Tributes paid to ‘great leader’

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TOUCHING tributes have been paid to a former councillor, mayor and honorary freeman of Hartlepool who has been described as one of the “greatest leaders” the town has ever had.

Bryan Hanson OBE died in hospital on Sunday, February 17, after a short battle with pneumonia. He was 81.

Mr Hanson became a councillor in 1963 and chaired several committees on Hartlepool Council before becoming leader in 1974.

The dad of one, a former Cleveland county councillor, also played a pivotal role in the battle to regain independence for Hartlepool which resulted in the abolition of the county council in 1996.

The former Dyke House councillor served as mayor of Hartlepool in 1979-80 and finally bowed out of local politics in May 1999.

Such was his influence in town, there is a council building named after him, Bryan Hanson House, off Lynn Street.

Proud granddaughter Sophie Hanson, 29, led the family tribute.

Sophie, a project manager living in London, said: “As a family we have always been very proud of granddad.

“He really did live life to the full and he had a strong passion for painting and classical music.

“Granddad was equally passionate about Hartlepool and he was always doing his best to make the town a better place to live for people.

“He was always very proud of his work in Hartlepool.”

Hartlepool-born Mr Hanson is survived by his wife, former Hartlepool councillor Gwynneth, 82. The pair moved to the village of Shilbottle, in Northumberland, four years ago.

The pair had a son, Ron Hanson, 56, four grandchildren, Sophie, Lottie Hanson, 32, Martha Williams, 27, and 24-year-old Toby Hanson and a great-grandson, 19-month old Iori.

Sophie said the family were especially proud when he became an honorary freeman of Hartlepool and having the building named after him.

Mayor Stuart Drummond said: “I didn’t have the pleasure of working with Bryan as he had stood down as a councillor a few years before I was elected.

But to this day councillors and council officers speak very highly of him, the things he did and the way he did them.

“History will tell us that Bryan was one of the greatest leaders, if not the greatest leader that Hartlepool Council ever had.”

Former mayor and Labour councillor Ray Waller was a close friend of Mr Hanson and a former seagoing engineer.

Mr Waller, who served as a councillor for 44 years, said: “Bryan was always very keen and active in the Labour Party and we had a good working relationship and a good friendship.

“We had a great understanding most of the time and it will be very sad to see him go.”

Current leader of the Labour group, Christopher Akers-Belcher, said he didn’t know Mr Hanson personally but added: “When I have spoken to people that knew him, he was very influential and really committed to taking Hartlepool forward.

“He was held in very high regard by his peers and worked tirelessly.”

Martin Raby, principal of Cleveland College of Art and Design, where Mr Hanson was a former chairman, said: “Bryan was a steadfast supporter of the College throughout his dedicated service as chairman and as a governor.

“Bryan’s contribution to college life over more than three decades of service was considerable.”

No date has yet been set for his funeral but the service is expected to be held in Shilbottle.

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