he was at his lofty dangerous post and saw the incendiary fall and hit St Luke’s Church. Yet when he told us about it he seemed to have no comprehension of the extreme danger he had been in. To him it was his job as an employee of George Henry Lees to try to put out any fires. A brave man indeed.

Pitch and Put – He had played on the pitch and put course at Harrison Drive, New Brighton many times, especially before the war, and it showed. Neither of the Andrews nor I could beat him despite around a dozen attempts to do so on our days out with Uncle Albert around this childhood stamping ground of The Wirral.

East Lancashire Railway – Uncle Albert went with us to this persevered railway a number of times over the years and he loved it. What with steam locomotives, old fashioned carriages and travelling on them with his mates. But what he seemed to like best was the buffet facility on Bury Bolton Street Station where he would climb into an all day breakfast whilst watching steam trains pass by.

Mushroom Omelettes? – By now uncle Albert had been ‘adopted’ by both the Robertson and Blackburn families and Sheila Robertson wanted to take Charles (she always called him Charles) out for a meal. And what a hit it was as he loved the mushroom omelettes at the Stanley Arms in Aughton. Unsurprisingly Sheila kept taking him back there and he kept enjoying them.

Other visits – we took Charles to the RAF Cosford museum a couple of times, to Crich Tramway Museum, to Birkenhead Tramway Preservation Society and to the Yorkshire Air Museum at Elvington. He loved these trips out and was great company. At Elvington we turned around and he had disappeared only to be found later deep in conversation with another elderly ex-RAF chap talking about their life and times in the Royal Air Force. In Birkenhead he rode a Wallasey tram like those that ran in his youth and he was delighted.

And what of his times as a Maghull Town Councillor? Japanese Knotweed was one of his big campaigns. Trouble is it is still there in Foxhouse Lane despite him hounding Network Rail to eradicate it.

The potholed surface of Maghull Station car park was another, thankfully it’s now in good nick.

And what about Mrs Bradley’s Passage? It’s a short footpath that joins Poverty Lane and Summerhill Drive and was a littered and potholed mess at the time. Mrs Bradley lived next to it and she asked Charles to get Sefton Council to tidy it up regularly. In turn he gave Sefton Council grief to the extent that even the dead hand of a local authority could take it no longer and they tidied it up. But he was not satisfied and said only recently that the beggars had still not resurfaced it as they promised him they would do some 8 or 9 years ago!

He was Vice Chair of the Council’s Policy and Resources Committee for quite a number of years. Sheila Nelson chaired the committee and he enjoyed working with her. We used to joke with him that Sheila kept him in line. I think he looked upon her as his Station Commander!

To the two Andrews and I he was Uncle Albert (after the Only Fools & Horses character of course) to many others he was Charles. To the ladies he was a lovely old gentleman; to us he was a cheeky chap who was one of the boys. He may have been 35+ years older than us but he was our mate and we will miss him terribly.

A final goodbye to Jim Byrne

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It was Jim’s funeral today and it was nice to see so many folks turning out to pay their respects to a chap who had dedicated much of his life to the Maghull and wider Sefton Borough community.

Both the current Mayors of Sefton and Maghull were there as well as 2 former Sefton Mayors and 4 former Maghull Mayors, so Jim was getting a great send off.

Here are a few photos about Jim’s work on the council. The first photo is of the 1984 opening ceremony of Maghull Town Hall and Jim is 3rd from the left:-

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Here’s a shot of the past Mayor’s board at Maghull Town Hall. As you can see Jim was Mayor in 1975/76:-

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And Jim was Chair of the National Association of Larger Local Councils in 2003 and the plates below were presented to him by Barry Town Council in South Wales. They remain on display in the Council Chamber of Maghull Town Hall:-

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Jim really was a nice chap whom everyone liked and it was fitting that someone who had done so much for his community was given such a great send off. Indeed, I think it was goodbye to ‘Mr Maghull’.

Jim Byrne RIP

Jim with former local councillor Sylvia Mainey at the site of the former Lydiate Voluntary Youth Club prior to Lydiate Village Centre being built.

Jim with former local councillor Sylvia Mainey at the site of the former Lydiate Voluntary Youth Club prior to Lydiate Village Centre being built.

A am sad to have to report that former Maghull councillor Jim Byrne died on 31st December.

