RIP Richard Boyd

We were very sad to hear of the sudden passing of Richard Boyd .

Richard played the epic, leading role in the Liberal revival in Rochford District in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. He was first elected as a councillor for Trinity Ward in 1976, coming second in a year when there were two seats available. This was a considerable achievement at a time  when the Liberals were doing poorly nationally.

1976boyd Until then there had only been one Liberal on the District Council , the gentlemanly and caring Bernard Crick from Ashingdon. Richard soon became leader of the Liberal Group. He helped another Liberal, Derek Helson, get elected in Trinity Ward , and the Liberals were on their way.

Derek was the most  studious councillor, poring  over  council documents to find much of the ammunition that Richard would then use with tremendous flair, either in the council chamber , or in the local press, or in Focus newsletters.  They campaigned to cut down on what they thought was unnecessary spending, and to use the money instead on good causes such as bus passes for pensioners, or to cut the rates.

In 1981 Richard upset the applecart further, by unexpectedly winning a County Council seat, Rayleigh North. By 1984 he led a group of eight  on the District Council , and the numbers gradually increased until the Tories lost control of the  District.  Richard also stood for parliament in 1983, coming second with a very creditable 32% of the vote.

He played a role in the reinstatement of Rawreth Parish Council, and in the creation of Rayleigh Town Council. On the County Council Richard eventually became group leader (we understand the flag is at half mast today at County Hall). He also achieved other positions, such as Chair of the Essex Police Authority in 1994:


Richard acted with flair and panache in the council chamber, and was capable of some withering ad libs.  When a very inexperienced Chris Black got up to speak in a debate on storing nuclear waste in Essex , the Tory  chairman said he had heard enough from the Liberals and told him to sit down. Richard immediately up stood up and said “Well done Chairman, there’s only one councillor here with a degree in physics and you’ve told him to shut up”. That attracted some publicity.

Even those who disagreed with him  enjoyed his wit and ability.  When he had poked holes in a Conservative argument he would dryly apologise for “clouding the issue with facts”. There was nearly always something to enjoy when he was in the chamber! For many of us entering politics he was an inspiration .

Rest in peace Richard, and our thoughts are with your family.

Former Group Leader Richard Boyd
Former Group Leader Richard Boyd



Christine Paine

At tonight’s Rawreth Parish Council meeting, everyone stood for a minute’s silence in memory of Vice-Chair Christine Paine.

Christine passed away last Saturday after a very brave battle against illness.

Many of our readers will remember her hundreds of comments on onlineFOCUS – she was a lady who cared very much about her local area, and indeed the wider world. So we were particularly delighted when she became a parish councillor.

Christine was a very intelligent, determined, thoughtful and caring person, and will be sorely missed. Our condolences and our thoughts go out to her family and friends.

Gill Lucas-Gill

We were totally shocked by the death a couple of weeks ago of Gill Lucas-Gill, Conservative Councillor for Rochford ward on the District Council.

As one of the senior Tories, there were obviously times when she didn’t agree with us in the Lib Dems. But Gill was always pleasant to be with and she was open to persuasion – if you put forward a strong enough case, she was willing to change her mind.
If you saw her at meetings like the Local Highways Panel you could see that she cared for the ward and town that she served. She showed a certain dry sense of humour in the council chamber, and – a top accolade for a councillor – never seemed to make a boring speech!

Gill hadn’t even reached her prime as a councillor and there was lots more she could have done. She will be remembered and missed.

Beryl Handford


We were shocked to hear of the death of Beryl Handford, the wife of Mike Handford, a former chairman of Rochford District and Rayleigh Town Councils. Beryl was born in London in 1938, and moved with Mike to Rayleigh in 1964.

