A COLOSSAL rock has been placed at the heart of a community in tribute to a councillor who dedicated the last decades of his life to battling to improve residents’ quality of life.

Some 15 months after Councillor John Blackie died following a 12-year battle against cancer, a 2.5-tonne memorial heralding his work as a “community leader and champion for the Upper Dales” has been unveiled at Town Head, one of the most conspicuous sites in Hawes.

Individuals and businesses behind the stone said it was in recognition of his unsurpassed service as chairman of Hawes and High Abbotside Parish Council, as a district and county councillor and work for the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority. He was a well-known campaigner for local services, and fought tirelessly to retain services at the Friarage Hospital in Northallerton as well as highlighting how communities could deliver services for themselves to meet their own needs.

After Cllr Blackie died it emerged that some 400 members of the Upper Dales community had previously nominated him for a national honour, but the call received no response from Whitehall officials. Instead, residents asked the parish council to consider a permanent memorial.

His successor as parish council chairman and partner, Councillor Jill McMullon said: “It was thought appropriate and only right that the town should decide the location and detailed drawings were produced and placed on show in the Community Office along with the facility to vote.”

The result of the vote was overwhelmingly in favour of the Town Head site, where the 70-year-old father-of-three established a war memorial several years ago.

Calverts Architectural Stone in Leyburn has donated the stone to Hawes as an acknowledgement of Cllr Blackie’s work for the Dales, while the Newcastle Building Society has given money to plant flowers throughout the year at the memorial’s base in recognition of Cllr Blackie bringing banking back into Hawes. Cllr McMullon said: “Without John there would be no petrol station, community office or buses of any description to name but a few of the things he did for the Upper Dales. As the memorial was being put into place a resident walked past and said ‘how fitting - John was our rock’.”