THE family of much loved councillor and veterans campaigner Jim Houldsworth has vowed to sue a Blackpool building firm after he died from an industrial disease.
Mr Houldsworth, who was instrumental in creating Armed Forces and Veterans Week in Blackpool, was diagnosed with mesothelioma last year after suffering from breathing difficulties.
His family now face a High Court battle with Parkinson Building Contractors, where he worked as an apprentice plumber after leaving school.
An inquest into the former Marton councillor’s death heard the 70-year-old had been “heavily” exposed to asbestos while working for the firm, which is based on Mowbray Drive, Blackpool, between 1956 and 1965.
In a statement read out at the inquest, which Mr Houldsworth had prepared prior to his death, he explained he used to replace old boiler systems and would tear the asbestos off with his bare hands.
He also said he was expected to clear the asbestos, which was known as “monkey muck”, with a brush and shovel, disturbing and re-circulating dangerous particles into the air.
Along with other workmen, he would also sit on bags of asbestos while eating meals, he said.
Mr Houldsworth’s statement added: “I was never given any safety gear or protective clothing.
“I used to go to work in my own clothes which my mother washed once a week.
“I was never provided with any mask or respiratory protection while I worked there.”
Mr Houldsworth, who later became a major in the Territorial Army and a Blackpool councillor, died on March 3 at Trinity Hospice.
His widow, Jackie, said the family were pursuing a claim which Mr Houldsworth had begun against Parkinson before his death.
She said: “We miss him terribly. It’s so sad.
“We expect there will now be a trial at the High Court.
“Parkinsons should be made accountable. Jim made me promise to carry on, it’s what he wanted.”
Mr Houldsworth worked on the Victory Pub on Caunce Street as well as Squires Gate Aerodrome and the Warton and Weeton military camps while employed by Parkinson.
His solicitors are appealing for anyone who worked with him or was employed by Parkinson Building Contractors during the same period to contact them.
Virginia Kerridge, from Boyes Turner Solicitors, said: “Jim’s legal team are now appealing for any former workmates or people who worked on any of the same locations to come forward. We would very much like to hear from anyone who worked for Parkinson between 1956 and 1965.”
During the inquest, Blackpool Coroner Anne Hind said the World Health Organisation expect there to be an explosion of industrial disease cases over the next 10 years.
She called it a “very sad situation” and paid tribute to “a well respected man who worked hard for the local area”.
The coroner added: “He had so many splendid achievements. His loss is a very sad thing outside his own family.
“We are talking about very heavy exposure to asbestos here.
“Many of the jobs he did were clearing up after people who were applying the asbestos or tearing it up.
“During his lifetime, Mr Houldsworth was sent to see a consultant who carried out a full examination. Tests made the consultant believe he had this dreaded disease, mesothelioma.”
A post mortem carried out by a pathologist at Blackpool Victoria Hospital confirmed the diagnosis and pronounced it as the cause of death.
Mrs Hind recorded a verdict of industrial disease.
During the inquest, the family praised the care Mr Houldsworth had received at Trinity Hospice.
They said they were working with entertainer Tony Jo to raise funds for a new wet room at the Bispham hospice in Mr Houldsworth’s name.
Mrs Houldsworth added: “It’s a wonderful place. The staff there deserve a medal.
“Jim wanted us to raise money for a wet room for them. It was his idea.
“It will be a great tribute to him and the staff say it will make things easier for them.”
The High Court trial is expected to take place in November or December.
A spokesman for solicitors acting on behalf of Parkinson Building Contractors said: “The matter of Mr Houldsworth’s employment is subject to litigation at the High Court.
“It would not be appropriate to comment any further.”
Anyone who would like to get in touch with Boyes Turner Solicitors can call Virginia Kerridge or Tom West on (0118) 952 7199.