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/

Maghull – Project to enhance Bobby’s Wood

Maghull folk will probably know the name Frank Sharp because of his efforts to both fund raise and improve the formerly neglected site along Stafford Moreton Way adjacent to the new Home Bargains Store in the Town.

Well Frank is now turning his attention to Bobby’s Wood (owned by Sefton Borough Council but maintained by Maghull Town Council) in the Woodend part of Maghull – the grassed and tree plot at the junction of Liverpool Road South and Northway. Here’s Frank to tell you all about it:-

‘We are undertaking an ambitious environmental crowdfunding project at Woodend (Bobby’s Wood), that we have entitled – ‘Woodend Community Woodland Project’. In essence we are trying to raise money for an (1) accessible pathway to connect current and future community driven projects and (2) a knee-high ‘birds mouth’ fence to protect the free donation of 1150 wildlife friendly hedge whips to surround the 230m site. The hedge will provide: safety for children and pets, habitat for wildlife, a beautiful natural aesthetic. There also seems to be a possibility that the hedge donors – the Tree Council will work with the environmental department at Sefton Council to undertake an evidence-based piece of research to demonstrate the effectiveness of hedges in reducing vehicle pollution (the small evidence-base currently suggest hedges can reduce this pollution by 60%). In addition, we are hoping to plant hundreds of free tree whips from Northern Forest to future proof the current trees.

There are many other costed aspirations but realistically they will be for a 2021 campaign. We have launched the campaign with a fun children’s rainbow art competition which completes on the 27.4.20 and I want to highlight the need for pledges on the crowdfunding website where there is a lovely introductory video. All the small pledges on the website make a massive difference, as it enables the large funders to decide who to allocated funds to.’

Here’s a link to the fund raising page:-

www.spacehive.com/woodend

Click on the photos/graphics above to enlarge them

Maghull – It must now be 20 years+ of blooms in the shopping centre

The long view of 2016 winter planting down Westway looking from the Leighton Ave junction towards the A59 Northway.

The other day I got to thinking about how long floral displays have been going on in and around The Square/Westway. Well it must be around 20 years or more.

It all started with a former Maghull Town & Sefton Borough Councillor by the name of Roy Connell. Forgive me if my memory is not fully correct but here goes.

Summer 2009 there were both hanging baskets & barrier planters

Roy realised that in some other parts of the Borough Sefton Council put up hanging baskets (outside the Strand in Bootle was one such place) and he asked for them to be erected in Maghull along Westway too. His request was eventually agreed to but Maghull Town Council wanted to join in too. What came out of this was a partnership between Sefton and Maghull Councils, brokered by former Town Clerk Barry Smith, whereby Sefton would pay for so many hanging baskets and Maghull Town Council would both pay for the extra ones they wanted (along part of Liverpool Road North & up Stafford Moreton Way) and they would do the watering of all of the baskets using their in-house parks/grounds maintenance team.

This carried on for a few years but then problems started to emerge with regard to the strength of the aged street light columns which had had two hanging baskets fixed to each one. We were told that some of the street lights were no longer safe to hold hanging baskets so those along Liverpool Road North and on Stafford Moreton way were removed. Subsequently, as a cost cutting move, Sefton stopped funding all hanging baskets across the Borough but for a while the Town Council kept going with the ones along Westway. But then the same issue arose with the strength of street lamps there too so after about 8 years or so they were no more. You can still see some of the brackets which the hanging baskets were suspended from as they’ve not been removed.

A circular prize winning flower planter on Maghull’s Westway.

I think it was around this time, about 12 years ago, that the Maghull in Bloom volunteers were established and I recall them attending a Maghull Town Council meeting (at the time I both lived in Maghull and was a Maghull councillor) asking for support. The Town Council agreed to fund MinB to the tune of £5,000 per year (reduced to £2000 in the past few years) and it also agreed to take on the watering of the summer planting along Westway which would from then on take the form of pavement planters and pedestrian barrier baskets as opposed to hanging baskets.

