Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Stanley King at 80 - thoughts on a legend

This afternoon I attended along with a load of other folk a little bash to celebrate Stanley King's 80th Birthday. And, as you would expect from the collected great and good of Heaton, it was an excellent occasion featuring tea, scones, cake and a bewildering array of sandwichs.

Stanley is one of Bradford's solid grass roots - a Tom Bombadil rather than a Gandalf. Born in Heaton, schooled in Heaton and still resident in Heaton - Stanley was the village's Conservative Councillor for some 35 years. This isn't to say that Stanley's focus is narrow but that he epitomises all that is good about the word "parochial" - he genuinely believes that not only was he blessed to be born a Yorkshireman but better still he was born and lives in the best place in that great county. Why on earth go anywhere else except to be reminded how fine Heaton is as a township?

At the event were represented the features of Stanley's life - folk from St Barnabas' Church, from the Heaton Township Association that he helped form, from the Heaton Woods Trust, from St Barnabas School - Stanley's alma mater and where he remains a governor of 40 years' standing - and from the Church Choir where Stanley still sings.

And we were there representing the Conservative Party and the Conservative Group on Bradford Council. Indeed, if you are to understand our party, you would do well to look at Stanley, at the focus of his life and at the good that he has done for the community he loves. To me this is the very essence of conservatism, the deep roots in a place, the idea of being a voice for that place and the echo of history that informs us of the right thing to do. There is no ideology here simply a man attuned to the spirit of a place and it people - a man who really does care.

Stanley's roots in Heaton go back at least to the 17th century - not as grandees (although he is now Lord of the Manor) but as farmers and delvers. In a way he epitomises the land and its place - Kipling would have understood, for Stanley is, in a sort of way, Heaton's "Mus Hobden".

"His dead are in the churchyard - thirty generations laid
Their names were old in history when Domesday Book was made
And the passion and the piety and prowess of his line
Have seeded, rooted, fruited in some land the Law calls mine."

People like Stanley are the very bedrock of England - they do the things the rest of us talk about doing. And they stay put, working hard to make each place they live the best of all.


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