We had a memorial service for John Hamilton on Friday night in the recently refurbished small concert room in St George's Hall.
What a wonderful room, what a wonderful venue for such a special service.
The Lord Mayor's office arranged the service with full support from the Leaders of both main parties. It was very moving. I want to add my thanks to her and her staff for their work.
John Hamilton was a very long serving councillor in Liverpool, like his father before him, highly esteemed, a man of deep convinctions and great intellect, very well read, and the friend of many people in high places, again like his father before him. He was the leader of Liverpool City Council at a very difficult time which in some circles has meant that he has not always had the credit he deserved. But I sense some of that is changing now.
Contributions came from the Lord Mayor, from Cllr Joe Anderson, today's leader of the Liverpool Labour Group, from the Rector of Liverpool, from Rt Hon Jane Kennedy MP, from the Duncan Society, from the Quakers and from Larry Nield at the Liverpool Daily Post who interviewed him just before he died in the Christopher Grange nursing home. We also heard an aria which moved some to tears, I am sorry to say I did not write down the name of the lady concerned, but she was very good and I am sure must be well known by people who know about these things.
He lived all his life in Channel Road in Kensington. He was a humble servant of the people who only ever travelled by bus, not for him the trappings of public office. He was badly served by some of his Labour Councillor colleagues in the 1980s but he himself acted only and ever from the very best of intentions. He had many interests but the education and housing of the under priveliged and the working classes were high on his agenda, as was his Quaker beliefs in peace and living together in harmony.
I met him when he was already an old man but I met him because he was our LP treasurer and because he still came to all the meetings. His contributions were always thoughtful and we all admired him tremendously.
The people of Channel Road were out in force at the service, he was very well loved.
For my part I remember him most at our monthly meetings and as a regular visitor to the campaign centre during the two elections I worked with him where he loved to come in and take the temperature of the campaign and listen to the gossip and the stories about which issues were playing in which streets, particularly in his own Kensington.
He had a place on the international stage for the peace movement , in the socialist education movement, in the decent housing movement, right up until the very end.
I was lucky to have known John and I have found myself thinking about him a lot in recent months. Sometimes you meet people at the beginning of their careers and involvement and you can tell they are going to be someone special in the future, sometimes you meet people in the middle of their time when they are major players on life's stage. Sometimes you meet people, who having achieved so much are the wise elders that you turn to for advice and who can teach you so much.
I didn't really expect to feel as sad as I do, or to feel the loss that I feel, or for as long. We were just building our relationship when it was suddenly too late. I wish I had met him earlier, there was far too much he never got to tell me. He gave me a gift when I was elected in May which I will always treasure, I imagined us taking tea together and talking about how I might best represent him and his neighbours, getting lots of tips and ideas and exploring the nature of democracy and service. But then he was almost immediately snatched away, first into the hospital and then the nursing home and then into heaven, and those discussions never really got going.
That is the thing I regret the most, that our time never really came, that I met him too late.
The best any of us can do now to honour John is to try our best to do as he would have done.