Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Question Time at St Edmund Arrowsmith School

Pictured above - myself and some members of the Question Time audience

As a part of Democracy Week I was invited on to the panel of Councillors and local Community Representatives for a question time hosted by St. Edmund Arrowsmith and chaired by Dave Guest from BBC's North West tonight.

The audience included representatives from local secondary and primary schools including the host school, Cansfield and Brychall High, St Wilfrid, St Oswalds, St Benedicts Catholic Primary Schools.

Questions ranged from MPs' expenses, facilities for young people, antisocial behaviour, the environment and Building Schools for the Future.

I really enjoyed the experience and was very impressed by the standard of the questions from the young people and level of debate generated. I hope this event gave the young people an insight into local politics and how they can get involved with local issues both now and in the future.

Jubilee Park - skateboard installation

At the same meeting it was announced that the funding has finally been found for a skateboard installation on the park. Dave Owen told the meeting that because of the conditions of the funding it will have to be finished by the end of March. Consultation will take place with young people in order to achieve an acceptable facility for the available funding.

I am delighted that this project has been approved by the residents group and would like to thank them for supporting it.

I will publish a plan on this blog when it is finalised.

Jubilee Park - Green Flag Status

Last week I attended a meeting of the Jubilee Park Residents group where a report was given by Dave Owen of Wigan Leisure Trust regarding the recent bid by the group for the park to gain Green Flag status.

The Green flag award scheme began in 1996 as a means of recognising and rewarding the best green spaces in the country. It was also seen as a way of encouraging others to achieve the same high environmental standards, creating a benchmark of excellence in recreational green areas. To gain this ward is a prestigious honour - Alexandra Park is the only park in Wigan with Green Flag status.

Unfortunately the judges did not award the park Green Flag status this year but the marks awarded were not far from what was required and praise must go to Dave Owen and the residents for the work they put in.

They have now formulated an action plan which should bring them up to the required standard and now they have been through the process they will feel more confident of success in the future.

For more information about th eGreen Flag award log on to:

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Stubshaw Cross honours hero of Gallipoli – Lance Sergeant William Kenealy VC

Ian McCartney MP led tributes to a fallen hero of World War I on Friday, 2nd October at a dedication service to remember Lance Sergeant William Kenealy VC.

William Kenealy (DOB. 26th Dec 1886) was born in Wexford, Ireland. When his father John, retired from the army, the family moved to Ashton in Makerfield where John worked as a check-weigher at Bryn Hall Colliery.

William became a coal miner at age 13. Ten years later he enlisted in the army, joining the 1st Battalion, Lancashire Fusiliers as a private during the First World War.

The Gallipoli Campaign took place at Gallipoli peninsula in Turkey from 25 April 1915to 9 January 1916. A joint British Empire and French operation was mounted to capture the Ottoman capital of Istanbul, and secure a sea route to Russia. The attempt failed, with heavy casualties on both sides.

After the failure of naval attacks, it was decided that ground forces were necessary to eliminate the Turkish mobile artillery. This would allow minesweepers to clear the waters for the larger vessels. The British Secretary of State for War, Lord Kitchener, appointed General Sir Ian Hamilton to command the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force that was to carry out the mission.

Over 130,000 died on both sides during the offensive with over 230,000 wounded (21,000 dead and 52,000 wounded from the UK).

On 25 April 1915 west of Cape Helles, Gallipoli, Turkey, William was 28 years old when he performed an act of bravery for which he was awarded the Victoria Cross.

A citation published by The London Gazette, (No 29273, 24th August 1915 read as follows;

‘On 25th April, 1915, three companies, and the Headquarters of the 1st Bn. Lancashire Fusiliers, in effecting a landing on the Gallipoli Peninsula to the West of Cape Helles, were met by a very deadly fire from hidden machine guns which caused a great number of casualties. The survivors, however, rushed up to and cut the wire entanglements, notwithstanding the terrific fire from the enemy, and after overcoming supreme difficulties, the cliffs were gained and the position maintained. Amongst the many very gallant officers and men engaged in this most hazardous undertaking, Capt. Willis, Serjt. Richards, and Pte. Kenealy have been selected by their comrades as having performed the most signal acts of bravery and devotion to duty.’

Shortly afterwards William was promoted to corporal and then lance-sergeant.

By June 1915 all thoughts the Allies had of a swift decisive victory over Turkey had vanished. The preceding Third Battle of Krithia and the attack at Gully Ravine (28th June 1915) had limited objectives and had much in common with the trench warfare prevailing on the Western Front. Unlike previous Allied attacks at Helles, the Gully Ravine action was largely successful at achieving its objectives though at a typically high cost in casualties.

Lance-Sergeant Kinealy was seriously wounded at Gully Ravine and died the following day, 29th June 1915, aged 29. William’s grave is located at Lancashire Landing Cemetery, Gallipoli peninsula.

William was one of six members of the regiment elected by their colleagues in the regiment for the award. The other five members were; Cuthbert Bromley, John Grimshaw, Alfred Richards, Frank Stubbs and Raymond Willis.

