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Saturday, 25 October 2014

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Tributes paid as trade union stalwart from Carlisle dies

A former railwayman who became a leading figure in Carlisle’s Labour Party and his trade union has died.

Geoff Whalley photo
Trudy and Geoff Whalley with Prime Minister Tony Blair

Geoff Whalley, who was 83, was widely respected by political colleagues in both his own and in other parties.

Tributes were paid to a man who refused to be beaten by adversity, returning to his job as a train driver even after a motorbike accident led to him losing a leg.

A railway worker for 44 years and a Cumbria county councillor for 20 years, Mr Whalley had a reputation for straight talking.

He chaired his branch of the ASLEF railway workers union for 25 years. Mr Whalley was married to another of the city’s best known political figures, Trudy Whalley, a former city mayor, who died in February last year.

Reacting to the news of his death, former Carlisle Labour MP Eric Martlew said: “Geoff was a true gentleman, a true railwayman in the best of senses, and an excellent councillor.

“He was very straight talking, and a man who showed great determination.

“Even after losing his leg, he was so determined to go back to his job as a driver, and he did.

“That was the kind of willpower that he had.

“He also gave amazing support to his wife Trudy when she served as Carlisle’s mayor.”

Mr Martlew said one of the first things Geoff Whalley ever told him, said Mr Martlew, was that he worked as a fireman on a steam train driven by the former MP’s father. Mr Martlew added: “He was one of the last of the railway men who became the backbone of the Labour Party during the 20th century.

“He worked his way up through the union.

“He and Trudy were a great couple. He’s a great loss.”

One of Mr Whalley’s colleagues and fellow trade unionists Craig Johnston, of the RMT union said: “He was a straight-talking, decent bloke. I had the utmost respect for him.”

One of the highlights of Mr Whalley’s political life was meeting the then Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair in 2006 during a visit with his wife to the House of Commons hosted by Mr Martlew.

At the time, Mr Whalley said: “It was nice to think that the Prime Minister was there to say thank you for the work we have put in.”

A funeral service and cremation for Mr Whalley, who died on April 18, will be held at Carlisle Crematorium Friday, May 2, starting at 2.20pm. Donations in lieu of flowers will go to Cumbria Cerebral Palsy.

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