Jim had been a local councillor on Maghull Town Council, Sefton Borough Council and Lydiate Parish Council over many, many years. Indeed, he was first elected to Maghull Town Council in the early 1960 if memory serves.

Jim and I sharing a moment together.

Jim and I sharing a moment together.

Jim was fun to be around as he would often have some amusing remark to make about any situation. I recall his legendary old Ford Cortina car. Well put it this way it was old, probably one of the first off the production line, but he kept it going for years. Andrew Blackburn, Robbie Fenton and I thought he had bricks in it for suspension as the ride across The Moss to Southport for Sefton Council meetings was like a fairground ride!

Jim at the then derelict site of the former Albany Cinema, where Lidl is now of course.

Jim at the then derelict site of the former Albany Cinema, where Lidl is now of course.

I understand he had been a county level table tennis player in his younger days. Later in life he would really enjoy the quizzes that used to be held at Maghull Town Hall each Wednesday night where he could often be found deep in conversation with Charles (Uncle Albert) Walker about their time doing National Service. Yes, neither of them were actually taking a great deal of notice of the actual quiz, that was left to Andrew Beattie, Andrew Blackburn, myself and whomever else had turned out for our ‘Nutters’ quiz team.

Jim was a Maghull Town Council member when Maghull Town Hall was planned for and built and if you ever pop in there look out for the photo of the opening of the building in the foyer as Jim is on it.

He was also a member of Lydiate Parish Council when the successful campaign was launched to build what is now Lydiate Village Centre on Lambshear Lane, on the site of the former Lydiate Voluntary Youth Club. And he was a member of both Maghull Town and Sefton Borough Councils as we fought to get Meadows Leisure Centre & Library built by Sefton Council.

One part of the work of local councils that Jim loved was dealing with planning applications and he rose to become the Chairman of Sefton Council’s Planning Committee. I think he enjoyed that more than anything.

There can be few people indeed who have been involved in the work of local councils in this area from the 1960’s to early 2000’s who will not have known Jim. I think it is fair to say that I have never come across anyone who did not like Jim.

He often said that he was no politician and in many ways never a truer word has been spoken as Jim just liked doing things for the community. From my perspective it is nice to celebrate the life of a really nice chap who did his bit for his community.

Jim leaves behind a loving family whom he would constantly chatter about when in company. He clearly thought a lot of them and them of him.

Lydiate Nostalgia – Youth Club to Village Centre

Do you remember the old Lydiate Voluntary Youth Club in Lambshear Lane? My old chum Phil Davidson was involved in running it back in the day, if I recall correctly. Also, I seem to recall the old club being brought up on Facebook a while ago. Anyway, a trawl through some old photos by my old mate Andrew Blackburn brought this shot to light:-

Former Lydiate Parish Councilors Tony Fenton and Pat Foster outside the old Lydiate Voluntary Youth Club

Former Lydiate Parish Councilors Tony Fenton and Pat Foster outside the old Lydiate Voluntary Youth Club

Pat Foster left Lydiate a few years ago to live in Wales but Tony F can often been seen around Lydiate and Maghull pushing himself in his wheelchair.

Sadly the old timber building pictured above was burnt down.

The site then remained derelict for quite a number of years as Lydiate Parish Council tied to negotiate with Sefton Council (the land owners) to get Lydiate Village Centre built. Sefton could hardly be said to be positive about the rebuild project at the time and that’s being polite about it!

This is the cleared site before work stared on the Village Centre.

This is the cleared site before work stared on the Village Centre.

Pictured above are former Cllrs. Jim Byrne and Sylvia Mainey. Sadly Sylvia passed away in 2014.

Lydiate Village Centre - Opened in 2010

Lydiate Village Centre – Opened in 2010

The the story came full circle in 2010 when Lydiate Parish Council opened the new community hall with the help of a £500,000 Lottery Grant.

Maghull Nostalgia – The Albany, Astra or Apollo Cinema

Part of my occasional nostalgia series.

Remember when Maghull had its own cinema where Lidl’s supermarket now sits at the Alt?

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Click on the photo to enlarge it

This photo was taken after the cinema has closed in the early/mid 1990’s. Stood in front of the sadly derelict building is Jim Byrne who served on Maghull Town Council for many years and who still lives just up Northway from the site.

Interesting that the 3 names that the cinema had all began with the letter ‘A’. The Beatles played there in their early days.