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Frank Prendergast’s moment of glory

Larry Neild on the unsung hero who kick-started city's transformation

Written by . Published on May 23rd 2011.

Frank Prendergast’s moment of glory

FRANK Prendergast this year celebrates his 21st year as a Liverpool councillor and now he is being handed the key to the door - of the Town Hall.

The one-time Labour leader of the city will tomorrow (Tuesday May 24) be sworn in as Lord Mayor of Liverpool.

Lord Mike Storey is the only other ex-council leader to wear the civic chain of office as Liverpool’s first citizen.

The Lib Dems took the credit for the
massive transformation of Liverpool city
centre and the waterfront. Poor Cllr P was
not even granted a footnote in the city's history

And it was Cllr Storey who, in 1998, denied Prendergast his moment of glory. By rights, the Labour stalwart’s name should have been etched into the city’s history as the politician who paved the way for the transformation of Liverpool.

Liverpool Lord Mayor Frank Prendergast.JPGInstead the Lib Dems, spectacularly swept to power and took the credit for the massive transformation of Liverpool city centre and the waterfront.

Poor Cllr P was not even granted a footnote in the city's history.

Cllr Prendergast signed the agreement leading to the twinning of Liverpool with China’s glitzy and biggest city, Shanghai. But it was Storey who in 1999 led the civic delegation to China to be fed and watered as Shanghai’s honoured guests. Prendergast was left at home. He was also instrumental in the early stages of the development of Chavasse Park, now occupied as part of the amazingly successful Grosvenor development Liverpool One.

Cllr Prendergast became a back-bench politician and seemed to stay there until the untimely death from a massive heart attack of Deputy Lord Mayor Rose Bailey.

In January 2010, his wife of 41 years, Margaret, died. Indeed, in later years,  it had been Margaret who had put her foot down and resisted any attempts for municipal glory for her husband. Frank told me Margaret had been upset by the way he had been treated as a politician.

He agreed to Joe Anderson’s invitation to finally step back into the limelight by replacing Rose Bailey as Deputy Lord Mayor. He did so knowing the job would lead to the chain of high office.

Maybe Frank Prendergast, as Lord Mayor, will finally gain the recognition for the role he played in the transformation of Liverpool.

Meanwhile, the man who denied him the honours, Mike Storey, was himself beaten by a teenage socialist in this month’s council elections.

Frank Prendergast 62, father of five and grandfather of four, wants to make young people his main focus during his term of office.

He has shared his political life with working as project ,anager at the award-winning Breckfield North Everton Neighbourhood Council.  The council has, since 1999, worked to provide deprived youngsters in the area with training opportunities and a wide range of outdoor activities.

Cllr Prendergast said: “Margaret’s passing away has left a large hole in my life and much time for me to fill, so I will be throwing my heart and soul into this role. I hope I can carry out my duties in a way that will be a lasting tribute to the memory of Margaret and Rose Bailey.

“There is still much to do in giving the young people of our city the opportunities to make the best of their lives. I want to show young disadvantaged people that they can achieve more than they ever thought possible. All it takes is determination and some effort. I was born and bred in areas of the city not renowned for producing leaders of the council or even a Lord Mayor, but I have achieved both.

shanghai.jpg“I want to use my position as Lord Mayor to help any group or individual that wants me to. That includes projecting a very positive ‘can-do’ attitude to young people from the city but also to anyone wanting to move here or expand their present interest in the city.”

Cllr Prendergast is the second longest serving councillor in the ruling Labour party after being elected to represent the Everton ward in 1990.

He is a time-served shipwright, who spent over 30 years building and repairing ships and submarines at Cammell Laird and other shipyards. In 1994 he became deputy council leader in and then leader from 1996-1998.

With his strong maritime background, one of his  favourite places in the city is the River Mersey.

He said: “I get a wonderful feeling just sitting by the river and looking at the old yard where I had so many wonderful years that set me up for what I am now”.

The other place is Anfield -  Cllr Prendergast is a staunch Liverpool supporter.

His Lady Mayoress or Consort for the year will be his eldest daughter, Lesley.

For Frank Prendergast  after working as a backseat politician since 1998, he will finally come in from the cold.

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