AN UPPER Dales community is set to be able to have its say on where a memorial for a much-loved local councillor should be situated.

A commemorative stone dedicated to the late John Blackie was set to be placed on the same site as the war memorial that he instigated, after designs were approved by Hawes and High Abbotside Parish Council in December.

But councillors were told at a meeting that siting the engraved stone on the memorial green in Hawes would detract from the memory of the 63 men who died in the two world wars, and would prove “divisive,” said some residents.

Mr Blackie, who died in July 2019, was former chair of the council, as well as a county and district councillor, and had been instrumental in commissioning the war memorial.

Gayle resident Richard Noble had planned landscaping around it, and assured the meeting this week that the stone would be about 40 feet away from the memorial to the 63 men who gave their lives in the two world wars.

He said he had no view on where it should be, but had merely drawn up a plan so that council members and residents could have an idea of the scale.

Bob Ellis told the meeting that he did not object to the memorial itself, but felt the memorial green was inappropriate.

He said: "The area is known as the memorial green and the memorial is to the war dead. John’s memorial is important, of course, but it is different. We have not initiated a conversation about this but people have said to us that it detracts from what is a well-respected monument to the war dead. There is a strong view in the community that you should look elsewhere."

Kevin Nugent, a former parish councillor who worked alongside Mr Blackie for 11 years, spoke of the significance of the war memorial to the town.

“63 men named on that plaque left this town for a task they did not want to do. They left and never came back to their wives and families and best mates. I’ve been to St Margaret’s church for 22 years to the remembrance service and it is always packed out.

“People then follow the military men up that hill to lay their wreaths and as they do so that memorial comes into sight. I say to you: leave that green free for the 63 and show them the respect they deserve. If you don’t do that you are doing this parish a dishonour. You are not doing what the people of the town would prefer, given the option.”

He also argued it would not be what Mr Blackie, who died in July, would want.

“John played a major part in getting that memorial built and I don’t think for one moment if he were here tonight, considering a monument for someone - anyone - he would agree to it being on that same green,” he said.

Jill McMullon, chair of the council, said she had heard exactly the opposite view.

She said: "The war memorial is of the utmost importance. Two of my own family are named on there. But the memorial to John will be 40 feet away and it’s of natural stone. A lot of people have said what a perfect place it is after all he’s done for the town."

Cllr Sheila Alderson said she thought the memorial garden was appropriate.

“If it hadn’t been for John there wouldn’t be a war memorial there at all, so I think it is a very fitting place,” she said.

Cllr Barry Wilcox said he agreed with the symbol of remembrance for Mr Blackie, but thought Turfy Top would be a better location. Cllr McMullon said that Calverts the builders, who had offered to donate the stone to the community, had said it would be too heavy to place there.

Cllr McMullon said: “We can put it to the town and the town can decide where it is going to be.”