In the little
mile or so north of Sacriston, was born the first professional footballer to
become a Member of the House of Lords. He began life as Thomas Burlison in
1936, and ended it as Baron Burlison of Rowlands Gill in 2008. village of Edmondsley
Our man’s extraordinary rise to prominence began in humble enough fashion – as a panel beater, in fact – before exploiting his footballing skills as a pro at Lincoln City, Hartlepool and Darlington during 1953-1965 as a wing half. When playing for
Hartlepool, they were once
thrashed 10-1 by Wrexham, and Burlison would later joke: “That was the day when
I knew I would never play for .” England
Never far from his working class roots, he then became a regional officer at the General & Municipal Workers’
Union (later the GMB) – and
eventually regional secretary in 1978. From then until deep into the 1990s he
operated at the highest levels within this powerful union, but never quite
reached the post of general secretary. He was a quiet man, maintaining a
low-profile, but became known as ‘The Fixer’ on account of his sprawling
network of contacts and wide general influence.
He served as treasurer to the Labour Party during 1992-96, was northern region chairman of the
TUC and helped many
prominent politicians on their way to the top – Tony Blair included. He was vital
in the formulation of ‘New Labour’, having spent much of his political career
countering the radical activities of the left.
By then a resident of Rowlands Gill, he was created a life peer in 1997 and moved into the House of Lords as ‘Baron Burlison of Rowlands Gill’. ‘Hurlyburly Burlison’, as he was known, was married with two children, and died in
Gateshead in 2008.
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