Councillors ready to walk out over 100-year old tragedy

Councillors are set to stage a walkout as they honour the memory of a Thornton man sent to his death in the First World War.

Wednesday, 31st May 2017, 1:13 pm
Updated Sunday, 4th June 2017, 9:16 pm
A memorial could be put up close to Thornton library

Joseph Blackburn from Thornton was killed in the First World War having been conscripted to serve on the front line.

He was originally exempt from going to war due to his career as a market gardener but the exemption was later overturned.

On June 26 1917, five councillors from Thornton Urban District Council walked out of the council offices in protest at the decision by a Westminster panel.

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A special ceremony will make the 100th anniversary of that walk out and Wyre Council is appealing for relatives and descendants to come forward and be part the commemoration events.

Coun Ann Turner, who represents Marsh Mill ward, is among those who will take part in the ceremonial walkout before a meeting of the full council next month.

She said: “This is, of course, a ceremonial strike.

“But it is very important to recognise what happened.

“We have to realise the significance.

“Joseph Blackburn was sent to war and he died, despite working in a protected profession.

“What these councillors were doing was fighting for his life.”

County Coun Andrea Kay, who also serves on Wyre Council will take part in the strike, which will be introduced by Coun Turner.

Coun Tom Ingham and Coun Kerry Jones will also take part in the ceremony.

Joseph Blackburn’s story is a tragic tale.

In March 1916, the government introduced military conscription for the very first time.

Local tribunals decided when men who were already soldiers should be called up but also had the power to make a man exempt absolutely, temporarily or upon particular conditions.

The Thornton tribunal accepted that Joseph was a market gardener and that it was in the national interest that he should follow that trade.

In May 1917, a tribunal in Westminster decided he was not a market gardener and took away the exemption.

Joseph died at the Somme in August 1918.

Earlier this year Wyre Council began a search for members of Joseph’s family.

The authority is hoping his living relatives will be able to join councillors at the meeting, at Wyre Civic Centre in Poulton on June 15.

Coun Kay said: “We are hoping they will be there.

“I am also looking at finding money between myself, the other councillors and Wyre for a bench in memory of Joseph near the Little Theatre and library.

“He provided for the people and it is a sad story of a wrong decision that was taken.”

Following the ceremony the five serving Thornton councillors will return to the chamber to continue with the meeting.