One of Lancashire’s most influential business and political figures has died, aged 86. Glowing tributes were paid today to Jim Mason, who founded Lancashire Enterprises Ltd in 1982 with Louise Ellman and was Deputy Lieutenant of Lancashire County Palatine.
A Lancaster bomber pilot during the Second World War, he leaves behind an astonishing legacy of achievement. He left Bangor Street School at the age of 14 to work as a photographer for the a paper before joining the RAF and training as a pilot. He flew Lancaster in Bomber Command. In 1944 he married wife Frances. Both were members of the Young Socialists and were instrumental in the selection of Barbara Castle as Blackburn’s MP.
His family say his sense of social responsibility was inherited from his family who were active in the Labour Party, the Trade Union Movement as well as Blackburn Harriers. His grandfather even played for Blackburn Rovers. A statement from the family said he had led a “generous and actively giving life”.
“He had a great sense of humour, especially at his own expense, often laughing until he cried with family and friends. “He was very committed to his family and was very proud of his sons’ wives Joyce and Audrey, his four grandchildren and nephews and nieces. We will all miss him a great deal.”
As a Labour party member since 1939, his political career included becoming leader of the Labour group on Lancashire County Council and chairman of the North West Labour Party. Lancashire Enterprises Ltd – later Enterprise PLC and Lancashire County Enterprises Ltd – was responsible for major training, regeneration and employment projects. Frank McKenna, chairman of private business lobby group Downtown Preston in Business, took over from Mr Mason as chairman of LCEL in 1998. He said:
“He set up what was probably the most innovative local Government initiative ever. He was a glass half full type of guy, he was always optimistic, always full of ideas, full of life, full of verve.”
Louise Ellman, MP for Liverpool Riverside, who was leader of the county council from 1981 to 1997, will deliver a eulogy at his funeral. She said:
“Enterprise saved thousands of jobs for Lancashire and was a model for the country. He had an amazing life and lived it to the full. “He has left a lasting legacy.”
In 1999 Mr Mason, who was born in Blackburn but had lived in Silverdale since 1986, was awarded a CBE for his services to the North West and in 2000 was named as one of the North West’s ‘businessmen of the millennium’.