Tributes to Sunderland-born ‘champion of social housing’ who has died aged 103

Bert Graham.
Bert Graham.
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A Sunderland-born politician, who was a staunch believer in public services, has died at the age of 103.

Lifelong Labour Party member and former Bishopwearmouth ward councillor, Herbert ‘Bert’ Graham, died more than fifty years after he left his beloved Wearside.

He believed in public services and he was a left-wing Labour Party member

Ian Graham, son

Mr Graham, who would have been 104 on Christmas Eve, passed away on November 5, following emergency surgery in a hospital near his London home.

He married Sunderland girl Edith – nee Archer – in 1938, and the pair settled in Roker and had two sons, Ian, 75, and Tony, 65.

They went on to have four grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

Educated at Redby Boys’ School, he later trained in estate management. He graduated with a City and Guilds silver medal, awarded to the top student each year, nationally.

His son Ian, who lives in Belford, Northumberland, told the Echo his father took a special interest in social housing, planning and education and was the driving force behind the establishment of Sunderland Council’s Direct Labour Department, which enabled the authority to construct its own high quality cost effective social housing, by employing is own tradesmen.

Ian Graham said: “He was a self-mooted high achiever who expected everybody to work hard.

“He was good to everybody, and certainly my sons and nieces and nephews.

“His quote was ‘stick in and do your best’.

“He believed in public services and he was a left-wing Labour Party member.

“He was quite a dapper chap, he was always well turned out.

“He quite enjoyed fine dining at nice restaurants and enjoyed travel.”

During World War Two, Mr Graham was a pilot in the RAF Coastal Command, attacking German U boats and shipping in the South Atlantic, North and Baltic Seas from bases in Cornwall and Scotland.

After demobilisation he became Surveyor to Sunderland Hospital Board.

He also lectured in building construction at Sunderland Technical College and later served on the college’s board of governors.

Mr Graham left Sunderland in 1964 to take up an appointment as deputy director of Liverpool City Direct Labour Department.

In 1970 He became director of housing maintenance for the Greater London Council responsible for the care, maintenance and improvement of the capital’s housing stock.