Described by the press as ‘six VC’s before breakfast’, Sir Ian Hamilton ordered that the beach be renamed Lancashire Landing because of his conviction that, ‘no finer feat of arms has ever been achieved by the British Soldier – or any other soldier – than the storming of these beaches’.

Joining Ian McCartney at the Dedication ceremony were William’s family, Ashton Councillor Nigel Ash, Mr Mel Lee Chair of Ashton in Makerfield Royal British Legion, Rev Kevin Crinks and Lt Col Mike Glover, The Lancashire Fusiliers.

A plaque was unveiled to commemorate the contribution and sacrifice of William.

I approached Mel Lee and the national Royal British Legion to seek their approval to commemorate this ‘very brave man’. At the same time the development of the Stubshaw Cross Heritage Garden was underway and Cllr Ash approached Ken Barston - Secretary Stubshaw Cross Residents Association to see if the garden would be able to accommodate a plaque to commemorate William.

Ian McCartney MP in his address retold eye witness accounts of the Gallipoli Campaign. He said, “Eye witness accounts of soldiers who fought in this campaign are harrowing and bring home the horrors of war."

“A Lieutenant Watts was badly wounded and yet continued to encourage his comrades to go forward. He learned afterwards that the first 48 men to follow him were all killed."

“Others reported that they landed on Turkish soil under terrific enemy fire. In a few seconds 17 men were killed and 200 wounded and another survivor said that the Turks used hand grenades at close quarters and he could only recognize his dead comrades by their identity discs!”

On behalf of the Ashton in Makerfield community Ian thanked William for the ultimate sacrifice. He added, “In the short time that he was a soldier William Kenealy experienced the full horror of war. He showed exceptional bravery on several occasions and eventually made the ultimate sacrifice, giving his life fighting for his country."

“I feel very privileged and honoured to be here today at this dedication to commemorate William Kenealy a very brave man and fallen hero. This plaque will ensure that in generations to come he and his comrades will not be forgotten and the sacrifices they made will stand testament to the true nature of the brutalities of war and conflict. “

Saturday, 3 October 2009

The Sun

I am sure readers will be aware that the Sun has made great play in coming out in support of the Tory Party for next year's General Elections.

Perhaps ten years ago this might have been very significant. But things have moved on even since 1997 when they supported the Labour Party. There are so many more means of forming public opinion these days. People now have blogging, twittering, 24 hours news bulletins, Face Book, YouTube and other means I probably don't know about.

The idea that a newspaper alone can sway public opinion to any great extent is, I feel, a thing of the past and belongs to the previous century.

And do people buy the Sun for its political views?

Present for Michael from the Ashton Library Knitting/Crochet group

I bought this teddy bear from the Ashton Library Knitting and Crochet group at their stall in Ashton Library.

They tell me that they are flourishing having 20 members and they knit for many charities including the Warrington premature baby unit, Loving Hands (Scotland, Baby Back Project (South Africa) and Orphans in Romania. The proceeds from this sale in the library will go to the Mayor's charity.

They tell me that the membership is all women but that they would welcome any man who wishes to join the group. I declined this offer but I am sure there must be fellas out there who would be interested.

The teddy bear is now in possesion of my grandson Michael.

Mel Lee - award for services to the British Legion

Last Monday I was honoured to be asked to present the National Award of the Gold Badge to Mel Lee for the years of selfless work he has done for the British Legion.

Mel has been a member of the Royal British Legion since 1985 and of the Wigan Branch since 1985. Anyone who has witnessed the Remembrance Day Service will immediately recognise him as the parade Marshall, a job he has done since 1995. During Remembrance week he goes into Cansfield High School to promote the work of the British Legion. He has also worked closely with myself and Ken Barston Secretary of the Stubshaw Cross Residents Association to establish a permanent memorial to local VC holder William Kenealy.

This award is truly well deserved and was unanimously supported by his local Branch of the British Legion.

Two new traffic initiatives in Ashton

Two other new initiatives have been announced recently which effect Ashton

1.A new Puffin crossing will be established on Wigan Road near Jubilee Park - Highways works will hopefully be complete by the end of next week, with the signal technology being installed and operational by the 23rd October.

2 SCOOT in Ashton is now online. The BT lines were installed on Tuesday 8 September and validation of the system has taken 3 weeks to complete. There were issues raised relating to the Puffin crossing on Gerard Street, these have been actioned and the crossing has been incorporated into the SCOOT system, so demand from pedestrians will be balanced with motor traffic, rather than taking precedence. This will hopefully relieve all the pressure building back to the Warrington Road / Liverpool Road junction.

Renewal of pavements Stubshaw Cross

After taking part on an inspection of the Stubshaw Cross Estate last Monday with a housing officer and a resident of the estate one thing that struck me was the poor state of the pavements there. This has been the case for several years now.

So I was pleased to learn this week that Conway Road and Avon Road are included in the 2009/10 programme of footway works and work has been programmed to start on site in November.