Beryl was a person who always thought about others, and so worked so hard for others , not for a little while, but for many years! Her outstanding efforts for local voluntary organisations were recognised by Rochford Council in the 2003 Citizen of the Year Community Spirit award. This recognised her decades of work for:

  • WRVS Day Centre, 40 years of service. (volunteer)
  • Rayleigh Blind Club 25 years of service (driver and treasurer)
  • Rayleigh Ladies Club 25 years of service (organiser)
  • Rayleigh Age Concern 40 years of service (organiser/cook for midday meals service)
  • Friends of Holy Trinity 10 years of fundraising.
  • In 1977 she joined the Rayleigh Liberal Association, becoming an Executive Committee member, a post she held until 2005.

    To quote former counciloor Richard Boyd:

    Beryl was an example of selfless voluntary service, putting more into society than she ever sought to take out.

    The Town is the richer for her work, and thousands of residents received help, meals, and support from her in

    the decades she lived in Rayleigh

    Beryl is survived by her husband, Mike, and 3 grandchildren (Anthony, Nathan, and Stephanie) and of course our thoughts are with them .

    20 Years Ago Today….

    minutes meeting 1994 b

    Chris Black writes:

    It’s not often that a sitting councillor gets married – maybe once a decade at Rochford District Council. So when it happens , it normally gets minuted.

    So 20 years ago today, council minute 103/94 stated that “The Chairman [Terry Fawell] referred to the forthcoming wedding of Councillor C.I. Black and presented to him on behalf of those present a card and a framed picture of Rayleigh with their best wishes for the future”

    Well those best wishes for the future seemed to have helped us , and we are still grateful for them. 20 years on Elena and myself are still together, not bad considering we got wed 10 weeks after our first date…



    Clive Wren

    We were very sorry to hear about the passing of former Lib Dem Councillor for Ashingdon, Clive Wren, who died recently , aged 78. Our thoughts are with his family.

    We were kindly sent the following obituary and photo, which we are very happy to publish.

    Clive Wren 01

    Clive Wren, 78 of Hullbridge, passed away, 2 November 2013.

    Clive was born in October 1935 to Robert and Leah Wren of London.
    He left school after passing his matriculation exams and joined the RAF to complete his National Service where he gained his pilot’s licence. Like many others in his position he became interested in motorsport and spent his leave designing his own ideal sports car. Unlike many others though he turned his dream into reality and on completing his National Service founded Convair Developments with his brother Terry. They set up their business in a corner of their father’s cabinet making workshop. Clive made a full scale model of his design and set to making moulds using glass fibre. Soon they were producing high quality glass fibre body shells to sell in the embryonic kit car industry.
    Similar likeminded pioneers and members of the 750 Motor Club would meet up at The Abbey Hotel on the North Circular to discuss ideas and developments. Clive listened in on numerous heated debates including those between Colin Chapman, founder of Lotus, Leslie Ballamy and others. Terry looked after the commercial side of the business while Clive immersed himself in the engineering mastering a wide range of skills. As a result it was not long before Convair were selling suspension conversions, complete chassis’s and undertaking other bespoke engineering work.
    The introduction of the Austin Healey Sprite effectively put an end to their dreams as they realised they could not compete with a mainstream manufacturer. Unlike a number of other fledgling sports car companies of the time Clive and Terry decided to wind up the business and change direction rather than fight on. In all about 130 bodies were made in three different styles and 50 or so chassis. One complete car exists in the Haynes International Motor Museum in Sparkford, near Yeovil and several others are in private hands.
    The brothers went their separate ways and Clive’s next enterprise was to run a fleet of oil tankers supplying heating fuel to establishments in the East End of London. The flying bug never really disappeared though and the brothers soon got back together and started importing used light aircraft from abroad for resale back home. Again Terry looked after commercial matters and Clive took on the maintenance and restoration work. This led to Clive running an aircraft maintenance company based at Southend Airport dealing mainly with light aircraft and small commercial planes. The business became quite a success and Clive diversified into other areas of aviation acquiring or setting up businesses in ticketing, ground handling, aircraft chartering and a flying club. He also stood for and won a seat on Rochford District Council. He was the instigator, of the then secret meeting, in the early 80a between representatives of Manchester Airport, and the Council Leadersof Essex, Castle Point, Basildon, and Rochford to offer to Southend Airport Committee a lifeline to develop the airport rather than Southend hand the running of it over to a subsidiary of Stansted/BAA. His fear was that Stansted would overpower Southend, taking away aircraft maintenance and cargo and how right he was! Now, 30 years later, Stansted is owned by Manchester Airport!
    Southend Airport gradually declined and Clive closed his businesses one by one until he finally retired at the beginning of the new Millennium.
    He was survived by his wife Patricia; his daughter Amanda and his two grandchildren. Our thoughts are with them. In lieu of flowers, the family have requested donations to Fair Havens Hospices in Southend.
    Angus Dudley/Richard Boyd OBE DL

