Former MP Jack Aspinwall dies, aged 82

Jack Aspinwall, who died today aged 82

Jack Aspinwall, who died today, aged 82

The former Conservative MP Jack Aspinwall died this morning. He was 82.

Mr Aspinwall, who had been fighting cancer, passed away peacefully at his home in Bath Road, Willsbridge, surrounded by his family.

In the February 1974 and October 1974 General Elections, Mr Aspinwall was the Liberal Party candidate for Kingswood, but changed allegiance and was elected as Conservative  MP for the same seat in 1979.

He served there until the 1983 election, when he was elected for Wansdyke, which he represented until his retirement at the 1997 General Election on medical advice following heart surgery.

Mr Aspinwall was a businessman and a councillor, serving on Warmley Urban District Council, Kingswood District Council and Avon County Council before becoming an MP.

Today Chris Skidmore, who was returned as Kingswood’s MP at the General Election earlier this month, said: “Jack Aspinwall was an exemplary Member of Parliament, who served the people of Kingswood, and then the constituency of Wansdyke with distinction, the very model of what a good constituency MP should be.

“His charity work raised hundreds of thousands of pounds for good causes, as Jack worked tirelessly right up to his death to help those in need. I have many fond memories of Jack, as I am sure many local people do.

“Having Jack as my MP growing up inspired me to enter politics myself: I first helped out leafleting for him when I was 11, and he chaired my selection as the Conservative candidate in Kingswood in 2008.

“He was delighted that Kingswood had a Conservative MP once more, and was always there to help, to pass on his wisdom and experience that I was so grateful for. Kingswood will be a poorer place for the loss of a man who went from running a fish and chip shop to serving in Parliament.

“My thoughts go out to Brenda and Jack’s family, but I am sure that they will be proud of a remarkable life.”

Mr Aspinwall’s interest in helping people stemmed from his own tough childhood in Liverpool. He was born on 5th February 1933 in Liverpool, one of three sons. He once said: “I know what it is to be hungry, to be poor.”

Jack, who won a scholarship to Prescot Grammar School, lost his mother when he was 14 and he went into care. He would spend his life fighting to improve the lives of disadvantaged people.

After attending Prescot Grammar School in a scholarship, he joined the RAF after leaving school and when stationed in Wiltshire in 1954, went to a dance at the Pavilion in Bath one night and met his wife-to-be, Brenda, who was born in the Golden Valley at Bitton. The couple went on to have three children.

He had a particular empathy for groups for the disabled; he took part in a parachute jump for charity in 1981 in which he suffered a crushed fracture of the spine. He was paralysed from the waist down for some time but in recovery assembled an entertaining book of after-dinner stories, which, together with two other books raised some £40,000 for worthy causes, including the Airey Neave Memorial Trust set up in memory of the MP who was murdered by Irish terrorists in 1979. His spinal injury would plague him for the rest of his life.

Jack Aspinwall had a reputation as being one of the very best constituency MPs where the people he represented always came first. Indeed his home was always open, day or night, for the benefit of people in need. In 1995 he was admitted as a Serving Brother in the Order of St John for services to mankind.

Many local voluntary organisations owe their existence to Jack. In 1975 he organised the launch of the first Citizens Advice Bureau in the Bristol area, at Staple Hill, and was a life member of its management committee. He also encouraged the establishment of four other Bureaux in the Greater Bristol area.

He set up a day care centre for the elderly in what was the old police station in Hanham in the 1970s and brought together many organisations to provide a caring service for the elderly in the area.

He also supported the WRVS in 1982 to establish three luncheon clubs and day care centres, all run on a voluntary and self-supporting basis. Following this success he organised an initial meeting to establish the Council for Voluntary Services in Kingswood and worked with others to get it going.

Drusilla Pullan, from Saltford, knew Jack from 1997 when she was appointed headteacher at Samuel White Infants School in Hanham. She recalls: “Jack was at that time the chairman of the governing body of the school, a position that he held for most of the 33 years that he was a governor there. It was one of the best primary schools in the country, having had an excellent Ofsted inspection and also been mentioned in the House of Commons for its standards.

“After Jack’s retirement as an MP he increasingly involved himself in the life of the school, always keen for innovation and improvement. He embraced new educational legislation and was interested to be part of its implementation in the classroom. In addition he was also a governor of other local schools.

“No person could have been involved in as many organisations and charities as he has been. Some further examples of Jack’s work for the benefit of others include his long association with St John Ambulance, helping them to raise many thousands of pounds and a club he started for stroke victims in Longwell Green.

The Rev Bert Bromley, who knew Jack from the mid-1970s when he worked as a Catholic priest at Our Lady of Lourdes in Kingswood, now lives in Co Donegal but always kept in touch. Mr Bromley said: “In his capacity as councillor, Mr Aspinwall was of great help to many of the people in Kingswood, Hanham and the extended area. Jack was always available to anyone who needed help or advice, especially those less fortunate than himself.

“As a priest in Kingswood, I had to contact Mr Aspinwall for his advice on many issues. No matter how busy he was, Jack would always deal with the situation in hand.”

After retiring as an MP Jack kept in touch with the organisations he supported, for example, the Stroke Club at Longwell Green Community Centre and the Mencap Family Home in Keynsham.

Mr Aspinwall was always very open with the press and well-liked by journalists as he was always hospitable and very quotable. It would be open house at his Bath Road home for the local press every Monday morning when he would brief journalists about local matters of interest.

Mr Aspinwall, who had lived in Willsbridge for 49 years, was diagnosed with cancer in early 2013. He is survived by his wife Brenda, children John, Linda and Jane, and five grandchildren.

Brenda and Jack had celebrated their Diamond Wedding anniversary in December. His passion for politics remained until the end of his life with his family saying he watched the General Election coverage “avidly” and was “overjoyed” with the result.