HE was an outspoken and at times controversial figure in local politics.
But no-one ever doubted the wholehearted commitment that Lawrence Conlon brought to Kirklees Council.
Now the man who served on the authority for 26 years, and was its leader, has died at the age of 86.
Lawrence Conlon was brought up in Batley Carr and became interested in politics when he followed the career of his father, a textile worker who entered local government and became Mayor of Batley.
He left school at 14 and worked as a gardener for four years before joining the Royal Navy in 1943.
He served as a telegraphist on sloops and frigates in the Russian and Atlantic convoys.
When he returned to Civvy Street, he took up a Government offer and enrolled on a plastering apprenticeship. It landed him a job with Leeds City Council.
He first stood for a seat on Batley Council in 1961 but lost. Undeterred, he tried again three years later and won to become a councillor for the North Ward.
He became the Labour whip in Batley and following local government re-organisation in 1974, he held the same post on the new Kirklees Council.
At that point the Labour group had only 15 members and Conlon was appointed leader. He thought it would be only a short-term post but he went on to hold the post for many years, leading the council for five years after seeing Labour increase its hold on the authority.
He also became closely involved with the West Yorkshire Fire Authority, serving as chairman for many years and also landing a post on a national body looking after firefighters’ pay and conditions.
Mr Conlon, who spent most of his life living in Dewsbury, also found time to take an Open University course and was delighted to graduate with a politics degree despite leaving school at 14 with few qualifications.
He was married to Maureen and had two daughters, Kathryn and Jane.
Clr David Ridgway, the current chairman of the Fire Authority, said: “It was with great sadness that I heard that Lawrence Conlon, who led the fire authority from its inception in 1986 to 2000, has died.
“Many will remember Lawrence not only as a towering political figure locally, regionally and within the fire service nationally but as a warm though no-nonsense character who fought fearlessly – often controversially – for what he believed.
In a political career which began with the old Batley Borough Council back in 1964 and included the leadership of Kirklees Council (1980-85), the deputy leadership (1994-99) and the leadership of the National Joint Council for Local Authorities’ Fire Brigades (1992-2000), Lawrence earned the respect of friend and political foe alike.
Clr Ridgway said: “As a councillor and community advocate, he was at the forefront of public life for almost 40 years, promoting the interests of the deprived areas of Batley and north Kirklees in particular, and being a life-long mainstay of the Roman Catholic community.
“We shall not see his like again.”