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Derek Twigg, MP for Halton

Working Hard for Widnes, Runcorn & Hale

Jack Ashley bust unveiling

17 Jun 2014

Derek Twigg MP has unveiled a bust to one of Halton's most famous sons, at Widnes Library.

Jack Ashley, later Baron Ashley of Stoke, was a hero to many in the area,  sitting in the old Widnes Borough Council, and admired all over the country across political divides, for his campaigns, particularly on disability.

The idea for a bronze bust came from artist Phil Garrett when doing a project with children at St Michael's Primary School, in Ditton.

One of Jack's sisters Mary, aged 89, saw the work in progress and gave advice as it progressed.  His other sister Margaret, and other members of the family were at the unveiling.

Among the friends and family at the occasion was Guardian journalist Jackie Ashley, whose husband is TV presenter, journalist and author, Andrew Marr.

The bust now sits in pride of place in Widnes Library, after space was donated by Halton Borough Council for the project.

Derek Twigg told the gathering on Friday that Jack had been an inspiration to him.

While Jack's daughter, Jane Ashley, said: "It is fitting the bust is here, as it was just across the road Jack was carried aloft by members of the public after he was elected as the country's youngest councillor."

The initial project ran from May to July 2013. The artist made murals to go around the school based on the local history of the area.

He met with local history author Jean Morris who assisted him in the research.

He said: "We came up with the tribute to Jack Ashley. Jean knew Jack and, in particular Jack’s sister Mary. She spoke with the family, asking for their permission first."

Jack was a Labour Member of Parliament in the House of Commons for Stoke-on-Trent South for 26 years, from 1966 to 1992, and subsequently sat in the House of Lords. He was a long-time campaigner for disabled people.

He was a tireless crusader. For more than 40 years, first as an MP and then a peer he fought for the rights of the underprivileged and the disadvantaged.

His efforts won him the admiration and support of politicians from all parts of the political spectrum.

Jack Ashley was born in Widnes on 6 December 1922. He left school at 14 to become the family's chief breadwinner as a factory worker and crane driver.

He was soon a leading trade unionist at his workplace in the chemical industry.  His first political act, aged 18, was to seek out the town clerk of Widnes and enquire about tenants' rights.

Ashley was soon on the national executive of his union, and on the strength of this, won a scholarship to Oxford.
When Jack died in 2012, Labour Leader Ed Miliband lead the tributes.

He said: "When he died in 2012, Labour Leader Ed Miliband led the tributes. He said: ""He was a pioneer as the first deaf MP to sit in parliament, but he did much more than that.

"There are many millions of men and women with disabilities who will have better lives thanks to Jack Ashley. He succeeded in changing the law and in changing attitudes. Anti-discrimination legislation for people with disabilities would not have happened when it did without his tenacity, his campaigning and his support."


 

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Jack Ashley unveiling

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