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Manchester Evening News

'A Working class champion': Former Manchester Lord Mayor dies aged 87

A former Manchester councillor who served as the city's Lord Mayor before her husband took on the very same role seven years later has died aged 87. Described as a 'pillar of the community', Sheila Smith, who represented Openshaw at Manchester council for 12 years, died at home on April 29.

She had been in hospital before receiving palliative care at home last month. It comes around three years after her husband John, who also served as Lord Mayor of Manchester during his time as a Newton Heath councillor, also died.

The 'childhood sweethearts' were among a select few to have both served as Lord Mayor in the city and have been described as 'working class champions'.

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Speaking from the Meech Street home where her parents lived, their daughter Anne said: "Like my dad, she served the city. She did a lot for the community. She was always doing things for the community and for the city."

Sheila was first elected in 1987, following in the footsteps of her husband John who was already a councillor, and she served as Lord Mayor in 1994 to 1995. She was a founder member of Openshaw Community Centre and ran the Friends of Openshaw Park group which organised events for the community.

John, who was an electrical engineer at GEC, went to St Vincents school with Sheila and the couple married years later in 1956 before moving in together. The former chairman of housing also served as Lord Mayor in 2001 to 2002.

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Paying tribute, local Labour group secretary Pat Karney said the pair were a 'partnership' on the council and a rare couple to have both been Lord Mayor. He said: "They were incredible working class champions for their area.

"They were really looked up to by local people and were from humble beginnings. They were both humble, down to earth, East Manchester people."

Former councillor John Longsden lives 200 yards away from the couple's home. He said Shiela was a 'pillar of the community' who was involved in everything that happened in Openshaw, and was well-respected in the neighbourhood.

Responding to the news, Manchester Gorton MP Afzal Khan said on social media that Sheila and her John were 'East Manchester Labour stalwarts'. The funeral will take place St Brigid's RC Church on May 24 at 10am.