Frank Doran MBE
It was with great sadness that the death was announced today – June 23rd – of Frank Doran MBE.
A former Lord Mayor of Liverpool, Frank was first elected in 1973 and had served as a Liverpool City Councillor and Merseyside County Councillor for the city’s Kensington Ward.
For three decades, with great commitment and courage, Frank served in the TA in the Parachute Regiment and with Military Intelligence and had seen action in Iraq.
For 40 years he worked as a technician at Liverpool University’s Chemistry Department.
Ten years ago, today, Frank was married to Sandra, and I was his Best Man. He had been mine. He was Godfather to my youngest son, James.
June 23rd was also the anniversary of Frank’s late mother’s birthday.
Mrs. Doran had contracted Alzheimer’s and so, when he told me, nine years ago, that he too had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s he knew only too well what lay ahead – and that in his case it would even rob him of his sight.
A great collector of books and documents about the history of Liverpool this was an additional challenge, which would have defeated and greatly depressed a lesser man.
Characteristically he said, “I have Alzheimer’s, it doesn’t have me.” And even more characteristically, Frank committed himself to speaking at events to raise awareness of dementia and to raise funds for the Alzheimer’s Society – to encourage others not to be defeated either.
Frank was passionate about helping ex-servicemen cope with the aftermath of conflict – and he chaired Restore saying “The project’s remit is to give back their lives to service personnel who often feel they have left their lives behind.” I became its Patron, and it was a privilege to open its Liverpool counselling centre.
As Lord Mayor, Frank made Zoe’s Place (baby hospice) one of his charities and no one was surprised to see him abseiling down the Liver Buildings to boost funds – and raising awareness of the importance of the hospice movement.
In 2016 it was a privilege to host Frank, Sandra and members of their family, at Westminster, in Parliament, when he received his MBE for service to the community from the Prince of Wales at Buckingham Palace. The Prince noted Frank’s Parachute Regimental tie, leading Frank to say “He is the Colonel Commandant of the Paras Regiment – he shook my hand and when he saw my regiment tie, he said ‘Oh, I see you are a Para, it’s great to see someone from the Paras here today’.”
I first met Frank in 1969.
I was Chair of South Liverpool Young Liberals and Frank’s cousin, Eddie Bestwick, told me I should go and talk to Frank about getting involved in politics.
I turned up at their two-up two-down home, in an Edge Hill Street which was still lit by gas light. Flaxman Street was where he lived with his widowed mother and their very large black cat.
Neither of us – as teenagers – would have guessed that he would be elected four years later as the Kensington Ward’s City Councillor and that I would become Edge Hill’s MP. Frank was my constituency chair, my eyes, and ears on the ground: the most faithful and loyal friend a man could hope to have. He was with me on the day I took my seat in Parliament.
Not long after, as a young MP I received an urgent call from the Liverpool Royal Hospital to say that Frank had been seriously poisoned by chemicals inhaled during an accident at work.
I travelled back to Liverpool that day – and was amazed to find a group of about twenty of his Kensington constituents anxiously gathered at the hospital wanting news.
Their concern was real and genuine.
It said a lot about attributes and qualities which we could do with more of in politics today.
He recovered after a few days and was back in his weekly advice centre at Brae Street school sorting out housing problems – and ready at the end of the evening for some respite in the local pub.
Over the last part of his life Frank was cared for in a home for Veterans.
During a visit last month, we had a surprisingly lucid and long conversation – where he wanted to know exactly what was happening in Ukraine and why we have ignored the threat posed by China.
He wanted to talk about the long-term effects of military action on service personnel.
He recalled his role in the Liverpool bid to become the 2008 European Capital of Culture and had ideas for the deepening of the city’s relationship with American cities. We talked about shared antecedents – both British and Irish – and his certainty that there was life beyond this one.
In the last days of his life, he was anointed by the hospital chaplain and Sandra was able to be with him throughout his final days. She has been truly amazing and when we spoke today I told her that many people had been in touch, wanting her, Bev and Paul, to know that their thoughts and prayers were with her.
In the days ahead there will be more tributes and much more to say and remember. But I have no doubt that Frank’s infectious humour, his deep sense of duty and public service, and his camaraderie will be treasured by everyone who knew him.
Doubtless he will already be canvassing the angels.
May he now rest in peace.
1980 Kensington Ward Focus Newsletter