A busy life - remembering Denis Ripley’s work for Dewsbury, and beyond

Dewsbury Matters: Denis Ripley, right, at the Patrick Bronte 200 event
Dewsbury Matters: Denis Ripley, right, at the Patrick Bronte 200 event

Tributes have been paid to long-serving former Dewsbury councillor Denis Ripley, a passionate supporter of education and the arts, whose death at 85 we reported last week.

Dewsbury MP Paula Sherrif said “In the years that I knew Denis I was most struck by his commitment to Crow Nest Park. He was always there running a stall or organising the events, whether it be the family fun day or the Classic Car show. Whenever I saw him he was always prepared with a few words of wisdom for me, often commenting on current political events. He was an incredibly proud member of the Labour Party and we were incredibly proud of him. We will miss him enormously and remember him fondly.”

Dwwsbury East Coun Eric Firth said: “Denis worked incredibly hard for over 20 years for the residents of Dewsbury East. He held many important positions under the committee system on Kirklees Council, especially Chair of Education, a subject very close to his heart. After his retirement, he threw himself into other activities with the same commitment as he did when he was a councillor. I will miss my friend Denis. When I was first elected he was in many ways my mentor, his standards were high and I have tried to follow them.”

Brian Pearson, former head of Kirklees Cultural Services, who first met Denis in 1972, said: “The arts were not seen as being important politically. So I, as a mere officer had a hard time and it was only through the determination of Denis that things were able to be achieved through the political processes. Denis had a wide interest in the arts and museums and galleries were one of his great passions shown through his support for Dewsbury, Bagshaw, Oakwell and Red House Museums. This was so important in their success.

“In the field of Literature he was a great supporter of libraries and writers and in music his tastes were broad - from his long standing chairmanship of the world renowned Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival to his support for orchestral music and concerts. He was for many years the Chair of the Kirklees Theatre Trust which runs the Lawrence Batley Theatre in Huddersfield. His commitment ensured a sound funding and artistic base for this important resource. Regionally he played important roles in the Arts Council and the Museums Council as well as being involved in the Yorkshire Sculpture Park.

“It is his support for the amateur arts scene that was equally important. High on this list was his continuing support for Dewsbury Arts Group. Denis will be missed by many people in many areas of life in the area but importantly in the field of the arts.”

Mike Field, owner of West Riding Refreshment Rooms, said: “When I put together a group of local people to celebrate the 150th Anniversary of Wellington Road Station, Denis was a willing volunteer. In 1998 a full week of events was rolled out. Any co-operation needed with Kirklees Council was sorted by Denis. The group stayed together and Dewsbury Matters was formed in 1999 to promote knowledge of the history of Dewsbury. It was Denis who persuaded Dewsbury Matters to launch the Blue Plaque scheme.”

Dewsbury East Councillor Paul Kane said: “It was a pleasure to have served with Denis on the council. He was a quiet and committed politician, but he did a lot for the people of Dewsbury, without much credit. He was an ardent socialist and followed his beliefs throughout his political life.”

Alan Thomas, a member of Dewsbury Matters, said: “I think his lasting legacy must be the Blue Plaque scheme, of which he was the main protagonist. I feel certain that had it not been for his absolute conviction that funds could be made available that it got off the ground at all. His knowledge of how to acquire the necessary funds, together with the many connections he had built up over the years, proved to be invaluable. He took on most of the ideas that came our way in Dewsbury Matters. In 2009 he chaired the group who put together the events to mark the 200th anniversary of the arrival of Patrick Bronte at Dewsbury Parish Church.”