A NEW bench has been unveiled in memory of a dedicated councillor who spent more than half a century working to improve his neighbour’s lives.

Alderman Bill Firby, from New Brancepeth, was a councillor in the Deerness Valley for more than 50 years.

Mr Firby died in December 2017, at the age of 92.

The bench, which has been placed on the village green area, off Broom Lane, in Ushaw Moor was unveiled on Saturday as a tribute to the long-serving councillor.

The Northern Echo:

Bill Firby, from New Brancepeth, who died in 2017

Sheila Griffiths, his daughter, attended the event.

She said: “I’m proud of him. Local government was his life right up until the day he died.

“He loved to be involved in everything.”

She added: “I’m so pleased he has been remembered. He did a lot of work and put a lot of his life into New Brancepeth, Ushaw Moor and Esh Winning.

“He helped a lot of people over the years. If there were problems, he did his best to solve them. He was what you would call old school. He was the last of the dinosaurs.”

Mr Firby, who was a miner and veteran of the Second World War, first joined the Labour party in 1950.

The year later he became the secretary of the New Brancepeth branch, a position he held for 53 years.

The Northern Echo:

Deerness councillors decided to put a bench honouring Bill Firby in Ushaw Moor, which overlooks his home village of New Brancepeth

He went on to be elected to Brandon and Byshottles Urban District Council, serving as chairman of the authority in 1959 and 1969, the same year he became a Durham magistrate.

He was elected to Durham County Council in 1970 and served his ward on that authority for 35 years. His time as a county councillor included a stint as chairman from 1981 to 1983.

He retired in 2005, at the age of 80, having won 17 elections, and in August of that year was made an honorary alderman in recognition of his long public service.

The father-of-12, who had more than 55 grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great great-grandchildren, was also a member of the Brandon Miners’ Union, secretary of New Brancepeth Football Club.

He was also a founding member of New Brancepeth Allotments Association and treasurer of New Brancepeth British Legion.

The Northern Echo:

The bench in Ushaw Moor was unveiled on Saturday

Cllr David Clegg, the chairman of Brandon and Byshottles Parish Council, said: “I’ve known the name Councillor Firby all my life and this is a credit to all the work he had done over this period.

“Bill’s achievements throughout his life ranged from new schools, libraries, community facilities, youth clubs and the Deerness walkway to name just a few.

“Councillor Bill Firby was a credit to the Deerness valley and will be sadly missed by many.

“Bill dedicated so much of his life to helping others in our local area that Ushaw Moor parish councillors saw it fitting to have this bench place looking over the valley to Bill’s home village of New Brancepeth.”

Cllr Jimmy Jamieson added: “The thing about Bill was if you had a problem, he would help you. And if he couldn’t do it, he would tell you. That was his best quality."