Tributes paid to Willie Clarke, the last Communist councillor in the UK

BALLINGRY   [9.2.99.] COMMUNIST  COUNCILLOR WILLIE  CLARK  AT  THE  OLD  PITHEAD  WINDING  MECHANISM  OF  THE  MARY  COLLIERY.
BALLINGRY [9.2.99.] COMMUNIST COUNCILLOR WILLIE CLARK AT THE OLD PITHEAD WINDING MECHANISM OF THE MARY COLLIERY.
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Tributes have been paid to Willie Clarke, one of the most respected and long-serving councillors in Fife, who died today.

He served for 43 years as a communist councillor for Ballingry – and was only the third recipient of the Freedom of Fife, the highgest civic honour the Kingdom can bestow.

Mr Clarke passed away at the age of 84. He had been living with a cancer diagnosis.

The councillor and trades unionist was held in the highest respect by all who knew him, and was a great champion for his ward.

A statement from his son, also Willie, hailed him as  ”the product of a generation who understood struggle and for him his mission in life was to mitigate those issues.

“A life long communist and a campaigner for Scottish independence, he was so proud of the people of Benarty. We will all miss his guidance and wisdom.”

Born in June, 1935, Mr Clarke was first elected to Fife Council as a communist candidate in 1974, serving for 43 years, before stepping down in 2016.

The collapse of the Communist Party in the UK saw him stand latterly as an independent, but his political beliefs never changed.

Aged just 14, he began working in the local mine, earning just 40p a shift.

He was elected to Fife Council as a councillor for Ballingary in 1973, and served on the education and social work committees, as well as acting as vice chairman of a sub-committee which deats with children with special needs.

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He was re-elected in every vote, and was named as the chairman of Cowdenbeath Area Committee in 2007.

Mr Clarke wasalso awarded the Freedom of Fife in 2016 for services to his community as well has having a new visitor centre at ‘The Meedies’ – Lochore Meadows – named after him in 2018.

In a statement, his son, also named Willie, wrote: “It’s with great sadness that our family marks the passing of trade unionist and ex Councillor Willie Clarke this morning.

“My father has been in hospital for some time having battled with the return of cancer. On behalf of Betty and the whole family I would like to thank the doctors and nursing staff at St Johns and The Western General for all of their efforts.”

Councillor Linda Erskine, convener of the Cowdenbeath area committee  said: “Willie Clarke was the first chair of this committee. He was often looked at as the father of the chamber.

“Benarty and Fife has lost a very loyal servant who will be missed not just by his family, but also the folk who met him.”

Councillor Rosemary Liewald said: “His encouragement to new councillors who didn’t know the structure of things was utterly immense. You never heard him complain about anything that was going on. He was a solid figure you could rely on for words of wisdom.”

On Twitter, Christine May, a former leader of Fife Council, hailed Mr Clarke as “a gentleman, a scholar and a fierce fighter for his ward and for Fife