Memories of popular Wilf and Sally Rawcliffe, true ambassadors for Chorley

Wilf and Sally Rawcliffe's wedding photos which were published in the Guardian in 1954
Wilf and Sally Rawcliffe's wedding photos which were published in the Guardian in 1954

Former Chorley mayor and magistrate Wilf Rawcliffe was featured as a newlywed in Chorley Guardian’s Retro section recently.

He married Sally McDermott at the then St Mary’s RC Church near the Leyland Cross in 1954.

This photo was used with Wilf Rawcliffe's obituary in April 1990

This photo was used with Wilf Rawcliffe's obituary in April 1990

Retro didn’t recognise the couple when the picture was published a few weeks ago, but a couple of readers have since been in touch with details, including their son, Austin.

Wilf’s cousin, Tom Moore, also sent in some Guardian newspaper cuttings from the wedding day.

The wedding announcement reads: “Councillor W Rawcliffe, JP, an administrative officer of the Amalgamated Union of Operative Bakers and Confectioners, president of Chorley Trades Council and secretary of Chorley Divisional Labour Party, married Miss Sarah Ita McDermott of Crawford Avenue, Leyland, a nurse at Chorley and District Hospital.

“After the ceremony, 80 guests attended a reception at the Royal Oak Hotel, Chorley. Among them were Mr Clifford Kenyon, MP for Chorley, for whom the bridegroom has been an election agent on several occasions.

“In reality, they lived short lives, but their contribution and passion for Chorley and its people was significant.”

Wilf and Sally’s son, Austin Rawcliffe

“The couple are touring Scotland for their honeymoon.”

Austin says: “Mum was orphaned at 18 in Ireland, and followed her sister and brother to England to pursue a nursing career.

“She came to Leyland after the war, living with her brother.

“It was on the wards at Chorley Hospital when she was nursing Dad’s cousin that she met Dad.

“They were engaged on Christmas Day 1952 on the wards at Chorley Hospital.”

He adds: “They settled in Highfield Road South, Chorley, and were staunch members of the St Joseph’s Church congregation until they died in 1990 and 1992 respectively.

“Together, and with countless others, they formed the Chorley Hospital Crusade to ensure that Chorley got the hospital it has today, rather than everyone being transferred to Preston or Sharoe Green.”

Tom has also sent in Wilf’s obituary from the Guardian in April 1990.

It reads: “Mr Wilf Rawcliffe MBE, JP, a former mayor and alderman of the old Chorley Borough Council on which he served nearly 20 years prior to reorganisation, died at his home in Highfield Road South on Friday evening, two days before his 70th birthday.

“The longest serving magistrate in Lancashire and past chairman of Chorley Magistrates, having been on the bench for 37 years, he was due to retire from active service.

“When he joined the borough council in 1944, he was the youngest member. He was elected in East Ward in the first post-war election, but was defeated in 1947.

“He regained a seat on the council in 1950, and in 1960 he became the borough’s youngest mayor.”

It continues: “Health, housing, and town planning were Wilf Rawcliffe’s special interests on the council, but he followed keenly the committees responsible for highways and building, markets and town hall, library and finance.

“During a spell off the council, he visited Scandinavia in 1947 as a guest of the Danish Trade Union movement in Copenhagen.

“He also visited Germany to report on political problems of South Schleswig.”

It adds that as well as his professional position on the Amalgamated Union of Operative Bakers and Confectioners, Wilf was also secretary of the north west region of the Bakery Education Advisory Council.

But the article explains that “his interest in his work as a magistrate caused him to give up his job as a trade union organiser, and he became a pioneer in the prison welfare and after-care services”.

Son Austin says: “He was elected to stand as the Labour parliamentary candidate for Gateshead in the 1955 election, but when news of my pending arrival was announced, he relinquished that position, saying a parliamentary career would be unfair on Mum and me.”

He continued to tell Flashback how Wilf’s first job was as a “chain boy for Sir Lindsay Parkinson who were building the Chorley ROF site; much later that company was taken over by Fairclough at the time when dad was group personnel director for Fairclough. He often chuckled about his rise from chain boy to director!”

In his younger days, according to his obituary, Wilf also got a job at Mosscraft in Moor Road “where he was involved in the construction of the Mosscraft plane which caused a sensation in trials at Blackpool; he often said that if Billy Moss had started a couple of years earlier, Chorley might have had an aircraft industry”.

He was also very proud to be appointed to the Board of Rampton Hospital as part of the Boynton Review, and later he was proud of his appointment at the Ashworth Hospital on Merseyside.

He was awarded the MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours in 1978 in recognition of his services as chairman of the Manpower Services Commission.

Austin adds: “Mum and Dad were great parents. I was much loved and probably spoiled as their only son.

“They provided me with a very good upbringing and a start in life that I continue to be truly grateful for.

“In reality, they lived short lives, but their contribution and passion for Chorley and its people was significant.

“I do believe their work for Chorley, particularly in those post-war years, helped many people, and those people were grateful for the work and effort they both put into the community.”