Tributes after long-serving South Tyneside councillor Bill Brady dies - former Mayor was 'Mr Whiteleas'

One of South Tyneside's longest serving councillors has died.

By Lisa Nightingale
Tuesday, 3rd May 2022, 5:32 pm

Since news of his death on Sunday broke, heartfelt tributes have been paid by both those who knew him as well as colleagues – including close friend Cllr Ernest Gibson.

The pair, who called themselves the 'Ant and Dec of South Tyneside politics' had a unique partnership after Cllr Brady took a young Cllr Gibson after his election to represent the Whiteleas ward more than 23-years-ago, under his wing.

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Councillor Bill Brady has been called 'Mr Whiteleas'

They were well-known for their jovial antics and playful bickering with one another.

Cllr Gibson said: “We had a fantastic relationship. He kept me on the right road when I first started and would always support me. We had each other's backs and always worked with a common goal – we wanted the best for the people of Whiteleas.

“We had such a unique relationship, I was always playing pranks on him and winding him up and he'd always try and get one over on me but he never could. We used to call ourselves the Ant and Dec of politics.

“Whenever he'd fall for one of the pranks, he used to call me an idiot and tell me to make him a cup of tea and then he'd forgive me.

Councillor Bill Brady with his wife Mavis, who was also a councillor.

"We both had the same outlook on life and same sense of humour with us both coming from a mining background.

“When his wife Mavis died, Bill was heartbroken, they were so close, but it never stopped him from doing his best for the people of Whiteleas. He was a good listener and a people person, and being a trade unionist man he also knew how to stand his ground and fight for people's rights.

“When we've been out and about in Whiteleas everyone has been asking after him and asking how he was doing as people were so used to seeing the both of us out together.

"I used to call him my wingman, but I think I was always his.

Bill Brady (second from left) with Councillor Ernest Gibson, who were together known as the 'Ant and Dec' of South Tyneside Council. Pictured here with PCSO Caryn Wilson and Pc Rob Lloyd after police began increasing patrols following complaints of motorcycle disorder on Temple Park fields and the surrounding area.

“Bill is going to be a massive miss not just to the Labour party but to the residents he served and more so to his friends and family.

“It has been a huge honour and privilege to have worked alongside Bill and an even bigger honour to have been able to call him a friend.”

The grandfather came from a political background with his father being a councillor for Horsley Hill, his two brothers also went on to become councillors serving the local authorities where they lived.

Throughout his political career Bill served on several local and national committees representing plumbers and electricians.

Councillor Bill Brady with pupils taking part in cycling proficiency test with pupils at Forest View Primary School, joined by then-mayor Ernest Gibson, and head teacher Mrs Cheryl Ward.

He served as Mayor in 1996 -1997 with his wife Mavis, also a serving councillor, and was also a Cabinet member for both Social Inclusion and Leisure and Tourism.

He served on various committees throughout his career and was Vice-Chair of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee and Vice-Chair of West Shields, Cleadon and East Boldon Community Area Forum at the time of his passing.

He also served on the Governing Body of Forest View Primary and South Shields Community Schools.

Cllr Brady confirmed earlier in 2022 that, at the age of 87, he had decided to step down at the May elections.

South Tyneside Council leader Tracey Dixon said: “Bill served the Whiteleas community and the wider borough with professionalism and integrity.

“He was a jovial man with a ready smile who was always ready to support new Members, but he always did what he thought was best for the residents he served and ensured they had a strong voice in the council chamber.

Bill Brady at an election count.

“He was known as ‘Mr Whiteleas’ and, when he and his late wife, Mavis, both served as councillors, they were a force to be reckoned with.”

She added: “Bill was a great support who will be a huge miss to me personally. Our thoughts are with Bill’s family and friends at this very sad time.”

A former miner at Whitburn Colliery until its closure in 1968, Councillor Brady re-trained in Heating and Ventilation and worked as a fitter for South Tyneside Council until he retired in 1991.

Fay Cunningham, who was then Mayor's secretary, said: “I have so many happy memories of Bill and his wife Mavis during their time as Mayor.

"Bill was passionately proud of being an ex-miner, he had a passion for everything he did.”

She added: “Bill and Ernest had such a unique relationship, they were the best of friends and also used to argue like cat and dog – when they were together they were always entertaining. Bill is going to be a big miss to us all.”

Retired Neighbourhood Inspector Peter Sutton who worked alongside Cllr Brady looking after the Whiteleas estate said: “Bill was such an honest, down-to-earth councillor who did his level best to represent the community.

"He was old school and told it how it was. He was true gentleman, who cared about the residents. It was an honour to work alongside him to help improve the estate he was so passionate about.”

Inspector Steve Prested, who was neighbourhood sergeant for Whiteleas and worked alongside Bill on a number of different crime prevention projects, said: "Bill was such a character who was passionate about Whiteleas.

"He was always on the other end of the phone when you needed to speak to him. He had a great sense of humour and was always a pleasure to work alongside."

Celebrated artist Bob Olley, a close friend of Bill's from his mining days at Whitburn Colliery, also paid tribute to his former colleague.

“When I started at the pit in 1957, Bill was one of the first people I met and he looked after me. He had a brilliant sense of humour and made the shifts go quickly. With jobs like that you need a good sense of humour,” he said.

“I was expecting to see Bill at the civic ball next week. I can remember one year, I was on the dance floor with my wife and Bill come over and started chatting away telling me about someone we both knew from the pit days, he was standing chatting while we had people dancing around us.

“We stayed friends after the pits closed and when he became Mayor, I supported him. He and Mavis were great in their roles. He is going to be such a huge miss to everyone.”

Emma Cook, headteacher at Forest View Primary School in Whiteleas, where Bill was school governor said: “I've known Bill since 2019 when I became head teacher and he was so committed to the school.

“He dedicated himself to serving the community through his role as a councillor and through his work in schools. He is going to be a big miss to the school community.

“He had such a great humour and always had a good story to tell and always strived to do the best for the school and for the children.

“It is such a shame that we have not had the chance to say thank you to him for all the years he spent giving up his own personal time for free, not just for Forest View, but to the two primary schools he was a governor at before they amalgamated to become Forest View.

“He was such a passionate person when it come to the school and always had the best interests of the children at heart.”

The borough flag will be flown at half-mast at South Shields Town Hall as a mark of respect and will stay in place until after Cllr Brady’s funeral.

Cllr Bill Brady with, from left, Adam Gibson, David Miliband and Cllr Ernest Gibson, at the former Temple Park swimming pool.
Councillor Bill Brady has died.
Bill Brady, left, with then Labour Housing Minister John Healey as work began on new bungalows at Brancepeth Road, Hebburn.
Bill Brady, left, with fellow councillors on a visit to the Holder House Allotment Project.