Frank Dyson obituary

Our father, Frank Dyson, who has died aged 94, was a civil engineer who built airports in the UK and abroad, and served as a councillor in Ribble Valley, Lancashire.

Frank was the son of Gladys and Frank. His father was a police constable, who died on duty in Barrow-in-Furness when Frank was 11. The official version of his father’s death was that he was fatally injured in a fall from his cycle, but Frank was convinced that he was murdered, beaten up and thrown in the ditch by a gang of poachers.

He won a scholarship to the local grammar school, where he discovered a passion for sport and for the then Manchester Guardian, inspired by the cricket writer Neville Cardus. Frank went to Liverpool University to take a civil engineering degree. After graduating, he enlisted in the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, seeing active service during the second world war in Italy and Greece, and rising to the rank of major. What he witnessed as a fire warden during the blitz in Liverpool and on service reinforced a pacifist ideology that stayed with him for the rest of his life.

In Athens, at the end of the war, he met and married Evie. She died of tuberculosis soon afterwards. In the same year, Frank’s sister, a nurse, also died, when a piece of medical equipment blew up. Frank picked himself up, occupying himself with his career and sport; he helped to construct the then London (Heathrow) airport and played for Richmond RFC. He went on to build aerodromes in Iraq.

Coming back to the UK, he rekindled a relationship with Paddy (Katharine), whom he had first met at Liverpool University. They married in 1955. Frank adopted Stephen, from Paddy’s first marriage; we (Sue and Paul) were born in 1956 and 1958 respectively. By this time Frank was working for Ford UK, based in Essex, and subsequently as part of Ford Europe in Cologne. After 15 years’ service with Ford, he moved to Preston, and airport construction with British Aerospace.

Throughout his life his commitment as a socialist and to the European project never wavered. Frank was a member of the Labour party for a long time, but he defected to the Lib Dems in around 1990, partly out of frustration with Labour’s internal bickerings. He was elected as a councillor in Ribble Valley in 1991 and went on to become deputy leader. He switched his allegiance to Labour again when Nick Clegg joined David Cameron in the coalition government. During his time on the council he supported a campaign to establish a mosque in Clitheroe, which earned him the wrath of the BNP.

Frank and Paddy moved to Suffolk in 2009, to be close to Sue. Paddy died in 2012. Frank is survived by his three children and five grandchildren.

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