Stalwart of local politics, 87, dies

Hugh Philipson.
Hugh Philipson.

A leading light in north Northumberland politics, well-known for his straight-talking manner, has died at the age of 87.

Hugh Philipson, from Lesbury, a long-serving parish, district and county councillor and an Honorary Alderman, passed away peacefully in hospital last Thursday.

He is survived by wife Dorothy, children Susan and George, son and daughter-in-law Richard and Debbie, seven grandchildren and two great granddaughters.

The family said they are going to miss him very much and that he will leave a big hole in their lives.

His funeral takes place tomorrow at St Mary’s Church in Lesbury at 2pm.

Tributes:

He was a Conservative, but Hugh Philipson always stood as an Independent in district and county elections as he didn’t agree with party politics at local level.

And it was a stance, coupled with his candid, plain-speaking nature, that ensured he represented Lesbury on Alnwick District Council for its entire lifespan from 1974 to 2009.

He was the one selected from a group of friends who had got together in the Lesbury area to decide who would stand for the ward on the new authority in 1973.

From that point, he topped the poll in all district elections and also did so in the county elections until he lost his seat in 2008. He also served as a parish councillor in Lesbury for more than half-a-century until 2007.

Bill Batey, former chief executive of Alnwick District Council, said: “As a local councillor, Hughie gave tremendous service to the residents of this area.

“He had a reputation for always speaking his mind and a passion for always seeking improvements and better services. I know he was particularly proud when the Willowburn Sports and Leisure Centre was completed 10 years ago.”

Alnwick county councillor Gordon Castle, who served on the district council with Coun Philipson, said: “He was one of the great characters of local politics. He was greatly liked by his constituents and they felt that he was the man of the people.

“He cared very much about what people wanted. He cared about that more than anything else. He was a passionate and committed politician.”

Mr Philipson also dabbled in national politics, when in 1974, he was on the Conservative shortlist for selection to oppose Alan Beith. He was not chosen and, although he was asked to stand elsewhere, he turned this opportunity down.

Sir Alan Beith MP said: “Hughie Philipson was a great character, very dedicated to the good of the area and a passionate spokesman for farming and countryside life.”

One of the major choices of Hugh Philipson’s life came in 1945, when he was offered the opportunity to sign for Newcastle United.

From a farming background, he was scouted while playing football for King’s College, Newcastle, while studying for a diploma in agriculture.

Having been offered a contract with the Magpies, his father issued an ultimatum – football or farming.

So, in September 1946, he became joint tenant of Townfoot Farm. In later years he helped son George on nearby Waterside Farm.

But his love of football continued and he played for Alnwick Town, Heaton Stannington and Alnmouth, as well as Alnwick District Council.

A keen supporter of sport and exercise, one of the highlights of his district council service was the creation of Willowburn Sports and Leisure Centre in Alnwick, officially opened by then Newcastle manager Sir Bobby Robson in 2003.