Conservative Party stalwart dies - tributes

Our picture shows Brian and Joyce Cunliffe who celebrated their diamond wedding anniversary on Sunday. (s)
Our picture shows Brian and Joyce Cunliffe who celebrated their diamond wedding anniversary on Sunday. (s)

TRIBUTES have been paid to an honorary patron and long-serving member of the Conservative Party who has died aged 84.

Mr Brian Cunliffe OBE, who in 2009 received an engraved decanter from Ribble Valley MP Nigel Evans for 60 years’ service to the Conservative Party, died after a short illness.

Mr Cunliffe started as an officer in the Young Conservatives in Rochdale and then served as an officer in the Ribble Valley Association, being its chairman, president and patron.

He was also a member of the association’s management team and helped to run Whalley Supper Club and Whalley, Wiswell and Barrow Conservative branch.

Only two weeks ago he was helping to run a strawberries and cream garden party to raise funds for the association.

He edited the association diary and gathered support for it from all quarters of the Ribble Valley.

Mr Cunliffe was born into a cotton mill family and in 1946 his father moved the family’s weaving mill from Rochdale to Great Harwood. It was then he was introduced to his wife-to-be Joyce, daughter of the neighbouring Boardman family, when he was on leave from the Army.

The couple married and were blessed with a son, Brian, in 1952. The couple moved to Whalley in 1954 and became active members of the community.

In 1982, Mr Cunliffe, who was also a former member of Whalley Parish Council and Clitheroe Rural District Council, was awarded the OBE for political service.

In February last year, Mr and Mrs Cunliffe celebrated 60 years of marriage.

Chairman of Ribble Valley Conservative Association County Coun. Albert Atkinson was one of the first to pay tribute. He said: “His achievements and dedicated service are unique, his contribution immense and it was conducted modestly and without fuss.”

Ribble Valley MP Nigel Evans added: “Brian was a vital member of my team, signing individually every letter to members seeking their financial support in many general elections and managing the election appeal.

“He has been a pillar of this association for as long as I have been candidate and MP. He will be greatly missed.

“Our condolences go to his wife, Joyce, and son with our heartfelt thanks for a lifetime of service to the Ribble Valley. He leaves big shoes, which will be difficult to fill.”

A memorial service will be held at 11.15 a.m. today at Whalley Parish Church. Family flowers only are requested and donations can be made to the Rotary Club of Rochdale Trust Company, c/o Langshaws of 103a King Street, Whalley, Lancashire BB7 9SN.

Mr Cunliffe is survived by his wife Joyce, son, Brian and daughter-in-law, Alison.