“A man of the people” - tributes paid to former St Helens MP

Former Newton and St Helens North MP, John Evans, who has died aged 85
Former Newton and St Helens North MP, John Evans, who has died aged 85

Tributes have been paid to former St Helens MP John Evans, who died at the weekend aged 85.

Mr Evans, a former shipyard worker and trade unionist, stepped down from Parliament in 1997 and moved to the House of Lords shortly afterwards.

He was a borough MP for 23 years, first for the old constituency of Newton between 1974 and 1983.

When the Newton constituency was abolished he served as St Helens North’s Labour MP until 1997 when he was succeeded by Dave Watts.

He died on Saturday at High Peak Nursing Home.

His daughter, Judith Evans, told the St Helens Reporter her father was a “wonderful man” who cared deeply about others.

“I can honestly say that I never heard him utter a bad word about another person,” she said.

“He was always thinking about other people, never himself. He was family man and his family always came first.”

Born in the North East, Mr Evans was, his daughter added, a “proud Geordie”, who started his working life in the region’s shipyards.

His life-long involvement in politics saw him work first as a trade unionist before becoming a Labour MP.

Conor McGinn, who replaced Mr Evans’ successor as St Helens North MP, called him a “much-loved” member of the Labour family in St Helens and Newton.

He added: “He was a fine public representative who served the people of our borough with distinction since he was first elected MP in 1974.

“John was a Labour man to the core of his being, representing the National Union of Labour Clubs on the party’s NEC and serving as its Honorary Political Secretary for many years.

“He will forever be associated with the Parkside Colliery - which he fought so valiantly to defend from closure - and he honoured the men who worked there, and the local community, by taking Lord Evans of Parkside as his title after entering the House of Lords when he stepped down from the House of Commons in 1997.

“I know Dave Watts felt very proud to follow in John’s footsteps as MP. I too feel proud to follow in his tradition as a Labour and trade union MP, honoured to represent the people of Newton-le-Willows and St Helens.

“We offer our condolences to Joan and the entire family circle at this sad time.”

Council leader Barrie Grunewald said the local authority would fly the Union flag at half-mast over the town hall as a mark of respect to the former MP.

Coun Grunewald said: “We were deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Lord John Evans of Parkside. John had a long history of service to the people of the borough as an MP.

“In Parliament, he fought for local industries at a time when coal and glass employment was becoming at risk, and spoke passionately against geographical financial inequalities. Our thoughts go out to John’s family at this time.”

Mr Evans’ work for St Helens saw him named a Freeman of the Borough in 1997. He had also served as a member of the European Parliament, from 1975 until 1978.

He is survived by his wife Joan, three children, two granddaughters and five great-granddaughters.

His funeral will take place next Wednesday (March 16) at St Helens Crematorium at 1pm.