Church packed for Ellen’s farewell

Date published: 06 August 2010

ELLEN Brierley will never be forgotten because her work for education, children and the borough will live on, mourners at her funeral service were told.

St Patrick’s RC church was filled with local dignitaries, former pupils, councillors, former mayors, and members of all communities for her thanksgiving mass.

Miss Brierley, as she was always known, who died last week aged 96, was a Freeman of the Borough, honorary alderman, former councillor and first mayor of the Metropolitan Borough of Oldham in 1974.

She was a former teacher, a lifelong Labour supporter and had a strong Catholic faith.

As her coffin arrived at the church carried by four of her nephews, Oldham’s ex-servicemen’s organisations lowered their standards.

Civic mourners were led by the Mayor of Oldham, Councillor David Jones, and the Mayoress, Mrs Jean Jones, along with Councillor Jackie Stanton, deputy council leader, and Chief Executive Charlie Parker.

Also there were many of her former council colleagues, supporters of the Oldham Children’s Holiday Home Association charity she founded, neighbours, friends and members of the Interfaith Forum.

Deputy Lieutenants of Greater Manchester, Norman Stoller and Councillor John Battye, and the Ashton MP David Heyes, also joined the mourners.

In her eulogy, local historian Freda Millett, who was one of Miss Brierley’s pupils at Northmoor Council School, said: “People are only forgotten when their work is forgotten.

“Ellen Brierley, Honorary Alderman, with your Freedom of the Borough, you are assured of immortality.”

Mrs Millett helped Miss Brierley — who was awarded the MBE in 1995 for services to the community — to set up the Children’s Holiday Home Association.

She added: “She instilled in us joy and happiness. When the home opened, and she was returning to Oldham she told us ‘What a happy, happy day.’

“Her sense of fairness was paramount, she was absolutely loyal, she was caring, and kind, quite unconditionally, but she was not submissive and where she knew anything which was unjust she would argue her point of view.”

The Mayor, who was a Labour councillor alongside Miss Brierley, said he first met her 40 years ago.

He said: “I was struck at first by her drive and ambition, not for herself, but for other people. She was so supportive in doing things to improve the lives and opportunities of young people.

“She made sure every school had a nursery class, and supported the sixth form college.

“Oldham College was a bog standard college but Miss Brierley wanted something better — the tireless work she put in to make Oldham College what it is now, one of the most outstanding in the country.

“She was driven by two things, her faith and her belief in socialism. She saw them as inseparable, and an integral part of one another.”