Councillor loses cancer battle

COMMUNITY STALWART: Councillor Kath Rolph, who has died at the age of 59.
COMMUNITY STALWART: Councillor Kath Rolph, who has died at the age of 59.
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TRIBUTES were today paid to a councillor who lost her battle with cancer.

Councillor Kath Rolph put her career as an archivist on the back burner to go into politics so she could work to improve Shiney Row, before going on to represent the Houghton ward on Sunderland City Council two years later as a Labour member.

She was first elected in 2002 and was also chairman of Sunderland Domestic Violence Partnership as well as being a member of Houghton Feast Steering Committee and a governor of Houghton Kepier and Newbottle Primary schools.

The 59-year-old, who lived in Atherton Drive in Houghton, was diagnosed with secondary breast cancer in 2010 after she was first treated for the disease in 2004.

She died peacefully in St Benedict’s Hospice on December 21 with donations in lieu of flowers at her funeral donated to the charity.

She was married to Jim Davidson, also 59, and was mum to Ian, 21, and Ruth, 19.

Jim led tributes to her at her funeral, which was held at the chapel at Sunderland Crematorium before interment at Houghton Cemetery.

He said: “Kath was always an optimist, and she worked right up to the end, still involved as a councillor until two weeks before she died.

“We have celebrated her life and she was a very witty woman.”

After growing up in County Durham, she completed a degree at the University of Hull and continued her studies with a postgraduate diploma in Liverpool.

She qualified as an archivist in the early 1970s and went on to to work in local authority archives in Westminster and Newcastle before taking up the role as deputy county archivist for Tyne and Wear Archives.

She was first involved in politics through the women’s movement, trade unions as a shop steward and as a environmental campaigner.

Jim said she decided to become a councillor while still working part-time at Durham County Records Office.

Fellow Houghton councillor Dennis Richardson, who knew her for 12 years, said: “She was good at everything, and she was meticulous when it came to detail.

“She has left a hell of a pair of boots to fill.”

Councillor Paul Watson, leader of Sunderland City Council, added: “Our thoughts are with Kath’s family and many friends at this time.

“A lot of people will recall her dedication and commitment, and her many years of public service in which she worked tirelessly for people in Houghton and across the wider Sunderland area.

“Kath gave a lot in her time as a councillor and always made time to help the disadvantaged and improve the quality of their lives.

“She is a loss to us all.”

Houghton and Sunderland South MP Bridget Phillipson also paid tribute to Coun Rolph and said: “Kath was determined, fiercely intelligent and everything a local councillor should be.”

Coun Rolph was most recently a member of the council’s adult services complaints panel and its coalfield area, management scrutiny and sustainable communities committees.

Twitter: @EchoEastDurham