MinB volunteer’s hanging baskets at Treeview Court

Maghull in Bloom volunteers went on establish themselves as one of the Town’s most high profile voluntary groups with additional displays at Treeview Court (summer hanging baskets & year-round pavement planters), Deyes Lane shops (summer hanging baskets), Leeds Liverpool Canal (Planters at bridges & weekly canal towpath litter picking), The Fruit Meadows & flower beds/planters on KGV Park/outside Meadows Leisure Centre.

In 2019 Maghull Town Council passed the responsibility for watering the Westway summer displays onto the owners of the shopping centre London & Cambridge Properties and they completed the summer 2019 watering season. And that is pretty much the story of the blooms in Maghull shopping centre over the past 20+ years.

Maghull – Historic maps on display in Town Hall

A while back a lady contacted me saying she had a 1930’s map of Maghull which she was happy to donate for public display. I put her in touch with the Town Clerk of Maghull Town Council and the matter then passed me by so to speak.

Imagine my delight then when I went into the Council Chamber of Maghull Town Hall (for a Maghull in Bloom volunteers meeting) recently and saw 3 historic maps of the Town up on the wall where there had been none before. A closer inspection made me realise that one of them was from the lady I whom I had spoken to a few months ago.

I love maps, always have done since I discovered Ordnance Survey maps as a late teenager for country walking. Here are the 3 on display in Maghull Town Hall:-

This is the one (above) the lady mentioned to me, it’s dated October 1933 and intriguingly said to be the work of the ‘Maghull Advisory Committee’. James Longridge, whose name appears on the map as the Hon Sec of this committee was also Chairman of Maghull Parish Council from 1934 to 1938. My guess is that it was put together as part of the work to significantly expand Maghull in the 1930’s and after WW2.

The Town had other periods of rapid development in the 1960’s and 70’s and it is all happening again with the vast urban extension to the east of the Town having been designated for @1600 additional houses and business premises via the Sefton Council Local Plan adopted in April 2017.

This one is a 1908 Ordnance Survey map

I’m struggling to make out the date properly on this map but think it is 1840 – correct me if I’m wrong please.

Really pleased that Maghull Town Council has displayed these historic maps as they are a part of the heritage of a community that I lived in for 43 years and represented as a councillor for 30 years.

Click on the maps to enlarge them

Civil Parish boundaries and what they mean

The other day I received a letter raising an issue that unless you have been close to how parish councils are allowed (by statute) to operate you may well not be aware of.

It concerned Maghull Town Council’s distribution of Christmas hampers but it could have been about other expenditure of that or indeed any other parish council. You see parish councils are limited in the main from expending money other than for the benefit of the civil parish residents of their own parish. So for example Melling Parish Council could not expend money in say Aintree Village Civil Parish unless doing so would create a benefit for Melling residents.

A pictorial representation of the ‘M’ Maghull logo by Keith Page of Lydiate.

In the case of the issue raised with me it was someone wishing to nominate a Lydiate Civil Parish beneficiary for a Maghull Christmas hamper. The answer from Maghull Council was no and the reason for the no was the legislation that made the rule that I mentioned above. To be fair I think a newspaper article had inadvertently contributed to the uncertainty as it had, I’m told (I didn’t actually see the article), not made it clear that nominations were limited to Maghull residents.

Of course there’s a wider issue here as to whether individual parish councils should or indeed should not do certain things. In the case of Christmas hampers for the elderly/needy some parish councils will distribute them and others will choose to spend the council tax they collect in different ways. I’m not taking sides here just trying to say that each individual parish council will spend its money in differing ways, sometimes very different ways but so long as the expenditure is within the law then that’s fine – it’s a policy decision.

Those who know me well will realise that I’m a big fan of parish councils as they are the closet form of democracy we have to the people. I love the quirkiness of parish councils and the fact that they each can move in very different ways to address the perceived needs of their own community. This is so different from District, Borough and County councils which can be so similar in what they do or don’t do, no matter which political party is running them.

I’ll of course bring the letter I received to the attention of Lydiate Parish Council.