Council's blue plaque pledge

Wigan Council has pledged to install a blue plaque remembering a bold, pioneering politician who stood for election on a platform of women's votes.

Friday, 24th November 2017, 9:37 am
Updated Monday, 11th December 2017, 10:02 pm
Tom Walsh at the dilapidated grave of Thorley Smith

The town hall has ensured local historian Tom Walsh’s campaign to commemorate Thorley Smith, which has been fully backed by the Wigan Observer, will have a successful outcome.

The local authority has now agreed to fund a blue plaque for the candidate who made history in the 1906 parliamentary vote by standing as a Votes for Women candidate.

Mr Walsh believes he was the first person in the country to seek to become an MP on such a platform.

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Thorley Smith

The council will now discuss with Mr Walsh exactly where the plaque commemorating Mr Smith will go as several possible sights have been suggested.

Donna Hall, Wigan Council’s chief executive, said: “We have been delighted to support the campaign and to fund a blue plaque marking the immense contribution Thorley Smith made to women’s rights.

“We can confirm that a blue plaque will soon be in place in Wigan and we are working with Tom and our archives service to agree its location.”

A delighted Mr Walsh said: “This is absolutely wonderful news. I think the council has come up trumps and the Observer has done a great job.

Thorley Smith

“It has all happened very quickly and it is very exciting.”

The campaign to recognise Thorley Smith has been immensely successful as the council has also promised to renovate his grave after Mr Walsh pointed out how dilapidated it had become.

Funeral business R Banks and Son has also offered to donate a free new gravestone, with the connection made all the more poignant as Mr Smith himself worked as a stonemason and an undertaker.

The council’s announcement means the plaque will definitely be installed in time for next year’s centenary celebrations of women getting the right to vote for the first time.

The council is currently considering putting the words on his gravestone on the plaque.

Thorley Smith defied the wishes of the local Labour party to stand in 1906, although he attracted prominent supporter from national leaders.

His vote share astonished political observers at the time after he ran a campaign in which working-class Wigan women were heavily involved.