Obituary: John David – an immense presence in the Pendle community

john-davidLifelong Liberal stalwart John David died early on Monday morning. John David was an immense presence in the Pendle community who served as a Liberal and Liberal Democrat member of Pendle Borough Council for 28 years. He was elected in May 1986 for the Fence area until retiring in May 2014 due to ill health. He was Leader of the Council from 2008 to 2010 and Deputy Leader from 2012 to 2014, and served as a highly distinguished Mayor of Pendle in 1992/1993.

A proud Welshman (not least when Wales were on the rugby field) John was a lifelong Liberal. He stood for the Liberals in Bosworth in the 1964 General Election, polling 10652 votes, almost a fifth of the total, in a seat the party had not previously contested. By the 1980s he was living in Pendle in Lancashire, running a business in Burnley, and in the 1986 Council elections Gordon Lishman (then the Pendle PPC) sat in his kitchen until, in Gordon’s words, “John signed the nomination form to get rid of me on the promise that he had no chance of election”. He won and held the seat for 28 years.

John was Liberal Democrat group leader from 2008 to his retirement. He was a founder member of the local area committee when the Liberals brought devolution to the workings of the Council. Last year Pendle Council made John a Freeman of the Borough in recognition of his service to people in Pendle.

He was an important figure in local education and for many years chaired both the Governors of Nelson and Colne College and the governing body at a local high school. He was an enthusiastic member of the Parish Council in his ward and served as Chair for a time. His greatest achievements in the village were perhaps in the field of planning, including getting the parish as a whole included in the Green Belt, and in saving the village library and creating and chairing the Village Hall in part of the library building.

cartoon01John’s work extended well beyond the narrow confines of the Council, and included the Heritage Trust for the North West and the local citizens Advice Bureau. Music was a lifelong passion – he took up the cello as an adult and sang in local choirs. He chaired Burnley Orchestra and Choir for 30 years and their own home-based string quartet, the Hoarstones Ensemble, gave much joy to many people, including a locally famous “family and friends” rendering of The Messiah at Christmas.

His successor as Fence’s Liberal councillor, Brian Newman, said that John was a legend in the village and would remain so for many a year to come. Councillor Tony Greaves, John’s successor as leader of the Liberal group on Pendle Council, said John was irreplaceable. He said: “People in so many walks of life in Pendle owe John an enormous debt of thanks.” Councillor Nadeem Ahmed said: “John was an absolutely brilliant role model form whom I learnt so much…a real gentleman who will be missed.”

* Tony Greaves is a backbench Liberal Democrat member of the House of Lords.

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This entry was posted in Obituaries.


  • Joseph Bourke 5th Oct '16 - 4:37pm

    I didn’t know John, but his record of community engagement and public service sounds worthy of that greatest of accolades – a ‘life well led’.

  • Richard Underhill 5th Oct '16 - 7:46pm

    Tony, Please correct me if I am wrong, but this sounds very like the person some southern canvassers stayed with during the Ribble Valley bye-election. He told us that he was the only member in the ward, that Gordon Lishman and Tony Greaves insisted politely until he said YES, but then local people approached him saying that they were glad he was standing. He found out how unpopular the Tory was, and, with a little bit of leafletting and canvassing he won. In light of his generous hospitality he did ask us to deliver a few leaflets for him in his ward in Pendle, after breakfast, before going to the parliamentary election in the constituency next door where a Lancashire county councillor was struggling with an old and unreliable printing machine. After the win in the bye-election he treated us to a whisky. Some other canvassers were less fortunate in their accommodation.

  • Sorry to hear of the passing of such a stalwart. PS Trust the Group is the Liberal Democrat Group ?

  • Richard Underhill 6th May '18 - 12:29pm

    Pendle Council is in the news today after a controversial person has become a Tory councillor. What he said is reportedly unprintable and “unsuitable for a family show” according to Andrew Marr. Therefore (not being on Twitter) I do not know what it was, but the local Tories will presumably need to answer for their actions, perhaps on the regional part of the Sunday Politics.

  • David Evans 6th May '18 - 2:01pm

    Richard, it was what *she* said (on Facebook) not what *he* said.

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