WHITNASH has lost a great champion following the death of Bernard Kirton.
The long-time councillor, who represented his beloved Whitnash at town, district and county levels, passed away at Warwick Hospital aged 84 on April 7. It followed a long period of ill health.
Current Whitnash mayor Robert Margrave said “Like most people in Whitnash I knew Bernard, even as a child.
“It was only when I became a town councillor in the late 1990s that I came to appreciate how hard Bernard had worked for his community for the entire time he had lived in Whitnash.
“I don’t think that there can be many people who have given so much for their community for such a long period time. I remember Bernard telling me that he had successfully received a letter from a resident which was simply addressed to ‘Bernard of Whitnash’! Bernard will be greatly missed by many people in his town and much further afield”
Tony Gooch, a police officer in the town in the early 1990s, paid tribute to a friend and colleague
who became affectionately known as the ‘Whitnash Rottweiler’ for his tenacity when he got his teeth stuck into a cause.
Mr Gooch said: “I already knew of Bernard and his reputation. In reality he was a man who cared about people, particularly those who didn’t have a voice. I lost count of the number of people in Whitnash who said to me “If it hadn’t been for Bernard Kirton”, this was him fighting their corner over some injustice over housing, getting support for the elderly, ensuring everyone was treated evenly.
“A man who never took the people of Whitnash for granted, every election he went out tirelessly door knocking for every vote, and in election after election for own, district and county people got out of their chairs and put a cross against his name. That can never be taken away. RIP councillor your duty is well and truly done.”
And his long time fellow Whitnash councillor Judy Falp once said: “He has the knack of being able to get hold of the person at the top of most organisations. He once got hold of Richard Branson’s PA to moan about how people with disabilities were being treated on his trains, and the head of the electric company, who lived in America, to complain about them trying to put terminal towers in residential Whitnash.
Bernard served the community of Whitnash, and the wider Warwick district and county, for nearly half a century. He was chairman of the county council in 1996-97, and it would be easier to list the committees he did not served on down the years. He also served on Warwick District Council for 44 years before retiring in 2015.
A Freeman of the Town of Whitnash, he became the town’s first mayor in 1993, taking the chains of office again in 2003. He was also twice Whitnash Parish Council chairman.
Bernard was actually born in York, but his family moved to Whitley Bay in Northumberland in 1939, which is where he developed his distinctive North East accent.
After a stint in the Air Training Corps, he joined the Merchant Navy as a junior engineer officer at the age of 21, travelling to Australia and New Zealand.
When he finally left life at sea, there was little employment in the North East, and Bernard was forced to look for work elsewhere – which proved Whitnash’s gain when he arrived in the late 1950s to take up a position at the Warwick Power Station – on the site that is now home to the Tesco store on Emscote Road.
It was the beginning of his selfless service to the interests of the town and its people.
Bernard also served as a governor of all schools in Whitnash, as well as being chairman of Myton School governors..
When he stepped down from the county council in 2017, Bernard told the Observer he was proud of what he had helped Whitnash become.
“When I started in local politics there were no real facilities in Whitnash at all, and when I look at it these days, it is like another world.”
As he somewhat understatedly also said: “Whitnash is very close to my heart”.
Bernard was married to Sheila for many years and they had three daughters.