Tributes paid to long-standing former Jarrow MP Don Dixon

Lord Dixon has died at the age of 87.
Lord Dixon has died at the age of 87.

Tributes have been paid to ‘legendary’ former Jarrow MP Don Dixon, who has died.

Lord Dixon, 87, who was MP for Jarrow between 1979 and 1997, passed away peacefully with his family by his side on Sunday.

Don Dixon in January 1996.

Don Dixon in January 1996.

The tributes were led by Stephen Hepburn MP, who succeeded Lord Dixon in office.

He said: “This is a sad day for the area. Don was a legend.

“He never forgot himself, and lived in Jarrow all his life. He was a man of the people and will be a massive loss.”

He added: “Don was also a very great friend of mine and this is a massive personal loss for me too. He was my mentor and I wouldn’t be where I am today without him.”

This is a sad day for the area. Don was a legend

Stephen Hepburn MP

Lord Dixon is survived by his wife Doreen, children Karen, Tony and Stewart, and four grandchildren.

Lord Dixon, then Coun Dixon, was the leader of Jarrow Borough Council between 1963 and 1974.

He started his working career in the shipbuilding industry and could not hide his pride at eventuallt rising to represent his home town in Parliament.

Mr Hepburn added: “Don was born and bred in Jarrow and loved the town. He just wanted to use his position in politics to better the people he represented.

Don Dixon in May 1983

Don Dixon in May 1983

“It’s the end of an era.”

George Porter, who was election agent and long-term friend of Lord Dixon, spoke of a “private” man dedicated to his work.

He said: “I will miss him very much, because I saw him every week for the last 36 years.

“He was a private man and a shy man, which some people may struggle to believe. Jarrow was Don’s life and he was very proud to represent the town. He really was there for the people he represented.

Flags at the Town Hall are flying at half mast.

Flags at the Town Hall are flying at half mast.

Lord Dixon’s daughter, Karen, told of the family’s pride at all he had achieved.

She said: “He was a real family man and always had a good word to say. Jarrow was his life. Words just can’t say how proud we are of him.”

Emma Lewell-Buck, MP for South Shields, said: “I was very saddened to hear that Lord Dixon has passed away.

“I know from my time as a ward councillor, from personal contacts and from meeting him myself that he is highly regarded in Jarrow and beyond as a man who progressed through his political career with true pride in his ‘roots’ as a Jarrow lad.

“I send my sincere condolences to Don’s wife and family.”

Coun Alan Kerr, deputy leader of South Tyneside Council, said: “We are deeply saddened to hear of the passing of the Right Honourable Lord Dixon, former Jarrow MP and freeman of the borough.

Don Dixon in 1971 while Mayor of Jarrow, with wife Doreen.

Don Dixon in 1971 while Mayor of Jarrow, with wife Doreen.

“He was a dedicated and selfless councillor and MP who worked tirelessly to serve the needs of local people.

“He continued to champion the needs of communities in the House of Lords until his retirement last year.

“He was a popular and well-liked politician who will be missed.

“Our thoughts are with his family at this very sad time.”

A minutes silence will be held to pay tribute to Lord Dixon at the council on Thursday.

The council has lowered the flags at South Shields and Jarrow Town Hall to half-mast as a mark of respect.

The flags will stay at half-mast until after the funeral.

Lord Dixon is expected to be laid to rest at a private service for the family.

SIDEBAR ON HIS POLITICAL CAREER

Lord Dixon started his career in the shipbuilding industry before moving into politics.

He was leader of Jarrow Borough Council between 1963 and 1974, before spending five years as chairman of housing at South Tyneside Council.

In 1979, he became MP for Jarrow, a position he held until he retired in 1997.

During the 1980s, Lord Dixon was a leading voice in the region’s fight against job losses.

During the winding down of the Tyne’s shipyards, closure of the region’s coal mines and general decline in heavy industry, he repeatedly challenged the Conservatinve Government.

In the latter years of his Parliamentary career, he served as a Labour party whip in the House of Commons

Following his retirement, he was elevated to the House of Lords as a life peer with the title Baron Dixon.

He retired from The house of Lords last February.

Late Jarrow MP Don Dixon signs the Northern Region Low Pay Unit petition against low pay on the back of Bob Bolam from the unit in September 1989.

Late Jarrow MP Don Dixon signs the Northern Region Low Pay Unit petition against low pay on the back of Bob Bolam from the unit in September 1989.