Farewell to Banbury’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Mayor, George Parish

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George Parish had to devote a full afternoon to the weekly shopping because he was stopped so often by people wanting to chat to him.

Mr Parish was widely known for his dedication to public service, as a Labour district and town councillor, as a shop steward at General Foods and most famously as the leader of the campaign to save the Horton as a fully functional district general hospital.

George Parish

George Parish

Mr Parish died on Saturday at Vale House, Oxford where he had been resident since last autumn. He had suffered Alzheimer’s disease for several years.

Born in Grimsbury, George was the second son of George, and Edie. Two of his brothers died as children and his sister, Jane, died in 2006. George went to St Leonard’s Primary and Grimsbury County schools.

He met his wife, Suzanne (Sue) when they both worked at Switchgear and the couple married in 1964. They ran The Vine Pub, Cornhill during the 1960s, later living at Arundel Place and in 1984 moving to Glamis Place on Bretch Hill.

The couple had three sons, John, in 1967, Keith in 1977 and Steve, born in 1982.

George joined General Foods in 1974 and was involved in the TGWU (Transport and General Workers’ Union) becoming a shop steward.

After an approach by his neighbour, Labour councillor Tony Humphries, George became councillor for Ruscote in 1992/3. His union work had stirred his political interest.

George was a lifelong Labour Party supporter, rooted in his belief in public services and, of course, the NHS.

When Banbury Health Emergency (BHE) was formed in 1992 to fight threats to the Horton, George joined. He took over the chair from Steve Thorp in 1993 after a campaign, including the famously successful March of the 5,000, against Oxfordshire Health Authority’s bid to remove maternity and A&E to Oxford.

A new threat emerged almost immediately in 1993 to 1994 against the children’s ward, using a refusal by the Royal College of Paediatricians to give the Horton training accreditation. George and BHE won that with GPs and Horton paediatricians Harvey Marcovitch and Bob Bell.

In 1995 another review was announced from which came the Davidson Inquiry which recommended a merger between the Horton and the JR, Oxford on condition emergency services were maintained in Banbury. This went ahead in 2000. In 2006 the Oxford Radcliffe Hospitals Trust revealed a new downgrade plan for all acute services.

Oxfordshire Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee referred the matter to the Secretary of State and after an exhaustive inquiry, including a week of presentations to the Independent Reconfiguration Panel at the Whately Hall, the plan was thrown out on the basis Oxford is too far to transfer sick and injured patients and women in delivery.

George was Banbury town mayor in 1995to 1996, earning the nickname Rock ‘n’ Roll Mayor after his themed fundraising ball. He was co-opted to the newly formed town council in 2002, resigning in 2014. He was chairman of Cherwell District Council from 2010 to 2011 and was made an Honorary Burgess (Banbury’s highest honour, giving him freedom of the town) in 2014.

Funeral arrangements will be announced next week.

For more on George Parish read ‘Condolences provide comfort to Banbury folk hero, George Parish’s family’.