AN UNASSUMING terraced house in a West Yorkshire town is set to become the focal point for celebrations of one of the county’s most famous sons.
Friday March 11 will mark the centenary of the birth of former Prime Minister Harold Wilson in Huddersfield.
And to mark the occasion a series of events is being planned by the town’s university with his family.
His son Professor Robin Wilson will visit the house in Warneford Road, in Cowersley, where his father was born in 1916.
The family who now live there have agreed to the visit and Huddersfield University is also hoping to ensure that a blue plaque is placed on the property in future to mark its significance.
Prof Wilson said: “The family are thrilled at what is happening in Huddersfield. I have never been to the house where my father was born and it will have a special significance for me.”
On the day both Prof Wilson and his wife Joy Crispin-Wilson will also meet students from Huddersfield University who are among 100 recipients of Harold Wilson scholarships. They will meet these students by the statue of the former Labour Prime Minister which stands outside Huddersfield Train Station.
The couple will then attend Lord Wilson’s former school Royds Hall where pupils will perform a play about his life. And they will also visit a memorial garden in News Street, Cowersley, which bears Lord Wilson’s name and was the site of his former primary school.
A memorial service is also being held on the day at St Peter’s Parish Church in Huddersfield.
Prof Wilson, who is an emeritus professor in the Department of Mathematics at the Open University said he was very pleased that his father’s life was being honoured by his home town and that a new generation would be learning about him.
He added: “My mother was 100 in January and we had a big family celebration but my father passed away 20 years ago. It is thrilling for the family that so much is happening to mark 100 years since he was born.” And he praised Huddersfield University for its work to promote his father’s legacy.
Lord Wilson was born in 1916. He entered Parliament in 1945 and became the President of the Board of Trade in 1947. He became leader of the Labour Party in 1963 following the death of Hugh Gaitskell and won General Elections in 1964 and again in 1966. Prof Wilson said: “My father’s legacy is being reevaluated. He used to say that for him the Labour Party was like a coach and horses that he rode so fast so that nobody could fall off.” He said his father had led a reforming government but that it could have achieved more had the economy been in a better state.
Huddersfield University’s deputy vice chancellor Tiim Thornton said: “We are very proud that Lord Wilson was born in Huddersfield. And that someone born to quite humble beginnings went on to become Prime Minister.” He said the university wanted to ensure there was a plaque at Lord Wilson’s birthplace in future but said this could take up to three years.
Every year Huddersfield University stages a Harold Wilson lecture and this year’s event has been brought forward to coincide with the centenary of his birth.
The subject of this year’s lecture is also very timely as it will focus on Britain in Europe.
Hull’s Labour MP Alan Johnson will deliver a lecture entitled Harold Wilson – The Reluctant European.
Mr Johnson is a leading Labour Party figure within the campaign for the UK to remain in Europe ahead of this year’s referendum.
When Lord Wilson was Prime Minister in 1975 the country voted to remain part of the European Economic Community in a referendum.