Tributes paid to former MP Jack Thompson

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FAMILY and friends have said goodbye to former Wansbeck MP Jack Thompson, 82.

The lad from Fourth Row in Ashington rose to represent his country in the Council of Europe, the Queen as a deputy lieutenant of Northumberland and the people of his home town as a Labour MP for 14 years.

Even in his final months, he remained a diligent speaker at town and county council meetings, fighting for his community to the last.

Jack’s last campaign, to retain a leisure centre in Ashington, cost him money as well as time but appears to have ended in victory.

After a private cremation at Cowpen, family and friends gathered last Thursday for a memorial service at St Bartholomew’s Church in Newbiggin.

His friend and agent John McCormack, an Ashington town councillor, told the congregation: “The community has lost a champion, a campaigner, an advocate on their behalf, and Jack’s passing will affect the community a great deal.

“He gave 100 per cent to the people he represented.”

The goodbyes were said in the village where he and wife Margaret began their married life 59 years ago.

The couple, who had met at Larry Bell’s Boys’ Club, had two children – Norma, who runs the gift shop Trinkets, Treats and Treasures in Newbiggin, and Brian, a businessman in the US.

Jack, an electrical engineer for the National Coal Board, was elected onto Newbiggin Urban District Council in 1970.

When Wansbeck District Council was created in 1974, he was elected to that, staying five years, and to Northumberland County Council, serving for 11 years.

On his election to Parliament in 1983, the NCB’s response was an eviction notice.

The family then moved to Falstone Crescent in Ashington, where they were to remain.

In their youth, the pair would travel by motorcycle and sidecar, and later they enjoyed caravanning.

Coun McCormack said there was a cynical belief now that politicians were in it for what they could get, but that was not a true reflection of public life and certainly not of Jack.

Coun McCormack was beaten to the Wansbeck Labour candidacy by Jack, who immediately invited him to be his agent.

On the Council of Europe he chaired several committees. Just before he retired from Parliament in 1997, he became a deputy lieutenant of Northumberland.

In 2000, he was president of Ashington Rotary Club, and he chaired an education forum and an NHS patients’ forum.

Coun McCormack added: “Jack certainly made a difference. He made a difference for the better, and all I can say is that he will be sadly missed but never forgotten.”

The family have asked for any donations in his memory to be made to the Great North Air Ambulance Service or Newbiggin’s RNLI lifeboat station.