End of an era as Alan bows out after more than 50 years as a councillor
Published on: 05 May 2015
IT’S an unpaid and sometimes thankless job, but what makes someone give up their spare time to become a councillor? For more than half a century Blackhorse’s Alan Maggs has been doing just that. Approaching 80, he says it’s time to step down. Jayne Taylor catches up with the community stalwart to discover a life well lived
POLITICS is in Alan Magg’s blood. His mother Nancy, the daughter of a coal miner, was secretary of the Winterbourne Labour Party and as a young lad he can remember posting her handwritten agendas.
“There were no stamps - it was my job to get out on my bike and deliver them,” Alan said.
“I was still at junior school then but I cycled all over Winterbourne delivering those agendas.”
It was during this time Alan found himself in the privileged position of being entrusted to show the 1945 Labour election candidate, Bert Alpass, Whiteshill Common where the would-be MP was scheduled to make a speech.
Bert went on to defeat the Conservative candidate to win the parliamentary seat and Labour took power of the country under prime minister Clement Attlee. Alan was smitten.
A few years later a15-year-old Alan broke the rules by joining the then Labour League of Youth.
“I was too young to join as you had to be 16 but my mother said, ‘Don’t tell ‘em your age, just get up and join’.”
His first taste of political victory was to come in the same year when he stood as the Labour candidate for ‘elections’ at his school, Staple Hill Secondary School for Boys.
“I won by a massive majority,” Alan laughs.
“My Conservative opposition only got one vote and I think that was his own!”
It was to be the first of many elections in which Alan stood, always for the Labour Party, the party he has supported all his life.
Alan was born on July 7 1935 in Frenchay, moving in 1959 to an end terrace in Blackhorse where he and wife Olive brought up their three children Steven, Martyn and Judith, and where the couple remain today.
After leaving school, an apprenticeship as a carpenter saw Alan set up with a good career, interrupted for two years in 1959 by National Service in the RAF and later for five years when he worked as caretaker at the old Staple Hill Junior School.
“In those days you could finish a job on Friday and start another on Monday but that doesn’t apply any more,” he said.
Two world wars had brought great change to the country and Alan was fascinated by the political heavyweights of the day such as Nye Bevan who introduced the National Health Service in 1948, Clement Attlee (“He was very brave in his attitude and his promises and he kept every one of them,” says Alan) and later Tony Benn whom he describes as “a lovely man who never ever took any personal attitude to anyone”.
Alan’s political career representing Blackhorse has spanned more than 50 years in both parish and district roles. He was elected to Mangotsfield Rural Parish Council in 1961 where he will serve until he finally retires as chairman this month after the council reforms as Emersons Green Town Council.
“The only regret I have is that they’ve dropped the name Mangotsfield. Mangotsfield is an historic name and I’m a great believer in keeping the status quo and tradition. It’s the end of an era.”
As well as his time at Mangotsfield, Alan also served on Gloucestershire County Council, Warmley Rural District Council and Kingswood Borough Council, all of which are now defunct.
Luckily for Alan, his wife also shares his passion for politics, herself serving on Mangotsfield Rural Parish Council for 30 years.
Alan said: “During an election in 1964 Olive and I were on the same ballot paper because people had to pick five councillors. She got three more votes than me. You can’t rely on democracy, can you?!”
Alan is driven by the love of helping his community but is pragmatic in his approach.
“I enjoy doing what I can for the local area,” said Alan.
“People knock on your door with problems and sometimes they can be sorted and sometimes they can’t. It’s not possible to win ‘em all but you do it because you want to.”
Alan admits the time is right for him to finally step down.
“Local elections are now held every four years which would mean I would be 84 at the next election. When you get old you can’t digest and concentrate in the same manner as you could when you were 40 and I’ve told myself it’s time to finish.”
But won’t he get bored?
“No! I haven’t got time to be bored,” he says.
At least Alan will have more time to reminisce.
“I fondly remember being leader of the Labour group on Kingswood Borough Council for four or five years when it was first created. That was one of the highlights for me, being able to influence what the council got up to but no one councillor can do things by him or herself. You can’t do anything without the backing of others and that’s what politics is all about.”
In his time Alan has watched - and made decisions on - huge residential areas being created from just fields, including Longwell Green and Emersons Green. It is something he is proud of.
“I’ve got a roof over my head and I think other people are entitled to a roof over their heads as well. Who are we to say ‘No, you can’t build there’. It’s a controversial remark, and I agree we should use brownfield sites first, but we are an ever growing population and you are bound to use up some greenbelt somewhere.”
Alan will remain active in campaigning for the Labour Party during this election. A bad back has put paid to too much door knocking but he will be glued to the telephone at Labour’s local headquarters.
It’s probably no surprise that come May 7 Alan will be ticking the box against the Labour candidate for the Kingswood seat, Jo McCarron.
“She’s a lovely lady. I think she’s a very promising person. She’s got fire in her belly and is not afraid to speak up as and when required. She would make a damn good MP.”
And his prediction for the next Government?
“The Scottish National Party are going to pick up a few seats and it will be difficult for Labour to win but I can’t help feeling that somehow or another that’s going to happen.”
Alan Maggs and
wife Olive at their
home in Blackhorse