    Rest in Peace , Clive

    Rest In Peace

    We had a sombre start to last night’s Full Council – a minute’s silence in memory of Dawn Giles, Terry Livings and Roy Pearson, three people connected with the council who had all died recently.

    Dawn Giles was a former Lib Dem Rayleigh Town Councillor. Dawn became involved in politics when her father, Mike Handford, was a Lib Dem District Councillor in Rayleigh (and a very successful Chairman of the Council). She threw herself into political activity, in a variety of roles, from being a well-organised constituency treasurer, to helping at quiz nights, to encouraging her children to deliver Focus leaflets, and to ultimately in becoming a Rayleigh Town Councillor herself for while! She wasn’t in it for the kudos, but simply to make a contribution. Dawn was barely into her fifties, which makes her passing a particularly sad event.

    Terry Livings was a Conservative District Councillor for Lodge Ward from 1999 to 2007. In his latter years he was battling determinedly against poor health, but he remained a very genuine and sincere councillor, and always seemed happy to have a chat outside of the council chamber. Terry was particularly interested in facilities for young people, and was sometimes very forthright in his support for those facilties.

    Roy Pearson was the sitting Conservative County Councillor for Rochford South. He had previously served for many years as a District Councillor, representing Foulness & Great Wakering East. Roy was one of nature’s gentlemen, always pleasant and friendly. It was a measure of the man that when the Tories were at their lowest point in the district , with only two district councillors, Roy was one of the two who held their seats. He was a former chairman of the Council, and took a particular interest in planning issues.

    To hear at a meeting about the loss of three people like this was particularly sombre, and our thoughts and sympathy are with their families and friends.

    Tom Smith-Hughes, RIP

    We’ve just heard of another very sad loss. Tom Smith-Hughes, the leader of the Liberal Democrats on Essex County Council, has died after a long fight with cancer.

    Chelmsford Lib Dems have written the following on their website:

    Chelmsford Liberal Democrats are deeply saddened to announce the death of Cllr Tom Smith-Hughes, after a long and brave battle against cancer.

    Tom was County Councillor for Chelmsford North for 27 years; Chelmsford Councillor for Patching Hall for 17 years; Lib Dem leader at County Hall and on the Fire Authority, and a member of the Lib Dems’ Essex, Chelmsford and local branch executives. He held many community positions including school governor posts.

    Commented Cllr Mike Mackrory (Deputy Lib Dem Leader Essex CC), “We are devastated by this news. Tom was a pillar of strength to the Lib Dems and indeed the whole community in Chelmsford. He was highly respected by everyone who knew him. Our thoughts are with Jill and the family at this deeply sad time.”

    Chelmsford Council Lib Dem Leader Chris Rycroft added, “We will all miss Tom deeply. He was a huge asset to our Group and the wider Council. Few people understood local government finances like Tom and it meant he was listened to across the council.”

    Cllr. Stephen Robinson, his ward colleague in Patching Hall, added, “Tom was a friend to me and countless other people locally. He helped many hundreds of people across north Chelmsford and further afield over many years, and campaigned tirelessly for our community, on housing, transport and many other issues.”

    Our thoughts go out to his family and friends tonight.

    Chris Morgan

    Some very sad news.

    Hullbridge Councillor Michael Hoy has reported that Chris Morgan died last Friday.

