My review of 2020 – No Brexit, no COVID

I’ve been looking back at my blog postings throughout each month of 2020 and I’ve picked out the 12 most interesting from my perspective:-

Liverpool 2’s massive new container cranes

January – Access to the Port of Liverpool & Sefton Council’s far, far too late Judicial Review application – tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2020/01/21/access-to-port-of-liverpool-and-that-oddly-timed-judicial-review/

Cottages in Sefton Lane, Maghull (September 2012) – Sadly flooding here has a long history

February – Will building Maghull’s vast new urban extension lead to more flooding? – tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2020/02/24/maghull-heavy-rain-reminds-us-of-the-potential-peril-of-building-on-agricultural-land-locally/

Sunny Southport Cricket

March – Watching County Championship cricket at Birkdale – so sad it’s seemingly a thing of the past – tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2020/03/30/southport-when-patrick-the-fastest-bowler-in-the-world-bounced-into-town/

Liverpool Exchange Station in 1977

April – Looking back at a once great station – Liverpool Exchange – tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2020/04/29/liverpool-exchange-station-long-gone-but-not-forgotten/

Jim Sharpe RIP

May – The sad passing of an old style community journalist of note – tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2020/05/01/jim-sharpe-rip/

June – Policing has long been a political interest of mine and a big frustration when it fails to deliver – tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2020/06/08/policing-when-it-goes-badly-wrong/

Meccano

July – Reading the history of Liverpool’s famous Meccano Factory – tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2020/07/22/liverpool-factory-of-dreams/

August – Vehicles on pavements the curse of the selfish motorists – tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2020/08/03/pavements-r-4-pedestrians/

Merseyside Maritime Museum

SeptemberLife on Board a new exhibition at Merseyside Maritime Museum – tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2020/09/18/life-on-board-exhibition-at-mersey-maritime-museum/

The present Sandy Lane Changing Rooms building – Lydiate

October – Banging the drum for football changing facilities in Lydiate – tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2020/10/28/lydiate-progress-on-sporting-fitness-facilities/

Litter

November – Lydiate’s volunteer litter pickers – tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2020/11/07/lydiate-and-its-volunteer-litter-pickers/

Meccano

December – A remarkable Meccano canal bridge – tonyrobertson.mycouncillor.org.uk/2020/12/03/boltons-meccano-canal-bridge/

So that was 2020 trying hard not to mention Brexit or Covid. The items posted here are just a small selection of my many (far too many I hear you say) blogs about all kinds of things which have caught my attention during a very odd year indeed. Here’s hoping for a better 2021…..

Lydiate – The racetrack called Southport Road

Cllr. Edie Pope outside her Southport Road farm shop. The notorious accident black spot is in the background.

This week’s Champion newspaper is highlighting the dangerous nature of Lydiate’s Southport Road and they are to be congratulated on an excellent article by reporter Danielle Thompson.

The vast majority of Southport Road has a 30mph limit – that’s not a target but a maximum! Frankly, the reality is that the road is little more than a racetrack from the Maghull boundary with few vehicles keeping to the maximum speed. The part of it which is 40mph runs from Lydiate Abbey to the Merseyside boundary just past St Thomas’ Church where the road becomes Mairscough Lane. It is this latter section where Cllr. Edie Pope has her farm and shop and where she fought to get the speed limit reduced to 40mph a few years back due to the number and regularity of serious accidents. Despite Edie’s efforts, this 40 mph section is also a racetrack and not so long ago Lydiate Parish Council called upon Merseyside Police to take enforcement action to try to curb excessive speeding.

Here’s Danielle’s excellent article:-

Nice to see a really good piece of local journalism – the late Jim Sharpe would have been proud of Danielle.

Tony McCalmont-Woods RIP

Tony was a Conservative councillor in the Maghull area of Sefton Borough in the 1980’s and 1990’s. If memory serves he represented Park Ward for a number of years until the late 1980’s when a political power shift took place in the Maghull & Lydiate area and the Lib Dems came to the fore.

Tony was also a member of Maghull Town Council which is where I came to know him following my election to that Council in a by-election in 1985. Again, if memory serves, I think he continued to be a member of the Town Council until the late 1990’s.

My memories of him are of a chap who always wore a business suit and tie as was quite usual for gentlemen of his and my Dad’s generation. Indeed, my Dad (George Robertson) and Tony knew each other well as both were members of the former Conservative Club in Maghull – It became Kensington House Sports & Leisure Club.

In Town Council meetings Tony was always very business-like in his approach to matters and I, as a fresh faced young Liberal, looked upon him as a big beast in local politics. I was once told that Tony was expected to rise through the Conservative ranks on Sefton Council but this did not happen because of the change of political wind in Maghull & Lydiate towards the SDP/Liberal Alliance and then the Lib Dems.

