Pioneering Wigan female police officer remembered

Tributes have been paid to one of Wigan’s first female police officers and a well-known church organist who has died at the age of 87.

Friday, 25th January 2019, 3:07 pm
Updated Friday, 25th January 2019, 4:12 pm
Dorothy McCandless

Dorothy McCandless followed in her father’s footsteps when she applied to join the police force as soon as she turned 21.

She was one of the first six women to become bobbies in Wigan and had the number three on her epaulettes.

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Her daughter Barbara Forbes, from Wrightington, said: “She always wanted to join the police force and her dad tried to persuade her not to, but she was determined.

“When she was accepted, he was interested and discussed cases with her and she was interested in his advice.”

Her father George Lavery was the youngest of four brothers with a combined 99 years of service with Lancashire Constabulary.

He moved from Dalton-in-Furness to Bamfurlong in 1934, when his daughter was just three, and spent 25 years as the local policeman.

Then named Dorothy Lavery, Mrs McCandless’ work saw her interviewing women and children and she took part in an undercover investigation targeting purse thieves.

Her duties included directing traffic, street patrols, writing the chief constable’s speeches and work in the coroner’s court and in administration.

One of her contemporaries was Amy Holt, known as Big Amy, who was WPC1 and a familiar face in Wigan town centre for many years.

The women’s wages were nine-tenths of that given to their male colleagues and despite passing a driving test, women did not drive police vehicles and could only travel as observers.

Mrs McCandless, from Bamfurlong, was “very proud” of her nine years as a police officer, which ended when she resigned in 1961 to get married.

Ms Forbes said: “I think she was quite sad to leave, but on the other hand she was getting married. I think it was accepted that’s what you did.”

She married James and the couple had three children - Barbara, Janet and Alison - and six grandchildren. Mr McCandless died in 2017 after 56 years of marriage.

Mrs McCandless spent 60 years as organist at Bamfurlong Methodist Church, starting as assistant Sunday school pianist when she was 14 and going on to play at many church services, funerals, weddings and christenings.

She taught piano to many people over the years and worked as a dinner lady at Abram Bryn Gates Primary School.

She was also a keen gardener and kept hens.

Ms Forbes said: “She was very kind to people, she was always there.

“People would come and talk to her and if they asked for advice, she would give it but she wouldn’t force it on them.

“She was always very considerate and tactful and I think she got that from her police background. People felt they could trust her.”

Her funeral was held on Thursday, January 24 at Bamfurlong Methodist Church.

Her former pupil John Walton, now director of music at St Wilfrid’s in Standish, performed at the service.