    Chris Morgan was one of the most significant people to have ever served on the District Council, and he served it for many years. He was a stalwart of the Labour Party, but liked and respected across the chamber. Chris spoke with natural gravitas, intelligence and humour.

    If you were putting forward a proposal , if there was one councillor in another party you wanted to say you were right, it was Chris. When he was putting forward a motion himself, he didn’t seem to compromise on his principles – there was one occasion shortly before he was up for re-election when he supported a planning application, even though he knew it would lose him badly-needed votes.

    He was an inspiration to many people.

    He will be sorely missed, and our thoughts go out to his family.

    Minutes of the first ever meeting of the District Council in 1973 - Chris Morgan was a member.

    Good Luck Vic

    Vic Leach is the Chairman of Hawkwell Parish Council and used to be a District Councillor as well for Hawkwell. He is fighting illness but clearly hasn’t lost his sense of humour, nor his willingness to be active in the community. He’s written to people he knows to say:

    My oncologist is giving me a fine spring gift, something called keemo threppy. Tried the first bit today, nothings fallen off and everything seems to be where I saw it last, hooray. Im having a sponsored head shave next week, half for prostate research (extra quid may make all the difference), and half for Macmillans (keeping in their good books). Pounds, dollars, zlotys all welcome.

    The sponsored headshave is being held tomorrow 11 April at 11 oclock in Rochford -Please make a contribution. If you want details of where to send the money please contact us for info.

    Stephen Horgan

    Extremely sad news from Basildon , where the Deputy Leader of the Council, Stephen Horgan, has died of cancer,aged 47.

    As the BBC have reported:

    The deputy leader of Basildon Council has died at the age of 47, following a long battle with cancer.
    Stephen Horgan was a Conservative councillor for Billericay for 13 years and the deputy leader since 2009.
    The council said he died on Tuesday, leaving his wife Piera and children Eleanor, 12, and John, 10.

    Stephen Horgan had his own blog, which we have included in our Blogroll for a long time now. When he wrote, he generally wrote at length and with precision. In one of his last posts, only last month, he took the opportunity to praise other politicians that he knew:

    Congratulations Angela
    It occurs to me that I missed a huge story in my blogging for which I apologise. We have a Baroness Basildon in the form of our former MP Angela Smith, and I cannot think of a more deserving individual. That may surprise many, given we sit firmly on the opposite sides in politics, but only a fool would not recognise Angela’s enormous talents and sheer commitment to the ordinary people in our community. People may rail against the House of Lords, but it works well to capture and retain such people in Britain’s public life. The work of that chamber is often very impressive, if inconvenient for the government of the day. Angela keeping a role in public service is case to point as well as a quiet satisfaction to many in Basildon.
    In fact Basildon has always been fortunate in our MPs. We now have the endlessly hardworking Stephen Metcalfe in Basildon proper. In Billericay we have John Baron, decent, intelligent and really holding the government to account on serious foreign policy matters of the day. For Wickford we have Mark Francois, brought up in Basildon and an astonishingly talented man. God knows where our community would be without such representing us at Westminster.

    Poignantly (and surely bravely) he described himself as follows:

    ….. If you dont know Essex, or England for that matter, Basildon is a semi-rural area encompassing three towns and with a population of around 170000. The Council is Conservative-controlled and I am currently the Deputy Leader of the Council. We have numerous challenges, but I wont bore you with those. For those that are interested, I am married with two children and four dogs. Oh, and I survived cancer, at least so far.

    Our thoughts are with his family tonight.

    Mary Lubel

    The Guardian has an obituary of Mary Lubel, a former stalwart of the Southend Liberals and a County Councillor for 18 years. Amongst her many achievements in a busy life was becoming chair of the Education Committee….

    My mother, Mary Lubel, who has died aged 87, was a county councillor and a staunch supporter of the underprivileged. She will be remembered for her many achievements in Southend-on-Sea and Essex, and was rewarded with an MBE in 2003 for services to the community…..

    You can read it in full here.