I recall a conversation with him at some civic event when I asked him about his serious approach to pretty much all Council business and he laughed out loud taking me by surprise as a different side to his stern character surfaced. It wasn’t long after this that some new play equipment was being ordered by the Council and Tony was very keen that it should be galvanised to make it longer lasting. It then became a bit of regular political banter as some wag would add on to something Tony had said along the lines of ‘and get it galvanised’.

Tony also had his very own political opponent in the guise of Cllr. Audrey Beattie as every now and then they would have a reasonably ‘good natured’ set to over some matter or other much to the amusement of other members of the Town Council.

During my very last conversation with well known local journalist Jim Sharpe, a few weeks before he died a couple of months ago, he asked me whether I’d heard anything of Tony in recent times as he understood him to be quite unwell.

I did not serve on Sefton Council with Tony as he had left that Council before I was elected to it in 1999 I might add.

The last time I saw Tony was a few years back in Morrisons Maghull shop. We had a chat about the old days and he commented on how the political rug had been pulled from under his party’s feet by the Lib Dems and that Labour had now done the same to the Libs in Maghull. How true that comment was.

I was not close to Tony but I hope my recollections and memories of him, if only at the margins, illustrate the man, the politician and the local councillor.

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

Maghull – An unexpected contributor to a Maghull Radio show about local journalist Jim Sharpe

Yesterday I was asked by presenter Dave Hughes to call-in and contribute towards an interview/broadcast he was doing live on his Maghull Radio show. The person being interviewed was none other than well known local journalist Jim Sharpe.

Jim Sharpe in the recording studio of Maghull Radio – with apologies for the reflections caused by the glass partition.

The thing was Jim did not know I had been invited so he was surprised when I walked into the recording studio of this internet based radio station, which is run from Maghull Town Hall, part way through his interview.

My point of my being there was to say what I thought about Jim and his journalistic work in Maghull and district over the 25 years I have known him. He need not have worried, if indeed he was worried about what I may say, because it was all complementary.

Jim is an old school journalist who knows more about Maghull than the vast majority of politicians who have been elected to serve it and I first got to know him as he sat through Maghull Town Council meetings (I was a Maghull Town Councillor for 30 years – 1985 to 2015) making notes of the discussions and debates that were going on. He first worked, as I knew him, for the Maghull & Aintree Star newspaper and then he moved on to work (as he still does) for the Aintree & Maghull Champion. I would add that he started work at the Ormskirk Advertiser group of newspapers and that he worked in public relations for Pilkington’s and BT after that.

He started to write a One Man & His Dog column for the Star and this then transferred with him to the Champion. Nowadays the column is quite general as it is published throughout the whole range of Champion editions. However, in its original form it was just about Maghull and Lydiate. The thing is Jim used it to keep the local politicians honest although he may not have seen it quite like that. What he did was to look at things going on in the Maghull area in detail and comment on them. If he thought something was going on that was not to the credit of the Town he would say so and folks took notice of what he had to say. This is how I think he kept the politicians honest. His One Man & His Dog columns are not like that these days because they have to be of general interest over a much wider geographical area and I think we in Maghull/Lydiate area have sadly lost something.

I like Jim as he speaks his mind and because he cares about his locality. We may not always agree but such is the way a free press should operate in a free society.

You know its not a bad idea that local politicians have to look over their shoulder to see what a free independent press really think of their actions, indeed I don’t think there’s enough of that going on these days as the media generally becomes more remote. Yes it’s fine getting press releases via e-mail, the odd phone conversation etc. But Jim looks into the whites of your eyes, in a very friendly way, when he meets you and he gains other opinions about what you are doing.

I like old fashioned journalism where newspapers were campaigning publications that flushed out stories and got to the facts, it may be unfashionable now but when Jim’s generation of journalism finally disappears we will all be the worse for it.

It was nice to say good things about Jim on Maghull Radio.

One of the most famous quotes about the press and my personal favourite comes from a fictional 19th century Irish bartender named Mr. Dooley.

On 7th October 1893 the Chicago Evening Post journalist and humorist Finley Peter Dunne introduced his readers to a character called Mr. Dooley in a newspaper column. And Dooley said:-

‘The job of the newspaper is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable’

These days we would have to replace ‘newspaper’ with ‘media’ as there are so many ways that people get their news now, but the powerful nature of the quote still resonates. I like to think that Jim would subscribe to this quote. For ‘afflicted’ read Joe and Jane Public, for ‘comfortable’ by the way read ‘politicians’