Sir Cyril Smith
Posted By: Wera Hobhouse
Date Posted: 06/09/2010
The passing away of Sir Cyril on Friday morning marks the end of an era for Rochdale, the national party and particularly for us local Liberal Democrats.
The word ‘big’ is not too big to describe Cyril and I don’t refer to his physical size. By the time I met Cyril in 2005 he was by no means particularly large. But his personality was Big. His impressive mind, his brilliant knowledge and memory of anything to do with Rochale people and politics, his honesty and sense of humor were magnetic up to the very last time I saw him.
Having Cyril on your side was crucial as a Lib Dem in the borough and none of us liked to openly cross swords with him. But being fiercely independent and strong minded himself he actually admired strong minded people and a good argument. I certainly disagreed with Cyril on a number of issues, for example his position on the legacy of the old TBA site, but he was never unfair or irrational. At least one always knew where he stood, the famous straight talking quality, that so many Rochdalians loved about Big Cyril.
For me his most admirable quality as a person and as a politician was his ability to engage and keep up with thousands of people up to almost the very end of his life. Cyril clearly loved people and company. He was always at the other end of the phone and you were never refused a visit to his home in Emma Street. Whether you were an old chum or a new recruit he loved to see and talk to you. He was a tireless letter writer, making a substantial contribution to our local election campaign as ‘new kids on the block’ in 2006.
Nobody could doubt his political nose and although his first and foremost interest was Rochdale; the Liberal cause and the interest of his party came a very close second. Long before others, he understood about Rochdale’s diverse ethnic communities and the need for strong cohesion. So far I have seen no other white politician in the borough who has gained as much respect in the non white community as Cyril did.
And he was an inveterate campaigner! He spotted an issue from miles away and knew how to pick it up, gather support and fight for solutions.
His joy of politics and tireless fighting spirit for Rochdale and for Liberalism will live on and continue to inspire us for years to come!
His legacy? What about the simple words a few weeks ago from one of our friends: ’Rochdale is a Liberal town.’
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