Tributes flood in for Sir Cyril

Date published: 03 September 2010

Tributes to Sir Cyril Smith have flooded in from people across the borough.

Sir Cyril passed away this morning (Friday 3 September 2010).

Rochdale’s MP, Simon Danczuk, said: “Sir Cyril was a towering figure who cast a large shadow over the political landscape in Rochdale. His influence was felt everywhere.

“I could not but admire the fact that as a member of what was then a very small party he managed to win five elections in Rochdale as a Liberal. I think this would be very hard to achieve today. Remember when Cyril won the seat there were only a handful of Liberal MPs.

"Sir Cyril was one of the first politicians of the TV age to use his personality and charisma to enormous effect. In that respect he was ahead of his time.”

Labour MP for Middleton and Heywood, Jim Dobbin, paid tribute to the man he has known for many years throughout his own political career.

Mr Dobbin said: “He was a Rochdale man first and foremost, he didn’t enjoy the Westminster scene, and life at the House of Commons particularly, because it was hard to get around and he had mobility problems, however, he always made sure that his constituents came first.

“He was a national personality and you can’t take that away, he put Rochdale on the map and he will be a big loss to the local scene.

“Sir Cyril was his own man and wouldn’t always agree with the party line.

“He has left a legacy that will never be forgotten.”

Councillor Dale Mulgrew, said: “Cyril was a larger than life figure who lived and breathed Rochdale.

“Throughout his life many people, including myself, were touched by his great warmth and generous nature.

“But he wasn’t afraid of speaking his mind. Over the years I often came to expect the firm guidance that he provided, which was often comforted by a memorable anecdote delivered with his characteristic charisma.

“Cyril, I and Rochdale will miss you.” 

The Leader of the Labour party, Councillor Colin Lambert said: “Sir Cyril will be remembered as the man who put Rochdale on the political map.

“He was a very big character in more ways than one. He was a larger than life character , I first met Sir Cyril when I was teaching in Rochdale, he joined with us in opposing the original conservative opting out proposals, and what has remained unknown until now, is that Sir Cyril helped fund many of our campaigns against the Grant Maintained Schools status.

“Whilst there was much which Cyril and myself disagreed with, we maintained a dialogue when I entered politics. He did not always follow his party line on issues and I retain a number of letters which Cyril wrote to me during the restructure of the LEA after the first Ofsted report.

“He will be remembered by people for many reasons, but where ever you went, when you mentioned Rochdale people would say, Sir Cyril Smith or Gracie Fields, that is a measure of how well known he was.

“He will be missed by Rochdale and by his party loyalists; a character like Sir Cyril is missing from today’s politics. Our thoughts are with Norman and the family.” 

North West Liberal Democrat Euro-MP Chris Davies knew Sir Cyril for more than 30 years having previously represented the Littleborough and Saddleworth constituency next to Rochdale, and Cyril Smith acted as his campaign manager in the 1999 European election campaign.

Mr Davies said: “Although he was never a European enthusiast he campaigned for me in 1999. I spent happy days travelling across the North West with Cyril, his brother Norman, and his former agent Rodney Stables. The car we used had been strengthened to bear their formidable collective weight and I was like the filling in a sandwich.

“Cyril wore his heart on his sleeve and was passionate about two things, Rochdale and politics. He could be a formidable foe, and the most loyal of friends. I have had experience of both.

“Everyone knew him, absolutely everyone. He was forthright and blunt, and people trusted him as an honest politician. But no-one should forget his total commitment to the political process, with all its flaws.

“Liberal leaders over the years lived in trepidation of the next missive from Emma Street, but he rarely did less than provide a huge boost for our party across the country.”

North West Liberal Democrat Chairwoman Sue McGuire said: “Our first thoughts are with Sir Cyril’s family at this sad time.

“The people of Rochdale have lost a formidable champion today and the Liberal Democrats have lost someone who has been an outstanding influence on the party locally, regionally and nationally for over 40 years.”

Rev Gillian Peel, from the Rochdale Unitarian Church said: “It was with great sadness that we received the news today that Sir Cyril Smith had passed away.  Cyril has been a lifelong member of Rochdale Unitarian Church.  He has always supported the church and was immensely proud of his Unitarian roots. 

“As a youngster he was in the UYPL (Unitarian Young People's League) and he went on to become a Sunday School Superintendent, a role he only relinquished when he became an MP in 1972.  Cyril was the chair of the Trustees of the church until ill health forced him to resign, although he remained a member of the trustees. 

“Cyril was a tireless worker on behalf of Rochdale Unitarian Church since being a young boy.  He will be sadly missed by the members of the church and our sympathy goes to his brother Norman and Norman’s wife, Shirley, at this sad time.”

Rochdale comedian Jimmy Cricket said: “Cyril was a giant who loomed over the political landscape of Rochdale for over two decades.

“He was synonymous with the town, like the Co-op and Gracie Fields, and you would be hard put to find many people here, even today, whose lives haven’t been touched by him.

“Through his selfless dedication to helping others my own son, Dale (Mulgrew), was inspired to enter politics.

“Though no longer with us, he will be for ever in the hearts and minds of the people of Rochdale.”

The Chairman of the Office des Echanges Internationaux (Links Committee) in Tourcoing, Jean-Pierre COLLADO said: “I started regular exchanges with Rochdale with my pupils in 1971. I became Chairman of “Les Amis de Rochdale” in 1978. Then, I started coming more often and I had more contacts with the “Civic People” Cyril was very much involved in Parliament then and I seldom met him.

"I was first a good friend with Norman who often came to Tourcoing (he came as the Mayor in the mid-eighties). I met Cyril on a few occasions though when visiting Rochdale. I was very impressed by the way the average Rochdalian was talking about him. Whatever their political opinion, I never heard anyone talking badly about him. Above all, he was a Rochdale lad. I remember some of his speeches. He didn’t need a microphone and everybody listened because what he said was plain, obvious and understandable. He was just speaking his mind.

“I met him quite a few times at some of the Friends of Tourcoing meetings. He once gave me a pen on a stand with the House of Commons logo. In 1992, I was invited to the reception at the Town Hall when Cyril was made Freeman of the Borough of Rochdale. I was very proud of the invitation and even prouder of being one of the rare persons whose name was mentioned in Cyril’s speech.

“When he retired from Parliament, I thought he would start coming to Tourcoing again but he had to look after his mother and we never saw him again with the civic parties visiting their twin town.

“I last met Cyril in 2006 for the 50th Anniversary of the Twinning between Rochdale and Tourcoing and we exchanged some good memories then.

“Until last year, we exchanged Christmas cards as good old friends do.”


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