Tributes paid to former first citizen Bob Williamson

Former Wyre mayor Bob Williamson has died, aged 85.
Former Wyre mayor Bob Williamson has died, aged 85.

Tributes have been paid to one of Wyre’s most popular mayors, Mr Bob Williamson, who has died, aged 85.

Mr Williamson was councillor for the Hambleton ward of Wyre Council from the borough’s creation in 1973 until 1995.

Bob Williamson was born in Out Rawcliffe and  worked as a mechanic at Brimelows Garage, Poulton, served in the Royal Electrical Mechanical Engineers (REME) during National Service, and later bought Mill Garage and petrol station in Hambleton,

Bob Williamson was born in Out Rawcliffe and worked as a mechanic at Brimelows Garage, Poulton, served in the Royal Electrical Mechanical Engineers (REME) during National Service, and later bought Mill Garage and petrol station in Hambleton,

He served as mayor of Wyre in 1988/89 and was appointed an honorary alderman in 1995.

Up until his appointment as mayor he had been a back bench councillor, little known outside the Over Wyre area.

But the genial motor mechanic’s genuinely humble approach to life, the wearing of his (Conservative) politics lightly, and his sense of humour became hugely appreciated throughout the whole of Wyre – through his visits to hundreds of functions.

His son, Robert junior, recalled how, as mayor, when visiting such events his father often appeared to go missing.

Bob Williamson with his wife Margaret and their family in 1988

Bob Williamson with his wife Margaret and their family in 1988

Robert junior said: “The mayor’s attendant quickly worked out that he invariably made for the kitchen to chat to and thank the kitchen staff and the washer-uppers for their efforts.”

Mr Williamson was a true son of Over Wyre, being born in Out Rawcliffe, and attending Hambleton Primary and Poulton Hodgson Secondary School.

He worked as a mechanic at Brimelow’s Garage, Poulton, served in the Royal Electrical Mechanical Engineers (REME) during National Service, and later bought Mill Garage and petrol station, Hambleton, from where he set up a mini-bus service ferrying children to schools in Fylde and Wyre.

His reputation as a Good Samaritan was enhanced in 1984 when, in the aftermath of the Abbeystead disaster, after his day shift in the minibus, he used the vehicle nightly to take relatives of the victims of the explosion to and from hospitals in Manchester, Whiston and Preston.

He was keen on the outdoors and sports, having an interest in the equine world, pigeon homing and the crowd-pulling Great Eccleston Tractor Pulling contest. He had been a keen bowler and was one of the founders of the Out Rawcliffe Bowling Club.

He swapped his garage overalls for a suit and the Wyre civic chain in Spring 1988, saying he hoped the 12 months of being Wyre’s First Citizen would not change him. It didn’t.

During his year as mayor there were numerous highlights, including the arrival of gas in Pilling, where he carried out a formal ceremony to mark the occasion – reminding gas officials that his part of Over Wyre had yet to be connected!

On another occasion, at a plastic duck race fundraiser for Out Rawcliffe Young Farmers he decided to start the race from a canoe in the River Wyre – but had to be persuaded by his attendant to take off the mayoral chain in case there was a civic sinking.

Concerned at declining numbers at the Wyre annual mayoral ball, he successfully urged officials to change the format of the event and became directly involved in ticket sales himself. His mayoral ball was a sell-out.

Among the numerous other events he attended and enjoyed during his mayoral year were the 150th anniversary of the founding of Out Rawcliffe parish church and the 25th anniversary of the opening of Out Rawcliffe village hall.

Although not one to make a fuss, when Hambleton villagers voiced concerns about a spate of chemical scares and gas clouds from the ICI Hillhouse factory blowing over the river to Over Wyre, he organised a public meeting to demand answers from the chemical giant.

He also, on occasions, was an outspoken champion of Over Wyre ratepayers, urging Wyre Council to give rural residents a bigger slice of the council’s leisure budget.

The achievement of which he was most proud (in his capacity as a Hambleton parish councillor) was the creation of a park and recreation area in the village. It was later re-named the Bob Williamson Park.

He said at the time: “Some people get a park bench with their name on a plaque, I got a whole park named after me!”

Despite deteriorating and serious health problems for the past eight years Mr Williamson stayed in good spirits. He was particularly pleased to be associated with the Phoenix Bowel Cancer Support Group at Blackpool Victoria Hospital.

A funeral service will be held at St johns Church, Out Rawcliffe, on Saturday, November 18 at noon.

He leaves a widow, Margaret Williamson (with whom he celebrated his Diamond wedding anniversary earlier this year), five children, five grandchildren and three great grandchildren.