By Hannah Bithell
It gives me great sadness to write this piece on behalf of Pudsey Labour Party about a wonderful man we were lucky to call a friend. We were aware of David Dowden’s health issues, but I feel like you always believe there will be more time.
David was an absolute stalwart member of Pudsey Branch and of the wider Labour Party for the last 40 years, always in the very heart of not just the action, but the hard work.
Nothing was too much for him, including chasing the West Yorkshire Combined Authority to improve things for the local community after he was told it was likely a matter of weeks until his death. His tenacity over and over again improved the lives of the people in our community, here in Pudsey and in the wider area.
In the recent past he organised our food bank collections in Pudsey town centre. It’s the mark of the man that he would bring and assemble our folding tables and would then grab a pile of leaflets to hand out during the collection; of course this was after he had already been out a couple of nights before to put up the banners.
He was always very active in the local area where he was seen as a Labour figure, a couple of examples (but certainly not limited to) include being a long-standing trustee of the local Alms House Trust, where his activism was on par with his party activity, taking an active interest in tenants’ day-to-day welfare and running maintenance as well.
He was one of the founding members of the Greenside Greenway campaign to open up a disused railway line for community use, for which David was a driving force, bringing in funding for a feasibility study and organising socials etc.
David’s efforts in Litter Free Pudsey, litter picking for us all were valuable, he worked hard to improve our community’s environment and was happy to dedicate his own time to it.
After retirement he also worked with a huge number of young people in our local and Leeds schools running their cycling proficiency programmes, helping keep children safe now and into the future.
Anyone who was friends with David on Facebook will have seen just how much he managed to cram into his life in terms of adventure and travel, very nearly making it to the 100 different countries that he wanted to visit. He was passionate about climbing and cycled internationally and was always walking up hills somewhere or other, although it was rare for the photos from the event not to end with a picture of an ale tap or a pub, so it wasn’t all hard work.
He had never been someone who sought the limelight, he was our Branch chair for a number of years and carried out the role well but he preferred his role as buildings officer where he could quietly but effectively get on with the minutiae of liaising with our tenants and building contractors, to keep our building in a fit state and ensuring the rest of us could take it for granted. More recently this has involved detailed work on a flooded cellar, where he found solutions which can be used well into the future to support our activity.
On a personal level, when I moved into Pudsey and eventually became up Branch chair, he was incredibly welcoming and supportive, with no question about the workings of the Branch being too much hassle.
This included helping me to work out how to use the printer! Since his passing, I have heard how important this particular role has been over the years for a range of us! He had a real eye for what would make a great campaign and took the lead in fighting for Metro to take over a bus service that was going to be terminated, and had it extended bringing better amenities to our local community.
Details are something David was great at too. He fought to have paper timetables put back on bus stops after the pandemic, when they could have been forgotten, he ensured that our local community members that don’t have access to smart tech can still access the bus information.
To summarise: David laboured for the Labour Party all his adult life, but was also an ambassador and a shining example of what local grassroots activism is all about. Before his death, he was awarded the Labour Party’s Lifetime Achievement Award. I am delighted that the party recognised the wonderful man that he was and his incredible contribution.
If anyone would like to attend David’s funeral it is on Wednesday 8 February at 10.45am at Rawdon Crematorium LS19 6JP. Friends are invited to remember David afterwards at Horsforth Golf Club LS18 5EX.