Rotherham MP Sarah Champion leads tributes to “remarkable” campaigner Ken Dolan

Rotherham MP Sarah Champion leads tributes to “remarkable” campaigner Ken Dolan

By Adele Forrest | 13/01/2020

Rotherham MP Sarah Champion leads tributes to “remarkable” campaigner Ken Dolan
Ken Dolan (left) campaigning with Sarah Champion and her partner Peter Smith

A DEDICATED campaigner described as a “vibrant and unbelievable socialist who had time for everyone” has died suddenly.

Father-of-three Ken Dolan (66) passed away on New Year’s Eve after complaining of chest pains at the Clifton home he shared with partner Jane Gray.

“Fit-as-a-fiddle” Ken — recently door-knocking with MP Sarah Champion’s election campaign — dedicated his life to people in need and had “so many plans” for this year around NHS campaigning, said Jane.

His distraught daughters said they had lost a dad who did not care for material things and was “beautifully wild”.

Ms Champion called the Labour warrior “a remarkable man” whose passion for Rotherham was “unquenchable”.

The MP added: “I once asked him why he moved here, he replied it was because he wanted his family to grow up in a real community.

“Whether fighting for justice for the survivors of child sexual exploitation or our NHS, he always committed himself 100 per cent to positive change.”

She continued: "It is a tribute to the man, but not a surprise, to see the number of charities and individuals who have now come forward to say how he helped them. I will miss him deeply and send my love and sympathies to his family and friends.”

Jane (56) said Ken’s death had come as a huge shock, adding: “He was full of beans, full of life.” 

An ambulance was called to their Clifton Crescent South home when Ken (pictured, below) was struggling to breathe on December 31. He was pronounced dead in hospital.

Jane said his death had been “very sudden and very unexpected”.

The second eldest of three brothers and a sister, Ken leaves three daughters from his marriage to ex-wife Julie — Kerry (37), Amy (34) and Indi (20) — and six-year-old granddaughter Isla.

Family attended a balloon release and vigil on Monday held by Rotherham Street Kitchen — one of the many causes Ken supported, donating £20 and home-made cakes every week.

Amy said: “Of all the things important to dad, the most important is how much he loved his town.”

Kerry remembers attending picket lines as a four-year-old girl with her dad during the Miners’ Strike, and more recently him teaching her daughter handstands.

Liverpool-born Ken moved to Rotherham when he was 17, following his teacher mum Anne (90) to Whiston.

He fell in love with Rotherham and worked as a PE teacher, bus driver and gardener, which is how he met Jane around 15 years ago. 

A foray into construction saw him helping to build Rotherham Hospital, while he also backed the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.

Jane said: “Any protest, anything, he would be there. He was just a vibrant person, an unbelievable socialist. He always had time for everyone. He was brilliant. He dedicated so much of his own time to helping others.”

Street kitchen volunteer Jay Crean said Ken brought “such a light” and compassion to the venture.

Rotherham TUC called Ken a “great trade unionist, a true fighter for a fairer society”.

Sarah Grant, chairman of Labour in Rotherham, said every branch of the party “needs a Ken”.

She added: “Rest in Power comrade. We’ve lost a true advocate of a member-led Labour Party, someone who lived and breathed the fight for the NHS, and a tireless truth seeker.”

A funeral date is yet to be fixed.

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