Acknowledgment – This blog post is a personal tribute and a reflection of my own lived experiences. This website has an accessible feature, that allows different accessible formats by simply clicking on a button labelled ‘Accessibility Menu’ that appears in green on all pages. It will provide you with a number of options to change the appearance to meet your access needs. This communication has been written by a dyslexic person. If you have any trouble with the meaning of any of the sentences or words, please do not be afraid to ask for clarification. I’m #MadeByDyslexia – expect creative thinking & creative spelling.
I’m from a family of labour party activists. Growing up I have fond memories of the family home hosting meetings, BBQ’s and being a central hub during elections.
Going out canvassing as a young child, I remember once really needing a wee, and my dad having to ask a woman we had canvassed if I could use her down stairs toilet. But one of my strongest memories is of often answering the land line at home, and hearing a man ask to speak to my mum. Over the years my brother and I would joke with her, whenever he rang, saying that it was the man that doesn’t like his own name.
This man was David Walsh, he used to say is name so fast, hence in our young minds created this idea he must not like his own name, but as I grow up I learnt that this was not the case, Instead David was a formidable mind and great asset to the Labour Party.
I will leave it to others that knew him better to write about the impact he has had on his community with his endless work for his constituents as a local counsellor, and the work he did alongside Ashok Kumar MP. The dynamic duo.
What I will talk about his is great sense of care for others. Throughout my life I have needed assistance from my local MP’s, to get access to services and treatments I’ve needed, because to put it simply if you have a disability, you are a second class citizen, that has to endure red tape, social care and health services that are not designed to meet the needs of those who use it, with ill written criteria, and ableist assumptions about what you can and/or can not do.
I have had interventions from Ashok, Tom Blenkinslop, and now I have moved to Middlesbrough Andy McDonald. From ensuring I was given a place in a main stream school, being statemented at school, help to receive the correct benefits, and to get a blue badge when I was denied it, to lobbying health commissioners to get me a place in a rehabilitation ward following contracting covid 19.
I know enough about local politics to know that the letters and work your MP puts in to help with such cases, is often done by the staff they employ, So I know I owe both David and Ashok a lot for those opportunities they made possible for me to gain a good education.
David had his fair share of ill health, something we have shared in recent years. But this never stop his determination to fight for the rights of others, his own experiences of an under funded and illogical social care system only fuelled his determination more to advocate for better services for others. Sadly and embarrassingly he was let down many times by services that either could not manage or did care enough to manage his unique and complex needs nearing the end of his life.
David would often send me messages of best wishes and support, when in my 13 month hospital admission during the pandemic. David also spent some of this time in the same hospital but a different ward. We used Facebook Messenger to keep each other going. For most of this time visiting was not allowed and having someone that knew the torture of these strict but necessary pandemic rules on hospital visitings and the impacted it had on your wellbeing was comforting.
David spend the last few weeks of his life back in hospital. In his last week when we were given the news he was on end of life, I visited three times. On the first occasion he was sleeping, I sat and read the Guardian to him, I hope he could forgive my stumbling reading aloud, a skill I don’t do well, but one I’m able to do, because of access to a main stream education, and specialist dyslexic teaching.
Visiting on Saturday 16th July with mum we were pleasantly surprised to find an alert David who wanted help to contact a few people, and to get his laptop working again.
We had a little discussion about the current tory leadership race, and a chat about our shared experiences of life living in hospital. David was aware he was very ill but his determination to keep living was very apparent. I left him happily listening to radio 4.
My last visit on Tuesday 19th July arriving early as I knew the day was going to be hot, David was asleep, but made noises in response to hearing my voice. I again read some of that days Guardian stories, and was present when a Doctor visited, was given an update. During this time I made a point of informing this Doctor who he was treating. I both work in health care and have extensive experiences of being on the receiving end of it. Working in health care can become routine, sometimes it’s important to humanise people receiving care.
On hearing David was a labour councillor and also worked alongside Ashok, the Doctor respond ‘Oh I remember Ashok’, my dad was a labour man, he then turned and spoke to David rather than speaking over and about him, telling a story of his dad working for ICI.
David looked peaceful. It was a great privilege to sit with him and quietly reflect on the differences he will have made to many.
Rest In Peace David, Thank you for the personal impact your campaigning and hard work has had on my life, for your services to your community and the Labour Party.
Read more about David