Long serving Dewsbury councillor dies at 85 - education and arts were Denis Ripley’s passion

Years of service: Denis Ripley had a passion for education

A man who carried his passion for education into politics and played an important role in supporting the arts across the county, former Kirklees Councillor Denis Ripley has died at the age of 85.

Born in Towngate, Mirfield, and edcuated at Crowlees Boys’ School and later technical college at Dewsbury, Denis served his apprenticeship as an engineer and underwent National Service in the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers at Gibraltar. He serviced mill machinery and later worked for Rolls Royce at Barnoldswick on the Yorkshire-Lancashire border, lodging there for a while, before returning home to a wide range of engineering jobs, including a spell at a foundry in Ravensthorpe.

Denis particularly relished the challenges of a new job when he became chief technician at the School of Material Sciences at Leeds University, a role in which he particularly enjoyed working with PhD students, constructing the rigs to test their experiments - it meant every working day was different. He was chairman of ASTMS (Association of Scientific, Technical and Managerial Staffs) and a member of Leeds University Court and Council, one of the university’s decsion-making bodies.

Having served on Mirfield Urban District Council from 1971 to 1974, when local government was re-organised, he represented Labour on Kirklees Council after winning his Dewsbury East seat in a by-election in 1979, serving until retiring from front line politics in 2000.

Denis chaired the council’s education committee from 1987-92 and its cultural and leisure services committee from 1992-99. He was chair of Dewsbury College Governors from 1981-92 and chaired the Governors at Westborough High School from 1995 to 2004.

He stood as Labour’s Parliamentary candidate for the Dewsbury seat in 1983 but at a time of centre left split vote with the SDP was unsuccessful.

Denis was also chairman of the Friends of Crow Nest Park and he filled many major roles across a number of arts organisations, with the aim of being an enabler - his goal was getting things done creating the right conditions to make things happen.

He was chairman of Kirkees theatre trust for 11 years, chaired the West Yorkshire grants committe, which was responsible for allocating funding and was vice-chairman of Yorkshire and Humberside Arts, also a grant-awarding body.

Through that Denis became involved in setting up Ilkley Literature Festival. He was also a board member of Opera North, West Yorkshire Playhouse, Northern Ballet and Yorkshire Sculpture Park. Locally he chaired Dewsbury Matters local history group, also srerving on its committee and chaired the Bronte Dewsbury 200 Project.

Denis was able to contact and bring home Mirfield-born actor Patrick Stewart to open the Lawrence Batley Theatre, Huddersfield, through friendships going back to Camm Lane, Mirfield, and one result of that was the Star Trek: The Next Generation star becoming vice-chancellor of Huddersfield University.

He leaves his partner Jenifer, daughter Karen, son Malcolm, four grandsons and one great-granddaughter.

His funeral service will be at 2pm on Friday, February 9, at Dewsbury Crematorium and afterwards at his spiritual home, the West Riding Refreshment Rooms.

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