Alec Woodall

ALEC WOODALL, the former MP for Hemsworth who has died aged 92, was known as a kind and hard working man whose door was always open to his constituents.

He used to say that having knocked on people's doors asking for their support at election time his constituents should be able to knock on his door at any time.

"Our home was always open door for anyone who wanted to see him", said his widow, Mollie, who recalled that there was a man who, when he wanted to see Mr Woodall, used to sit on the dustbin outside their house at 5am on Mondays, so he could catch him before he left for Westminster.

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He was one of two brothers born into a mining family in Hemsworth, where he lived all his life. His father died when he was six from injuries he received in an accident at the Prince of Wales Colliery, and his brother, Wilfred, died at the age of 26 in the South Kirkby Colliery disaster in 1935.

When he left South Moor Road School at the age of 14, Alec Woodall went initially to work at Salts Mill, in Saltaire, but he did not like being away from home and his widowed mother so he returned to Hemsworth and in 1932 went to work in the same colliery which was to claim his brother's life.

He worked there until he was called up at the outbreak of the Second World War during which he served with the King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry. He was part of the D-Day plus landings in Normandy where he stayed until he was blown up and, being unable to hear, was sent back to England.

After being demobbed, he returned to work at South Kirkby Colliery and at that time the National Union of Mineworkers sponsored men to study politics and economics one day a week at Leeds University. He spent three years on that, and he was also a member of the Workers Educational Association.

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He was married in 1950 to Mary Scott, who is always known as Mollie, who was also from Hemsworth and who he met at the British Legion for whom he was a standard bearer.

Mr Woodall went into politics when he joined the Labour Party in 1951, becoming agent while still working at the colliery for Alan Beany who was Hemsworth's MP from 1959 until 1974, and whom he succeeded in the seat.

Mr Woodall was also secretary of the Constituency Labour Party and a councillor from the 1960s on the then Hemsworth Urban District Council until he was elected to Parliament with the biggest majority of any MP, which got him a place in the Guinness Book of Records.

During his time at Westminster, he was Parliamentary Private Secretary to two Labour Ministers, Edmund Dell and Stanley Clinton Davis.

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While an MP, Mr Woodall was Labour's representative member of the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association (SSAFA) until he left Parliament in 1987 having been deselected by the NUM as their sponsored MP, and also took on care work for them until the late 1990s.

Mr Woodall was involved in charity work throughout his life, whether as a Poppy Day organiser for the Royal British Legion, as a trustee of the South Moor Hospital Comforts Fund for whom he helped raise thousands of pounds, or as a member of Rotary who made him an honorary member for his work in Hemsworth.

In retirement, he also helped his wife with charitable work, especially for the Prince of Wales Hospice in South Yorkshire with which she was actively involved.

He also never forgot the Salvation Army from his military days of whom he said: "When I was in the Army and had not got tuppence for a cup of tea, I could always get one there."

Mr Woodall is survived by his wife, Mollie, son John and daughter Susan, nine grandchildren and a great granddaughter.