Remembering Councillor Doreen Holt

Doreen Holt calls the bingo at Ibbison Court Day Centre in Blackpool
Doreen Holt calls the bingo at Ibbison Court Day Centre in Blackpool
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Councillor Doreen Holt, who lost her battle with cancer on Saturday, worked tirelessly on behalf of residents. Shelagh Parkinson looks back at her life.

NIPPING quickly to the shops was impossible for Coun Doreen Holt.

For as she motored her way along Central Drive, a familiar sight on her mobility scooter, she was inevitably met by people who wanted to stop and chat.

The local councillor, who lost her battle against cancer on Saturday, had time for them all and loved nothing better then representing her beloved Revoe area in the town hall.

But her popularity extended beyond the boundaries of her Bloomfield ward – in 2008 she was crowned youth champion after winning I’m a Councillor, Get Me Out of Here! as part of Local Democracy Week.

Her family say she rated it as one of her proudest moments.

Perhaps the young people who voted for her recognised her most enduring quality – the strong principles which meant she refused to compromise on her beliefs, even if it meant falling out with her political masters.

Born in Rossendale, Coun Holt moved to Blackpool as a teenager and worked as a tram conductress.

When she was first elected in 1983 to represent the old Foxhall ward, she was one of a stream of new Conservative councillors and she served until 1991.

But Coun Holt was angry when the Conservatives approved the closure of the art deco Derby Baths on North Promenade, which were finally demolished in 1990.

After making her feelings known, she was de-selected and stood as an independent at the next local elections. It was a narrow defeat, but made Mrs Holt realise she had to be affiliated to a political party if she was to get back into the council chamber to fight on behalf of the folk she loved.

Coun Douglas Green, leader of the current Lib Dems on Blackpool Council, recalls: “Doreen was more for the people than a political person, and she knew that we would give her more freedom when it came to what she voted on.

“She chose a political party to suit her so she could do what she wanted for the community.”

She represented the newly formed Bloomfield ward from 2000 to 2003 for the Lib Dems, and from 2007 until the present day. She campaigned on issues ranging from animal rights to getting a playground on Bethesda Square.

Unfortunately, the times when she lost her seat delayed her turn to be Mayor, and she was not due to be the town’s first citizen until 2012 – an honour which would have been well deserved.

A place in Parliament was another dream Coun Holt never realised, unsuccessfully fighting the Blackpool South seat four times for the Lib Dems.

Nevertheless, she campaigned with gusto each time, and, despite her life being torn apart by the brutal death of her son Stephen Moody, she contested the 2010 general election.

Stephen died in hospital in 2009 after being in a coma for three months, following an incident outside the Belle Vue pub on Whitegate Drive.

The man responsible was sentenced to four years behind bars after he was convicted of manslaughter.

Coun Holt’s family say she never got over the shock of losing her son.

She was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer last October and taken into Blackpool Victoria Hospital on Christmas Eve.

Husband Rod, daughters Barbara, Diane and Susan and step-daughter Tracy, were at her side as she passed away peacefully.

Susan said: “Mum was due to be Mayor in 2012 and she would have loved it.

“When she was fighting cancer, she was saying I will have to beat it because I want to be Mayor, and that I’m not going yet because there is a lot still to do in my life.

“She was very brave.

“But she passed away peacefully, and we would like to thank the staff on her ward including Dr Whitfield, and our family doctor Dr Feaks for everything they did for her.”

Even in her final weeks at home Coun Holt was busy organising the Revoe Pensioners Party and, when she could, she would go over to Ibbison Court, on the other side of Central Drive, to call the bingo.

Her other interests were the Pensioners’ Pressure group and the annual Pensioners’ Parliament at the Winter Gardens. She was also a member of the Ladies’ Sick Poor Association and a governor at Revoe School for 40 years.

But she still had time for her 11 grandchildren and one great-grandchild, and her beloved pet dog.

Coun Holt’s final duty as a councillor was to attend last November’s Armistice Day ceremony at Blackpool War Memorial.

She insisted on being taken despite her own discomfort.

Even to the last, others came first.