Why the Yorkshire Dales has lost a ‘vocal champion’ in John Blackie

John Blackie, who has died at 70, was a long-serving councillor in the Upper Dales and a passionate and vocal champion for its inhabitants.

John Blackie

In recent years, he oversaw the community takeover of many key services in Hawes, including the petrol station, post office, library and the “little white bus” that trundles between the villages.

The developments prompted a national newspaper to label it “the town that refused to die”.

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Mr Blackie also fought to preserve local health services, and in 2012 led a march through Northallerton, alongside the then Foreign Secretary and Richmond MP William Hague, to defend maternity and paediatric services at the Friarage Hospital.

John Blackie

Lord Hague said this week that Mr Blackie’s dedication to maintaining rural public services had been remarkable, adding: “He was a campaigner who was always good to have on your side.”

Holding a portfolio of offices on both the district and county councils and the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority, Mr Blackie also chaired the Hawes and High Abbotside Parish Council and was a former leader of Richmondshire District Council. At the last general election he stood as an independent.

A native of Hertfordshire, he had moved to the Dales in 1995 to run holiday cottage business in Hawes. The same year, he was elected to Richmondshire District Council as an independent.

His tenure was punctuated by controversy. He became leader of the district council after being reelected in 2003, by which time he had joined the Conservative Party. He was deposed as leader two years later, only to re-take the position after another six months, following an agreement between the main parties.

He went on to lead the council again, as in independent, in 2011.

He had, said the council’s current leader, Carl Les, “helped to set a model that a lot of us are imitating”.

Always outspoken and a scourge or bureaucrats, his other public roles saw him acting as a governor at Wensleydale School and serving as the village postmaster in Hawes.

Mr Blackie had been told 13 years ago that he had only a 40 per cent chance of surviving his cancer. Flags were flown at half mast outside council offices across North Yorkshire in his honour, and a memorial event is to be arranged.

He is survived by his partner, Jill, and by his children and seven grandchildren.