Funeral this week for former councillor

16 January 2017

The funeral will take place on Friday of John Smith, a former Lord Mayor of Cardiff and a Grangetown councillor for more than 30 years, who died just after Christmas.

Mr Smith, 82, a former steelworker and shop steward, became a Labour councillor in 1972 and served Grangetown until 2004, when he had been the city’s longest serving councillor. He was Lord Mayor in 1990 – following in the footsteps of another former Grangetown councillor Philip Dunleavy – and was also the first presiding officer of the council.

He was until recent years an active member of Grangetown Community Concern and was a regular campaigner for local causes and heritage – including trying to save the old Redhouse pub off Ferry Road in 2004.

Mr Smith was never afraid to speak up for the area or for issues including housing, which he cared passionately about. He became a councillor at the age of 37. He was a regular correspondent to the Echo’s letters pages, never short of an opinion but also very kind and cheery for those who ever had to deal with him.

John Smith as Lord Mayor during a Grangetown festival parade

At his last election in 1999 he topped the ward poll with 1,859 votes. Back in 2002, when he marked three decades as a councillor he remarked about what he saw as growing centralisation inside the authority.

“Many of the bright younger councillors are openly saying they are not going to stand again because they are not involved,” he said.

“They should be. It is so important that you have a good balance of people, including those from today’s generation. A small group making decisions is not always right. I don’t want to end up with a city run by a few just as in America. I don’t think America is the best example of what a society should be.”

Mr Smith had been widowed with a son but his long term partner was Trowbridge ward councillor and current Lord Mayor, Monica Walsh.

Former colleague Councillor Lynda Thorne said: “Without John’s support and encouragement I would never have stood as a councillor. He worked tirelessly for Grangetown and the whole city.”

Cardiff South and Penarth MP Stephen Doughty called it “very sad news,” while council leader Phil Bale said Mr Smith had made a “considerable contribution” to the city and Grangetown.

He recorded his memories for Grangetown Local History’s oral archive. He told them about both his Docks and Grangetown roots: “I was born at the Pier Head my real name is Frederick John Smith but I prefer to be known as John.  My great-grandfather ran the Empress Eugenie (a pub in Evelyn Street), my grandfather was a Grangetown man and ran the Cornish Mount off Bute Street, he had a house in Taff Mead Embankment in about 1905.  My mother was an O’Brien, they lived in Grange Gardens.”

A funeral mass will take place at St Patrick’s Church at 11am on Friday 20th January. Donations in lieu of flowers are requested for Diabetes UK and the British Heart Foundation.

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