TRIBUTES have been paid to Charles Meredith, who was known as ‘Mr Stalybridge’, following his death at the age of 96.
In a remarkable career in local politics, Charles served as a councillor for 49 years, both on Stalybridge Borough Council and on Tameside Council following the reorganisation in 1974.
Charles, who was awarded an MBE for service to public life, was one of only 10 individuals to be awarded the Freedom of the Borough in 1998.
He also had the honour of being mayor of both Stalybridge and latterly Tameside.
Lord Pendry, a friend for the past 54 years, said: “Our paths first crossed in 1967 when the Stalybridge Labour Party selected me to be the parliamentary candidate for the Stalybridge and Hyde constituency.
“Charles voted for me and helped me throughout my campaign to be elected in 1970. As we went door to door, he was renowned as being the whistling man from the Pru.
“Everyone loved Charles, his happiness and jovial approach.”
Lord Pendry added he recommended Charles for his MBE, something he said he thoroughly deserved for his public service.
He continued: “We have lost a great Stalybridge and Tameside man, somebody who has as joy to be with.
“He attended the christenings of both my children and was very much part of my family. We always kept in touch, and I will miss him greatly.”
Councillor David Sweeton became a close friend when they were Stalybridge/Dukinfield ward colleagues.
He said: “I have been a councillor for 21 years and for 10 of those Charlie was part of our ward team.
“There were three of us. Phil Wilkinson who dealt with issues at cabinet, Charlie who interacted with residents and community-based issues and I gravitated between the two of them.
“It was the perfect combination and Charlie was my mentor, one of a handful of genuine peers, people I looked up to and greatly respected.
“Charlie was sharp and highly intelligent and had a knack of putting across his message and getting people to work with him.
“He would meet people with entirely opposite views, sympathise and tease out their issues before putting over his arguments.
“And by the time they left the room, they had been converted to Charlie’s way of thinking.”
David added Charles stood in all three Stalybridge wards and only suffered one election defeat.
He also pointed out how he knew Charles before they had even met.
David explained: “My mother Beryl was a legal secretary at Dukinfield Magistrates Court and from the age of 12 Charles’ name would be mentioned in our household.
“She would say how Charles had got her out of a hole when they were short of a magistrate.
“Charlie’s work as an insurance salesman was primarily in the evenings and he could step in at short notice which ensured the court could sit.”
David added when they finally met after he joined the Labour Party they got on “like a house on fire”.
And the pair shared the same sense of humour as underlined by his photo of them in flat caps and captioned ‘Chas and Dave on the release of their latest album’.
Jonathan Reynolds, MP for Stalybridge and Hyde, said: “Sad to learn of the death of my friend Charlie Meredith, of Mottram Rise, Stalybridge, former councillor for Dukinfield/Stalybridge ward, and former mayor of Tameside.
“Charlie was one of a kind and will not quickly be forgotten. I appreciated his support over the years very much. Goodnight sir, Stalybridge is in your debt.”
Andrew Gwynne, MP for Denton and Reddish, added: “So very sad to hear of the death of my friend and former council colleague Charlie Meredith.
“Charlie was the embodiment of public service and cared passionately for the people of Stalybridge and then later for Dukinfield/Stalybridge ward.
“Rest in peace Charlie, my old friend.”
Charles was brought up in Castle Hall, Stalybridge, and was a former pupil at West Hill High School.
He was his working life as an apprentice sheet metal worker before volunteering to join the Royal Navy in January 1943. He was a gunner and saw service in the Mediterranean off the coast of Italy.
While undergoing naval training, he appeared in a film starring Sir Ralph Richardson – then a sub-lieutenant pilot – and was presented to Princess Elizabeth, the heir to the throne. He met the Queen a second time when she visited Stalybridge in 1968.
After his demob, Charles became a representative for Prudential Assurance and was known as the ‘whistling salesman’. He spent 21 years as chairman and secretary for the Hyde branch of the National Insurance Workers’ Union.
Charles served both as chairman of the panel of magistrates – South Tameside Court, and the juvenile bench, Stalybridge. In 1957, aged 32, he was the youngest magistrate in the country. He resigned in 1991 to concentrate on his work as a Tameside councillor.
His life as an elected politician began in 1954 when, aged 29, he was chosen to represent Millbrook ward on Stalybridge Borough Council. He served as mayor in 1968-69 and was twice deputy mayor as well completing a six-year term as an alderman.
Charles was a Tameside councillor from the borough’s inception in 1974 to 1982, and from 1988 until 2004 and was civic mayor in 1979-80.
He was also a founding member of Stalybridge Labour Club and of many of the town’s association notably helping establish the twinning link between Stalybridge and the French town of Armentieres which still exists. He was also a former director of Stalybridge Celtic with Lord Pendry describing him as an “ardent supporter”.
Son Stephen recalled how his father wrote his life story ‘How I Remember’ to raise funds for roof repairs at St Paul’s Church and it sold 1,000 copies.
Charles, who had been suffering from dementia and cancer, died on Thursday, June 24 in the Stamford Unit at Tameside Hospital where he had been recovering after a fall.
Stephen added the family would like to thank the staff at the unit for the ‘professionalism and kindness’ shown to Charles.
He had until recently been living in sheltered accommodation at Lowry Court, Mottram, with his wife Edna.
Charles leaves sons Stephen, Christopher, Roger and Kevin, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.